Castres crush Saints' euro dream
December 10, 2011
Castres centre Thomas Sanchou gets the ball away under pressure at the Stade Pierre Antoine
© Getty Images
Northampton Saints' hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup are effectively over after a 41-22 defeat by Castres in their Pool 1 clash at the Stade Pierre Antoine on Saturday afternoon.
Having already been beaten by Munster and Scarlets, last year's runners-up desperately needed to triumph in France but despite scoring four tries, with Jamie Elliott bagging a brace and Mark Sorenson and Samu Manoa notching one apiece, they were ultimately overwhelmed by their hosts.
Castres racked up four tries of their own, two of which, from Romain Martial and Ibrahim Diarra, came in the closing 12 minutes. However, it was the goal-kicking of Romain Teulet which proved the difference between the two sides, with the fullback contributing 21 points in total.
Northampton's ill-discipline had also been key, as they lost both Stephen Myler and Tom Wood to the sin bin during a loss which has left them propping up the pool with just three points from three games.
Saints coach Jim Mallinder will now have to focus on his side's Aviva Premiership campaign and will know he has some work to do to rebuild the battered confidence and morale of his side.
The visitors could not have made a worse start, with Castres scoring their first try after only three minutes when impressive openside flanker Steve Malonga finished off a sweeping attacking move.
Northampton replied with a trademark forward surge from short range when lock Sorenson burrowed his way over and Myler added the extras to level the scores.
The metronomic boot of Castres cult figure Teulet put the French side back ahead with two penalties, before the English side rallied with a well-taken try by wing Elliott.
Myler was sin-binned for a second high tackle just before half-time and 14-man Saints conceded a second try almost immediately after a delightful chip to the corner by No.8 Chris Masoe put winger Martial in at the corner to make it 23-12 to Castres at the break.
It was the Saints who scored next, as Elliott ran from inside his own half after he intercepted Martial's pass. American No.8 Samu Manoa, who impressed with his power and athleticism, then clawed the Saints back to within four points when he scored his side's fourth try for a bonus point midway through the second half.
However, Wood's yellow card proved costly for the Saints and they could not cope going down to 14 men for a second time. Castres wing Martial and flanker Diarra took full advantage and crossed for tries to record a bonus point and an ultimately emphatic victory.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin