Northampton overcome Scarlets with scrappy victory in European Championship Cup opener at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday night
Visitors come away from scrappy clash with a losing bonus point .
Northampton Saints secured a tense win at home against Scarlets as the visitors came away with a losing bonus point in their opening fixture of the Champions’ Cup.
Ken Pisi’s try gave Saints an early lead, but Scarlets responded with two Steve Shingler kicks before half-time.
Gareth Davies then crossed to give the Welsh outfit a slim advantage after the break, but Alex Waller went over and JJ Hanrahan added a penalty to hand the victory to Northampton – who put in a steely survival act with 14 men for a full quarter of the game.
And the away side were eventually left to rue be left to rue four missed kicks at goal which cost them valuable points, and ultimately the win, in a tough away day.
Saints reached the quarter-finals of the competition last season and finished top of the Premiership table in May but fell short of winning the Grand Final.
And that disappointment appears to be weighing heavy on Jimmies’ shoulders, winning once in three Prem’ games this year, while their Welsh opponents have won six from their opening seven in the Pro 12.
But the hosts wiped away any early fears of defeat getting off to an almost perfect start when Pisi fended off the attentions of a would-be defender to dot down just six minutes in, Hanrahan converting.
Shingler then got Scarlets on the scoresheet but Luther Burrell went over at the other end after a rapid turnover from Waller to ruthlessly cancel out a period of hard work from the visitors.
Or so it appeared, as the TMO’s ruled it out and sent George North to the sin bin as the Welshman was adjudged to have fouled Michael Tagicakibau in the build up.
Scarlets failed to make their extra man count but did cross for their their first try after the break when Davies raced through the Saints defence to click the scoreboard up another five points.
But Northampton, who remain well under pressure to improve this year, regained the lead almost instantly when Waller touched down on the back of a rampant rolling maul, but they soon found themselves back down to 14 men when Jamie Gibson received a yellow for not rolling away.
Hanrahan then went on to slot over a penalty secure the points, but Scarlets were able to come away with a hard-earned point.
Man of the Match
Northampton: Alex Waller
The 25-year-old prop has been a rare chink of light in a disappointing campaign for Northampton so far and continued his burgeoning form of late with a dominant performance at Franklin’s Gardens, producing a turnover which almost led to a try alongside a crucial five-pointer of his own.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Ahsee Tuala.
Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay (c), 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Maselino Paulino, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Phil John, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Tom Price, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Regan King, 23 Tom Williams.
Date: Saturday, November 14
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
Television match official: Eric Gonthier (France)
Timekeeper: Mike Hamlin (England)