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ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final


By Saint_Aitch
May 2 2009

A magical evening of noise, song and excellent rugby at Franklins Gardens last night ended with Saints securing a place in the European Challenge Cup final later this month and sees Saracens end this season with nothing but their pride in place after helping to make this game a great example of what rugby semi finals should be all about, passion, respect and excitement.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs SARACENS
ECC SEMI FINAL: Friday 1st May 2009. 19:45
FRANKLIN'S GARDENS

RESULT - SAINTS 16 : 13 SARACENS
Attendance 11,073
 
In a week where the Wanderers have secured silverware in the Guinness A League and Saints premiership action next season, more edge-of-your-seat stuff was anticipated tonight and the teams did not let their respective fans down.

Approaching the ground from car park D in the spring twilight was reminiscent of the Battle of Helm's Deep from the Lord of the rings movie. I could see that the area outside of the south stand gate turnstiles wash awash with white flags supported by red shirt wearing Saracen Horde in their Tommy Cooper hats. Hooters and drums were breaking the normally quiet, genteel preamble to the game and although I didn't see it, I understand that they marched, as one, to the gates of the fortress led by their camel with additional eye catching support in the form of their cheerleaders bent on defeating the saintly ones within. Anticipation was high, both sets of supporters knew their teams needed to win to retain any hope of silverware and for the much sought after Heineken Cup slot next season. All the pundits were backing a home victory tonight but, deep down we all knew that if we were to fall in this race, then this would be the match that would do it. Would the 2 year almost unbeaten home record remain intact this evening, or would our season come to an abrupt end at the hands of the team from Watford who caused us so much trouble earlier in the season?

Two strong teams were confirmed with just JC replacing Ansbro at 13 for the home team, Sarries were going to throw the kitchen sink at us with the likes of Chris Wyles, Rob Penney, Cencus Johnston, Chris Jack and the quick and powerful Noah Cato on the wing amongst others with the retiring Andy Farrell on the bench who would add flair to the second half of the match.

Leading up to kick off, the hooters hooted, the cheerleaders cheered as the team in red jogged onto the pitch. Then, in a wonderful gesture, the Scottish, British Lions and Saints legend that is Tom Smith was given the honour of leading the mascots, his children, on to the pitch to rapturous applause and the first of many standing ovations for him ahead of Bruce and the boys.

Saracens kicked off towards the South Stand (another good omen perhaps?) and almost immediately Saints were on the attack with a run through the middle from Ben Foden who was in fantastic form all evening.

Despite some early pressure from Sarries in the first 5 minutes or so including a penalty in front of the posts for hands in the ruck which Glen Jackson converted, Saints seemed to collect their thoughts and the rest of the first half was pretty much one way traffic as Saints camped in the Sarries end of the pitch and before long Smyler had levelled the points. Saints were looking the better team in this half and all was boding well for the game. Surely this would not be a one sided affair? Scrums seemed to be holding fairly fast for both teams but Saints did have a slight edge with tension mounting amongst the two packs and it seemed that Dylan and Steve Borthwick would always be somewhere in the thick of it. Saints knew they had the better of the visitors in the scrum and when sir penalised them after a brace of failed scrum attempts, the FG faithful held their collective breath as Bruce and Smyler decided to go for a penalty from about 45 metres out, and 10 metres from the touch line. The ball never looked as though it would make it. Surely it was too short and it was going left of the posts? The touch judge flags were raised and Saints were in the lead for the first time tonight 6-3

The ‘Oh Wendy's' were louder and prouder than I have ever known them before now as Saints fans wanted to ensure their team heard them. The travelling support was doing their best to drown our noise with their horns and hooters but it simply inspired us to sing louder, and louder. I defy anyone to tell me that the noise could not have been heard for miles in every direction. The entire atmosphere was a credit to both sets of supporters.

Play continues and Saints are now the dominant team with more and more play on or near the Sarries line. Bruce nearly made it over after a break from Foden and Sarries have to touch down in their own try line following a lovely Mark Easter grubber kick into the corner. The tension between the two packs then led to the sending off of both hookers as sir tried to calm the frustrations down. Dylan and Ongaro trudged off the pitch as Sharman and Matt Cairns jogged on with both teams then needing to substitute in order for play to continue. Tom Ryder and Scott Gray left the field for 10 minutes to make way for them.

Pressure continued unabated and a line out in the Sarries 22 saw a sudden break from Tiny straight towards the visitors line. The crowd rose as one but the big man was brought down 3 metres short of the line. The ensuing ruck had the ball fizzing out to the opposite wing into the hands of captain fantastic who duly crosses the whitewash for the first try of the game. The dull reverberating ‘brooce, brooce, brooce' call ripples through the home supporters ranks and Smyler makes it 3 from 3 as he gets the additional 2 points. 13-3 after 30 minutes.

The remainder of the first half was further pressure in the visitors half of the pitch and as forty minutes came up on the clock, the pressure leads to Saints player of the season, Mr Paul Diggin, chasing a bouncing ball into the try area and diving to touch the ball down before it goes dead. Sir checks with the TMO but the ball was touched down on the dead ball line. Sir points to the changing rooms and blows his whistle.

