NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 33
Friday, August 16, 2002
Northampton Saints put in a plucky performance against Begles-Bourdeaux and gave head coach Wayne Smith more to smile about in their second pre-season French friendly.
Resources were stretched due to the need to compile a squad of 12 for today's Middlesex Charity Sevens tournament but the squad managed to survive an amazing 102 minutes of rugby in temperatures as high as 85 degress.
Saints opened the scoring at the stadium in La Teste following good work by the forwards and a rolling maul that resulted in a try from co-captain Budge Pountney.
Fly-half Paul Grayson successfully kicked the conversion, and Saints led 0-7 after 10 minutes.
Four minutes later and Begles-Bourdeaux came back with a breakaway try only to be answered by new wing Oriol Ripol, who scored in the left-hand corner.
In the 31st minute the home side scored their second try following what looked like a blatant forward pass to draw the score level at 14-14.
The first half continued into 13 minutes of extra-time despite few injuries, and it gave Begles- Bourdeaux the chance to sneak a penalty to edge the lead to 17-14.
But the half was not done. Wing Mark Tucker became the only temporary casualty of the game when he had to be replaced by Matt Richards when he suffered a cut to his ear. Shortly after, Matt Stewart bowled over the line for Saints' third try following a successful lineout. At half-time the score was 17-21.
Begles-Bourdeaux took an early try to reclaim the lead at 24-21. They followed it up with their fifth try in the 62nd minute following a chip and chase move that Pountney and Liam Brown tried to defend, but a favourable bounce gave the French side the score.
Ten minutes later and replacement centre Brown was in the thick of the action again, but this time he used his 6ft 5ins frame to break a tackle and to make it over the line. This brought the scoreline to 29-28.
Saints let down their guard briefly and it was enough time for Begles-Bourdeaux to run in a soft try. The visitors responded by putting together an outstanding run of phases of play for replacement flanker Ben Craig to mark his Saints' debut with a try to make the score 36-33.
Begles-Bourdeaux were awarded a penalty in the dying moments of the game to secure the win, but Saints had shown the spirit they had lacked on Tuesday and the fight with which Stade Francais will have to compete with next weekend.
Northampton Saints - Brooks; Tucker, Hyndman, Leslie(cc), Ripol; Grayson, Dawson; Smith, Budgen, Stewart, Phillips, Williams, Hunter, Pountney (cc), Soden.
Reps used: Morris, Todd, Pirce, Criag, Richards, Brown.
Scorers - Tries: Pountney, Ripol, Stewart, Brown, Craig; Cons: Grayson (4).