Despite being unable to qualify for the knock out stages of the competition, Saints’ put in a strong performance yesterday as they fought off a strong Castres Olympique comeback at Franklin’s Gardens to take a bonus point victory in the fifth round of the European Champions Cup.
Jim Mallinder said that to see his side grind out a win against an impressive Castres outfit even when there was nothing riding on the game was pleasing, the Director of Rugby commending the attack his side showed in particular.
“In professional rugby all wins are important,” Mallinder told SaintsTV after the game yesterday.
“I think it’s not just the one win, it’s bulding on some of the performances of the last few weeks so we’re pleased. I think we had a really good attacking intent today from the lads; qualification was not possible but what we did want to do was put in a good performance, we wanted to play well and we wanted to put on a little bit of a show for the supporters.
“It wasn’t hard at all, we actually kept looking back to the Castres performance of a few months ago and we were so disappointed there.
“We’d worked hard against Montpellier the week before here to get a hard fought victory and then we went down to Castres and we were very well beaten in all departments.
“So we knew they were a good side, we saw the side they’d picked and they put a quality side out here today, so we knew we were up for a challenge but, as you saw from the performance, the lads were up for it.
“They’re a good side, they work really hard and we had to work all the way through to the 80 minutes to get the victory.
“I think our first half was really good, I think we should have maybe got a few more points in that first half and taken a few more opportunities, and in the second half they came back and put us under big pressure, particularly around the scrum area, but in that final fifteen or twenty minutes we got a grip back on the game so that’s very pleasing.”
Mallinder praised the forwards efforts as they held out a hefty Castres pack and applauded the supporters for getting behind the team even though the result meant little.
“They’re a very good scrum, they’re a physical team, they’re got some big strong players, particularly in their front five, as have the majority of the French teams, so we knew it was always going to be a struggle.
“It was disappointing that Kieran Brookes had to withdraw a few hours before kick off but that’s life and Paul Hill stepped in and he was under a bit of pressure early on but it was really pleasing to see him improve and as we made a few subs as well the scrum seemed to get even better.
“I think there was a good atmosphere here today. The rain came down just before kick off which made conditions a little bit slippy but I think there was a good atmosphere and hopefully the supporters came and enjoyed the game.”