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

Northampton bash ‘B-team’ Bulls to bag Champions Cup semi


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.

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.

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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.

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.


Investec Champions Cup



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.

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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