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Tom Vickers’ Saints v Castres preview: Patience needed at the Gardens

NICE AND EASY - Saints thrashed Castres 45-0 at Franklin's Gardens in December, 2011. It is unlikely to be such a stroll tonight (Picture: Linda Dawson)

NICE AND EASY - Saints thrashed Castres 45-0 at Franklin's Gardens in December, 2011. It is unlikely to be such a stroll tonight (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Back in December 2011, Saints steamrollered Castres 45-0 at Franklin’s Gardens as the French side gave up the ghost in the Heineken Cup.

Northampton registered a flurry of tries – five to be precise – in a second-half showing that saw them score 42 unanswered points.

The French side had lost their heads after holding it together so well during the first 40 minutes, when Saints only had a Stephen Myler penalty to show for their efforts.

Tonight’s meeting between the two sides is unlikely to be anywhere near as simple for Northampton, as Castres, much improved from that dark December day, fight for their European lives.

The Top 14 outfit currently sit second in Pool 4 on 12 points, with Saints on 10 and Ulster, who take on Glasgow on Friday night, leading the way on 15.

But what that 2011 fixture does show is that patience and persistence pays off, and Saints should take some heart from that this week.

This gnarled Castres side is unlikely to simply roll over, but travelling French teams remain unpredictable.

If Saints can keep their cool and get their noses in front, they could just ruffle the feathers of the opposition and get the rewards they desire.

Jim Mallinder’s men, realistically, need two wins in their final two Heineken Cup games, with a bonus point added in at least one of those to stand a chance of going through.

Should they get to 19 points, they will give themselves a fighting chance of making the last eight.

Should they get 18, you would think it’s game over, and should they lose a game in round five or six, then the European ship will certainly have sailed.

So while Saints need to show urgency in the game against Castres, they must also show control.

Ulster’s performance against the French at Ravenhill in round one was the perfect example of that, as they picked up the bonus point in the final seconds of the game through a Ruan Pienaar try.

Saints are capable of similar, if they believe like they did in Belfast and, most recently, Exeter last weekend.

And though a 45-0 win is probably out of the question, hope still remains in this season’s Heineken Cup campaign.

 

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