Heineken Cup - Game of the Week
Saints slip to defeat at Perpignan
October 16, 2009
Shane Geraghty could not inspire Northampton to victory
© Getty Images
Northampton Saints' indiscipline undid their effort as they slipped to a 29-13 defeat at the hands of Perpignan. Saints, fresh from a famous win over Munster, were up against a Perpignan side hurting after a humiliating defeat to Treviso last weekend but boasting a 19-game unbeaten run at home.
Jerome Porical punished the visitors with 19 points from the kicking tee, to add to a penalty try secured by a dominant scrum and an effort late in the second-half by centre David Marty. Saints hit back through the in-form Chris Ashton and Springbok prop Brian Mujati, but could not produce the goods up front after a powerful showing last time out.
Jeered on to the field by the fiercely loyal Aime Giral faithful, Saints set about attempting to create the same fireworks at the contact area that helped them past Munster. The home defence held firm and following a shrill blast from referee Nigel Owens' whistle they worked some phases of their own, Porical kicking in behind the visitors to put some early pressure on.
A poor flick-pass from Dylan Hartley on his own five-metre line gifted possession to Perpignan, who tore in to the Saints defence and drew a penalty. Porical coolly slotted the opportunity, with Hartley duly warned to safeguard possession.
Accuracy deserted Mallinder's men following the restart, with a spilled lineout allowing Henry Tuilagi to burst forward. Porical found first space out wide and then a superb pop-pass to his winger Julien Candelon, who stretched the defence and fired an inside pass to Jean-Pierre Perez, only for the openside to knock-on with the line at his mercy.
Perpignan kept the pressure on, winning a penalty as Hartley was pinged for sealing-off. The Saints skipper angrily protested with Owens, pointing at a cut around his eye, but was sent back by the referee. The hosts went for the jugular, powering a scrum towards the Saints line and winning a further penalty. The home side went for the scrum again, with scrum-half Nicolas Durand feeding fly-half Nicolas Laharrague, who was held up over the line.
The third scrum in quick succession again collapsed on the Saints side, with Santiago Bonorino receiving a stern talking to. Owens' patience evaporated as Bonorino crumbled for a fourth occasion, signalling the penalty try as Messrs Mas, Guirado and Freshwater celebrated.
Geraghty put aside the noise from the crowd to score his side's first points from the kicking tee, but his skipper immediately handed the points back with a cynical and stupid shoulder charge on Perez from the kick-off. Porical slotted the kick but moments later Geraghty followed up a break by Roger Wilson with a sumptuous kick in to the corner.
Tuilagi failed to collect after the line-out, forcing Porical to hurriedly clear his lines. The Saints lineout worked far more effectively, allowing Ashton to chip in behind and beat a sauntering Durand to the ball, diving in to score a vital, superb try.
There was heartbreak before half-time for the Saints, when local hero Maxime Mermoz collected his own chip over the defence. The prodigiously talented French centre picked the ball up off his toes, firing a pass inside to his centre partner Marty who danced through a paper thin cover tackle to score.
Mujati replaced Bonorino at half-time, but it was in the backs where the first action of the half sparked, with Candelon and Mermoz trading a fine offload. Marty was also involved before Durand spun the ball wide, Tuilagi cantering over only to be called back for a forward pass by Perez.
Ben Foden, suspect on the high ball at several instances, showed his pedigree with ball in hand, scything through the Perpignan defence soon after. Bruce Reihana found a great angle from his wing to support his fullback, trading a pass with Ashton who was hauled in by the defence. Perpignan did all they could to slow the ball, but Dickson found a way to Hartley, whose direct surge was followed by some deft hands by Soane Tonga'uiha in collecting the ball and in one motion sending Mujati barrelling over the line.
Geraghty missed the conversion, a fate the befell Porical with his next penalty, but the Perpignan man was handed an immediate chance to atone after a misjudged challenge by Lawes and this time he made no mistake.
Several fractious exchanges between the forwards slowed the game to a crawl with Lawes warned for shoving the referee. Hartley again conceded a penalty under his posts, Perpignan talking the conservative three-points rather than attempt another drive at the Saints' scrum. More words out of turn from Saints saw 10 metres taken from them by the referee after another offence, Porical converting the opportunity for a healthy, and in the end decisive, 29-13 lead.