Saints open back door with bonus-point win
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Northampton Saints opened the Pool Two back door with a 34-21 bonus-point win over Clermont Auvergne at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.
It was a classic arm-wrestle - with plenty of skill and the usual measure of brutality that comes with most encounters against French opposition.
Northampton won't be advancing to the quarterfinals, but nonetheless produced a tremendous performance.
It also opened the door for Saracens and Ospreys - who meet later - to overtake the French outfit in the last round.
Remy Grosso's second-minute try ensured a flying start for ASM Clermont Auvergne, but Northampton Saints offered a swift riposte as Teimana Harrison crashed over the whitewash to bring the hosts back within two points of the French giants, only for Isaia Toeava to race home and push the visitors to a 12-5 lead after 16 minutes.
Replacement wing Nafi Tuitavake would cross in for Northampton Saints shortly after a Morgan Parra penalty to ensure the deficit was just five points at the interval, with many expecting the French side to return to dominate the second period.
Yet hosts Northampton Saints would draw first blood after the break as Harry Mallinder slotted a penalty kick, only for Ben Foden to break away and score a sensational solo try, deserving of his Heineken Man of the Match merit come full time.
France scrumhalf Parra went on to add another two three-pointer as ASM Clermont Auvergne regained the lead and the Midlands atmosphere began exceptionally tense, but Northampton Saints had the bit between their teeth and eyes firmly set on a first Champions Cup win of the season.
Tries from Ken Pisi and Cobus Reinach saw the Saints go marching in style with a shock victory, which leaves ASM Clermont Auvergne open at the Pool Two summit, with just five points separating them from Ospreys who face defending champions Saracens later.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Harrison, Tuitavake, Foden, Pisi, Reinach
Cons: Mallinder 3
For Clermont Auvergne:
Tries: Grosso, Toeava
Pens: Parra 3
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Harry Mallinder, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 James Grayson, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Clermont: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Nick Abendanon, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Remi Grosso, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Etienne Falgoux.
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Davit Zirakashvili, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Arthur Iturria, 21 Charly Trussardi, 22 Scott Spedding, 23 Viktor Kolelishvili.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Leo Colgan (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)