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Saints runaway success restores some pride.

NORTHAMPTON collected their first Heineken Cup win of the season with a bonus-point success over beating Castres 45-0 at Franklin's Gardens.

The notable action came in the final quarter of the match as the Saints scored five tries to emphasise their superiority over a very poor French side. Stephen Myler kicked the remaining 20 points for Northampton.

With both teams seemingly out of the competition, the game lacked real bite.

There was a muted atmosphere as the crowd accepted there was little resting on the game, with the Saints frustrated by Castres' limited game plan.

The French slowed the game down at every opportunity and were content to allow their outside-half Pierre Bernard to kick away what limited possession they gained.

Northampton should have capitalised on their huge share of possession early on, but it was not until late in the game that they were able to do so.

The home side missed some of their key defence breakers in Chris Ashton, Roger Wilson and Lee Dickson, none of whom started, but until that late burst they lacked both the creativity and precision to effectively pierce the visitors' rearguard.

It was therefore left to Courtney Lawes to raise the tempo and it was his line-out work and crunching tackles which enlivened the early proceedings.

Castres began with only two of the 15 who started last week's game in France and they were soon under pressure.

It was Castres who had the first opportunity for points, only for Bernard to fire his 45-metre penalty attempt wide.

Stephen Myler took his first penalty chance to give Northampton the lead after 12 minutes.

Against the run of play Castres should have taken the lead. A clever chip over the top of the home defence from Bernard saw Pierre-Manual Garcia collect the ball, and had the centre passed then a try seemed a probability but he chose not to do so and the clear chance was lost.

Castres suffered a blow when Pierre Roussel was yellow-carded for pulling back Myler as the outside-half chased a kick ahead in the French 22.

But despite the Saints having nearly all the play in the flanker's 10-minute absence they could not add to their score.

Roussel returned, and Northampton continued to have the better of possession and territory but failed to take advantage and half-time came with them still only 3-0 ahead.

The Castres scrum continued to be frequently penalised by referee George Clancy and from two of the awards Myler extended the Saints lead with successful kicks from 35 and 45 metres.

A fourth penalty from Myler after 50 minutes gave the Saints a 12-0 lead before Bernard missed another opportunity for the visitors.

But when Ben Foden and Vasily Artemyev both outflanked the visitors' defence for tries, which Myler converted, Castres were demoralised and there were further tries to Mike Haywood and Greig Tonks and a final one from Foden who ran 50 metres to score. Myler converted two of them.

. ? Sale Sharks kept themselves in the hunt for a place in the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup with a 41-21 win over French side Agen at Edgeley Park.

The bonus-point victory puts Sale in second place in Pool Five behind leaders Brive, and their home clash with the French side already has the look of a group decider.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 19, 2011
Words:555
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