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Match Report: Northampton Saints 22 – 19 RC Toulon

Tom Lockett’s late try secured Northampton Saints a thrilling Investec Champions Cup victory over RC Toulon at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

On a night of high drama, the men in Black, Green and Gold were the aggressors in the first half scoring two tries through Tom Seabrook and George Furbank with Enzo Herve’s early penalty accounting for Toulon’s only points of the first period.

Melvyn Jaminet and Furbank traded tries in the third quarter before Herve kicked a second penalty and David Ribbans came back to haunt his former club with a poach from close range.

It didn’t prove to be the deciding score as two yellow cards from the same passage of play for Toulon resulted in Lockett going over to secure a bonus point victory in the most thrilling of circumstances.


Toulon took a fifth-minute lead when fly-half Herve fired over a long-range penalty following a scrum offence, but Saints’ response was almost instant.

Fin Smith pushed a penalty into the 22 and Toulon transgressed from the resulting maul, giving the green light of advantage for Smith to delicately tip the ball and free George Hendy on a diagonal run, with Furbank swiftly moving it on for Seabrook to land the game’s opening try.

The conversion was pushed wide as the visitors roared forward through a series of heavy carries, only for Sam Graham to superbly strip visiting captain Charles Ollivon of possession to relieve the pressure.

Brimming with confidence from his tryscoring exploits against Glasgow in Round 1, Freeman set the home fans’ pulses racing when he found a gap in midfield only for Graham’s looping pass to fall just behind Seabrook’s supporting run.

Saints suffered a setback as Hendy limped off to be replaced by Ollie Sleightholme, but it didn’t dent their fluency in attack as they registered a second try on the half-hour mark.

Tom Pearson and Freeman both carried hard seeking to muscle their way over the line. Where the blunt weapons failed, the finesse of Smith once more unlocked the door as he teased in two defenders before feeding Furbank on an unstoppable line. Smith’s conversion attempt struck a post as Saints took a seven-point lead in at the break.


Minutes into the second period director of rugby Phil Dowson was forced into a second enforced substitution as Seabrook fell awkwardly when tackled by  Ribbans, paving the way for Charlie Savala to make his debut from the bench.

Toulon blew a golden chance to register their first try as Herve freed his arms in tackle only for the diving Jaminet to knock-on with the line at his mercy. From the penalty advantage, Lawes successfully managed to turn the ball over at a maul.

It was a moment of magic from Alex Mitchell that had the Gardens roaring with appreciation as the England scrum-half quickly adapted to some rush defence by delivering an inch perfect 50:22 from deep inside his own half. Lineout ball was secured as the forwards hammered into the white-shirted defence only to be penalised for holding on.

Toulon won a second penalty a few metres inside their own half only for Herve’s long-distance penalty attempt to fall short. The tide was beginning to turn in favour of the French visitors and they got their reward as a sweeping backs’ move resulted in Jaminet diving gleefully over in the right corner. Herve missed the resulting conversion.

A momentum-swinging moment was required and it came through the genius of Freeman. A daring counter-attack saw Lawes feed the 22-year-old with plenty to do, tip-toeing down the right wing. His delicate chip ahead was tentatively dealt with allowing him to regather and offload for the supporting Furbank to grab his second of the evening approaching the hour-mark.

Smith’s conversion attempt faded wide and the lead was cut to four when Herve knocked over a 40-metre penalty from the left side of the pitch. Worse was to follow as Toulon broke down the left wing following a Saints mix-up prompting Lawes into a trademark covering tackle on Estaban Abadie.

Toulon kept it tight upon the recycle and it was former Saintsman Ribbans who muscled his way over to put his side one point ahead as Herve horribly skewed the conversion wide. However, the gap increased to four when Jaminet delivered an inch-perfect drop-goal from near the halfway line approaching the final ten minutes.

With four minutes remaining, referee Craig Evans sinbinned both Matteo Le Corvec and Jeremy Sinzelle following a lengthy TMO check for a high tackle and deliberate knock that occurred in the same passage of play.

Smith kicked to the corner and the forwards rumbled forward looking to make their two-man advantage pay. Play moved left and right before Mitchell delivered the killer pass into the right corner for Lockett to dive over and raise the roof and secure the bonus-point sealing fourth try.

With his hardest kick of the day, Smith landed his first points as the restart was gathered, 30 seconds were ground out before the young fly-half launched the ball into the Carlsberg Stand as Saints march on in the Investec Champions Cup.


SAINTS: Furbank, Seabrook, Freemanm Litchfield, Hendy, Smith, Mitchell; E Waller, Langdon, Davison, Mayanavanua, Moon, Lawes, Pearson, Graham.
Replacements: Matavesi, Haffar, Hill, Lockett, Augustus, James, Savala, Sleightholme

TOULON: Jaminet, Fainga'anuku, Tuicuvu, Sinzelle, Villière, Herve, White; Priso, Singleton, Brookes, Halagahu, Ribbans, Abadie, Ollivon ©, S Tolofua
Replacements: C Tolofua, Gros, Setiano, Warion, Le Corvec, Danglot, Smaili, Wainiqolo

Referee: Craig Evans

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