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Point in defeat scant bonus for Saints

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

That was how Jim Mallinder summed up the Heineken Cup trip to Castres, a match from which Saints headed home with a losing bonus point that could easily have been a win.


Even so, Saints came within 10 metres of snatching at least a draw in the final play of the game as Castres' fitness ran out, only to have the game ended when a pass from Stephen Myler to Vasily Artemyev drifted oh-so-slightly forward.


It summed up the Saints' night. For while Castres were awarded some interesting penalties, the visitors were guilty of not making the most of their position and turning over the ball several times while in dangerous positions.


There were a couple of lineouts on the home 22 which were turned over and some crucial passes which went astray. And while Myler did kick a pair of first half penalties it was scant reward for some promising approach work.


By the time Alain Rolland's whistle blew for the opening kick off the Stade Ernest Wallon was being saturated by heavy rain, even if the gales which had battered Toulouse for much of the day had died down.


Despite this Saints showed their intent to play, going quickly off the top of lineouts and mixing and matching between sending the big runners through the middle and trying to get the wide men into the action.


However when Castres scored with just seven minutes on the clock things were looking ominous for the travellers. They may have got the rub of the green with some of Rolland's early decisions, but nothing could deny that Castres - who lest it be forgotten came into the game unbeaten at home and counting Clermont Auvergne among their victims - had some considerable weapons at their disposal.


Having big runners like Joe Tekori and Piula Faasalele in the pack and Seremaia Bai in the backs has given Castres a reputation for having nothing but power. But the skill set of all their players, regardless of the number on their backs, was apparent regularly throughout the match and it was some inventive play which got the hosts on the scoreboard.


The big men may have made the inroads to take Castres deep into Saints' territory, but it was Remi Tales' vision which secured the try. His kick to the far side found Romain Martial, and although the winger was covered there was no one to stop Paul Bonnefond crossing for the try.


Romain Teulet added the conversion and a penalty seven minutes later, and without having touched the ball Saints found themselves 10-0 down.


This made Myler's first shot at goal after 16 minutes all the more important. However the full back held his nerve, and with his second penalty eight minutes later pulled Saints back to within touching distance.


These successes capped Saints' best period of the match. Samu Manoa made a great burst and there was some inventive play from Ryan Lamb, Dom Waldouck and George Pisi in midfield.


But whether it was a pass going astray, or a fumble, or just Castres' defence putting the visitors under pressure, little was going Saints' way - that despite that rarest of things, a Teulet miss - and when Rory Kockott stepped up next time to land three points Saints turned around still seven points down.


Castres emerged from the break seemingly intent on the final crucial blow. But whereas Kockott had been a symbol of calmness in the first half, after the break he single-handedly kept Saints in the game by missing two straightforward kicks which would have taken the hosts out of sight.


Saints did concede a try 11 minutes into the half after a series of five-metre scrums led to Antoine Claassen going over. But this early period of home pressure was largely down to Saints mistakes, both from the kick off and then when Brian Mujati was yellow carded for pulling down a maul.


However the visitors had shown glimpses while down to 14 men, noticeably when Soane Tonga'uiha picked up a Saints 22-metre drop-out and broke away, only to opt for Artemyev on the outside rather than the bigger men supporting on the inside.


Ken Pisi had a good run down the right touchline, Lamb launched a dangerous attack from deep inside his own 22 and Myler did outstandingly well to both show some excellent sleight of hand while getting smashed by Tekori, and then bouncing back to join the supporting players.


Finally all this effort was rewarded with Kockott completely missed a Lamb chip to allow George Pisi to hack ahead and dot down between the sticks. Myler's conversion made it a five-point game, but the work was undone almost immediately as Castres recovered the restart and Heineken man of the match Tales landed a smart drop goal.


But Saints weren't finished, and when some scrum power earned a penalty Myler put his team back to within a score. And there was time for one last go when Lamb kicked a penalty deep into home territory. But while the inventive play continued the time was up and when the final ball went forward, that was that.


TIMELINE

7mins CASTRES Try Bonnefond Con Teulet 7-0

14mins CASTRES Pen Teulet 10-0

16mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-3

24mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-6

27mins CASTRES Miss pen Teulet

32mins CASTRES Pen Kockott 13-6

HALF-TIME CASTRES 13 SAINTS 6

44mins SAINTS Yellow card Mujati

45mins CASTRES Miss pen Kockott

51mins CASTRES Try Claassen 18-6

59mins SAINTS Try G Pisi Con Myler 18-13

61mins CASTRES DG Tales 21-13

69mins SAINTS Miss DG Lamb

72mins SAINTS Pen Myler 21-16

FULL-TIME CASTRES 21 SAINTS 16

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