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Northampton bash 'B-team' Bulls to bag Champions Cup semi

By PA
Fin Smith evades some Bulls defenders - PA

Northampton feasted on a Bulls team weakened by the absence of their Springbok stars by registering a 59-22 victory at Franklin’s Gardens that propelled them into the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals.

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Saints amassed nine tries, including two from England scrum-half Alex Mitchell, to book an appointment with Leinster at Croke Park on May 3 or 4 – the first time they have reached the last four since 2011.

What should have been a thunderous collision between the Gallagher Premiership leaders and the best team in South Africa instead turned into a procession as the Bulls paid the price for leaving out big names such as Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

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Jake Whites previews the Bulls’ face-off with Northampton Saints

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Jake Whites previews the Bulls’ face-off with Northampton Saints

They blamed injury and their epic journey from Pretoria via eight different airlines and myriad routes for the omissions, but stood accused of devaluing the competition in order to prioritise the United Rugby Championship.

For 10 minutes of the second quarter they gave Northampton a fright, reducing a 28-10 deficit to just six points by half-time to punish Saints’ over-eagerness in attack.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
2.8
21
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
2.7
7
Entries

The hosts quickly rediscovered their rhythm in attack to resume their rampage and on successive weekends they have now dispatched the sides positioned third and fourth in the URC.

Six days ago it was Munster, who were toppled, and while that was a classic European showdown, irresistible Saints could only beat the opposition in front of them in this quarter-final.

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George Hendy was the destroyer in chief of Munster after running in two pivotal tries and his first involvement against the Bulls was to carry the ball out of defence from close to his line.

It was the prelude to a flurry of three tries in five minutes, a sequence that began with full-back James Ramm dummying his way over before number eight Cameron Hanekom hit back from close range.

Fixture
Investec Champions Cup
Northampton
59 - 22
Full-time
Bulls
All Stats and Data

Neither side had covered themselves in glory in defence, but worse was to come from the Bulls as Fin Smith sent Alex Coles marauding into space with Courtney Lawes in support to touch down.

Ollie Sleighthome used his strength to barrel over as Saints attacked from a line-out and when Mitchell used his wits and strength to cross, Northampton had their fourth try.

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What was becoming a rout suddenly had an injection of drama when Bulls scored twice in quick succession, first through hooker Akker van der Merwe and then Sebastian de Klerk after he picked off Mitchell’s pass as Saints were probing the line.

Northampton needed to settle and just seconds after the interval the precision returned to their game with Mitchell sending Tommy Freeman striding through the defence before supplying the scoring pass to Coles.

Northampton Saints v Vodacom Bulls - Investec Champions Cup - Quarter Final - cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens

Freeman was the next to cross as Saints swarmed over the visitors, whose problems grew when Hanekom was shown a yellow card for a spear tackle.

The Bulls were coming apart at the seams as their tanks emptied and Fraser Dingwall and Mitchell helped themselves to tries to surpass the half century of points.

It began to look ugly for a European knockout game when Juarno Augustus notched Northampton’s ninth try as their high octane attack ignited for the last time.

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Abe 3 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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T
Turlough 7 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

17 Go to comments
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TRENDING Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss
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