Something had to give in the second half and we all knew that there was still everything to play for. Sarries were a long way from being beaten here and we were a long way from safety with only ten points between the teams. Would we see the fitness levels of Saints demolish the visitors, or would they now go hell for leather with nothing to lose and all to gain?

The first ten minutes of the second half showed that Sarries were not going to roll over and let Saints dominate this game. They wanted to get back into it with a vengeance and despite some beautiful footwork from Digger and Bruce, Sarries were applying pressure to our defence and soon Glen Jackson had a chance to get 3 points back on the board. He succeeded and there was now only a converted try in it. 13-6. Every fan in the stadium was aware of the significance of this fact and the singing, chanting, hooting and shouting increased to yet another level as both sets of supporters wanted to get the message over to their teams. Near the hour mark and it was time for substitutions to be made. Saracens brought Andy Farrell and Don Barrell on for Brad Barritt and Tom Ryder whilst Coutney Lawes replaced Lobbe for Saints. Still the Saints defence was struggling under the pressure from Sarries although they were just about keeping the visitors out but the addition of Farrell had added some spark to their attacking arsenal and some impressive tackling, especially from Foden and Dylan, was keeping the horde at bay. Saints were living on the edge and we all felt a try was coming as much of the play was now in the Saints end - time for more substitutions.

Alan Dickens replaced Lee Dixon and the Franklin's faithful stood as one as Wee Tam came on to replace the impressive Soane Tonga'uiha who deservedly won Man of the Match for his excellent gamesmanship. Matt Cairns and Adam Powell came on as replacements for Sarries to see out the last 15 minutes for them and it wasn't long before Sarries powered over to level the try tally with Glen Jackson converting. The scores were level at 13 apiece with eight minutes left on the clock. I wasn't sure I could handle the last few minutes of this game as the Sarries faithful went into overdrive with their cheering and horn blowing. Saints fans, however mustered their troops again and, if there were a roof at FG, it would have been raised by the sheer wave of noise that followed as both teams and supporters, but perhaps especially Sarries could now sense victory. They were on the offensive, Saints were defending like mad but couldn't find a way through the Red wall when they did have possession. Surely this could only go one way now. Saints were pushing forward again though and were now in the Sarries 22 with a ruck in front of the posts, before we could all catch our breath we could see Smyler step back into a drop goal position and there was the ball, flying towards his hands. Sarries defence sprang from their starting blocks arms raised in a futile attempt to put the young number 10 off. He caught the ball, looked up and swung his foot, catching the ball beautifully. The FG collective held it's breath and then, as one, cheered as the ball sailed between the posts and sir raised his arm. 16-13 with 5 minutes left on the clock.

Those last five minutes were a blur to me as I sang and cheered and could look at nothing else but the ball and who had a hold of it. ‘Hold on to it' was the cry, ‘Don't kick it'. ‘Keep possession'. They did and as the crowd counted down the last few seconds, the ball was suddenly kicked high into the dusky evening air over the Church's stand. Sir blow his whistle for the final time and Fortress Franklin's had made it through the siege. Saints are going to a European Cup Final.

As both teams rightfully took the praise and thanks from the supporters for what was a fantastic game of rugby, Tom Smith was carried, rather cumbersomely due to the mismatch in heights, on the shoulders of Dylan Hartley and Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and again, the Saints faithful rose to applaud this legendary Saintsman. Long may he continue to be seen at the fortress where he will be treated as the hero who graced us with his presence.

I spent the next ten minutes or so just watching as Wee Tam shook the hands of nearly every fan in the Tetley's stand wishing that I was there instead of the South Stand to have the honour of saying good luck to him myself but I know you all said that for me. Thank you. Finally, as I stood there I felt a massive wave of pride sweep over me. I AM A SAINTS FAN, THIS IS FRANKLIN'S GARDENS, and there is nowhere in the universe I would rather be right now.

 

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ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final
ComeOnYouSaints.com (IP Logged)
02/05/2009 17:00
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2009:05:02:17:55:42 by St Marlowe.

 
St.Rich Joe's Dad
Re: ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final
02/05/2009 18:12
H I am filled with the emotion of last night. Sweet as mate!

No alcohol for January. I'm a dryathlete in aid of cancer research.

Dryathlon

 
CdrAitch
Re: ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final
HjS (IP Logged)
02/05/2009 18:42
Great report, particularly the last paragraph. What a game!

South Burrda Stand / K-Lo / Row P / Renewed

 
MESSAGES->author
Re: ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final
smurfomatic (IP Logged)
02/05/2009 18:51
Great report H, really sums up the match.

Photo Gallery

 
MESSAGES->author
Re: ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final
ChrisG (IP Logged)
02/05/2009 20:11
Yep top reporting.

 
morse
Re: ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final
morse (IP Logged)
02/05/2009 20:51
Excellent report H,

beats me how you remember it all!!!

 
MESSAGES->author
Re: ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final
desbralass (IP Logged)
03/05/2009 17:40
Great report...I'm filling up reading the last paragraph.Thanks.

Bridesmaids no more.

 
Flinstone Saint
Re: ECC Semi Final - Myler's drop goal sees Saints to Final
Flinstone Saint (IP Logged)
03/05/2009 18:11
Lovely read, Saint H.

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