Mallinder bemoans Racing defeat

Published: Saturday 24th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Jim Mallinder admitted that Northampton’s season had been dealt “a blow” after they were crushed 32-8 by European Champions Cup opponents Racing Metro at Franklin’s Gardens.

Saints booked their place in the quarter-finals, but hopes of a home tie were destroyed by the rampant French challengers.

Racing’s victory meant they won Pool Five and progressed as top last-eight seeds, with shell-shocked Saints claiming one of three best runners-up spots across five groups, but they will now be away from home – possibly against reigning European champions Toulon.

It was Saints’ heaviest defeat of the season – Wales wing George North’s seventh try of the European campaign and a Stephen Myler penalty provided no consolation – and Northampton also had their captain Dylan Hartley sin-binned and saw England flanker Tom Wood limp off with a twisted ankle.

“It is very disappointing,” Northampton rugby director Mallinder said.

“It was a competitive first-half, and we were very disappointed to concede a try just before half-time.

“And then what you don’t want to do is concede straightaway in the second-half, but that sometimes happens. We were chasing the game from then on.

“We came up against a very good Racing team that played well, put pressure on us in our lineout and at the scrum, so we didn’t have too many attacking opportunities, and when we did, we coughed up ball.

“Of course, we are disappointed. We wanted to win today and we wanted a home quarter-final.

“If we have got to go away now to France, we enjoy challenges and we will look forward to that.

“We have got to refocus. The international players go away now, and we will just get on with it.

“It is a blow to our season, but we are still in the competition, which is important.”

Hartley was yellow-carded by referee Nigel Owens in the 14th minute for tackling an opponent while on the floor at a ruck. It was just his second game back since serving a three-week ban after being sent off against Leicester five days before Christmas.

“Just imagine being me,” Hartley said.

“I thought I did everything I could to prepare for that game today. I knew the spotlight would be on me.

“A player runs over me, I put my arms up and tackle him, and the next thing I know I am watching the game.”

Reflecting on Wood’s early exit less than two weeks before England launch their RBS 6 Nations campaign against Wales in Cardiff, Mallinder added: “Tom Wood twisted his ankle, so hopefully it is nothing more serious than that.

“He is certainly sore, and we thought it was sensible to get him off.”

Racing wing Juan Imhoff scored two tries, with full-back Benjamin Lapeyre and Wales international centre Jamie Roberts also touching down. S crum-half Maxime Machenaud kicked 10 points via two penalties and two conversions, while fly-half Benjamin Dambielle also added a conversion.

Man-of-the-match Roberts said: “In the first-half we were probably not as clinical as we should have been, but we got two converted tries early in the second-half, and that 14-point swing in a game like this almost did it for us.

“We retained the ball far better in the second-half, and it is a pleasure to play in this team at the moment.

“We spoke at the start of our season about our goals, and they were to qualify in the Top 14 (play-offs) and Europe. We have ticked one of those boxes today, and to be the only unbeaten team in the pool stages is pretty special.

“We have got a glorious opportunity now, with a home quarter-final.”

Published: Saturday 24th January 2015 by The News Editor

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