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Saints 111 – 3 Timisoara Saracens: Northampton secure quarter-final berth

Northampton Saints bagged a historic win to secure a last-eight place in the Challenge Cup with a club-record scoreline of 111-3.

An impressive 17 tries sealed the win in emphatic fashion, with Ollie Sleightholme grabbing four and Alex Mitchell also landing a hat-trick, smashing their record margin of victory in Europe.

The result means Saints keep alive their hopes of repeating their historic 2014 title win, returning to the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup on their first attempt back in the competition.

A couple of big hits from the Romanian side slowed the hosts in their efforts to build a quick start, but Luther Burrell pierced through the centre of their defensive line to get Saints close enough for Reece Marshall to charge over.

Timisoara etched their name on the scoreboard with a penalty, but Andrew Kellaway soon had Saints back on the front foot as he made a fantastic break for the corner from near halfway – only to be dragged into touch at the final second.

Marshall was next to cross for Saints as the rolling maul did enough to send Timisoara behind their line for the front-rower to touch down, and Grayson added the extras from the tee.

Rory Hutchinson made it three behind the sticks just minutes later leaving the defence for dust to cross the line from a superb break.

David Ribbans’ astonishing dash for the line did enough to set up Mitchell for the bonus-point try soon after, but Saints did not sit back and were straight back at the Romanians with ruthless attacking play.

Mitchell scampered over for a second try to take his side 33-3 clear at the half-hour mark, before Sleightholme added his first with some searing pace to finish after a great attack by Hutchinson.

Kellaway closed the half by stretching over the whitewash once more in the left corner as Saints headed down the tunnel seven tries to the good.

The second period started slower for Saints, with resilient Timisoara putting up a stern showing in the midfield, but Sleightholme found a gap and weaved through the pitch for the posts for his second score to surpass the 50-point mark for his side.

And from there the one-way traffic continued; Mitch Eadie picked up a try ten minutes into the second half, before Mitchell bagged his hat-trick by tearing through the Romanian line and making a fine run for the corner.

Not to be outdone, Sleightholme followed suit with his third try of the night straight from the kick off – taking Northampton’s points tally to 69 and surpassing a European club record of 68 against Parma from the 2006/07 season in the process.

Alex Coles notched his first try in Black, Green and Gold and their twelfth of the night, before Lewis Ludlam bulldozed his way through two tackles to complete the thirteenth under the sticks.

The returning Nafi Tuitavake brought the 100-point mark ever closer, before Eadie went in for a second with another superb break up the field.

Sleightholme notched a fourth to the delight of the Franklin’s Gardens crowd as full-time drew near, and Tom Collins rounded off proceedings with a sprint for the corner to bring the final score to 111-3.

That scoreline secured a place in the last eight of the Challenge Cup for Northampton Saints, who will qualify as a best-placed runner-up and now will eagerly wait to see who lies in wait in the quarter-finals.

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