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Northampton Saints complete league and cup double

By Patrick
April 13 2008

Northampton approach the end of their season, having won the EDF Energy National Trophy Final against rivals Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham. The thousands of Saints fans that made the trip to Rugby HQ were able to cheer on their newly promoted team as they completed the double over Exeter.



Sat 12th Apr 2008, 12:00 - Twickenham


Northampton Saints have taken one step closer to an unbeaten season in National Division 1, having completed the league and cup double against rivals Exeter Chiefs on Saturday in the EDF Energy National Trophy Final at Twickenham. Very few people had any doubt that Northampton would make the return trip up to the top flight at the end of the season, however the manner in which the season has gone for the Saints must be admired. Northampton have won all twenty eight games of their season so far, only missing out on the try bonus point seven times.

15,000 Saints fans, a number greater than that which arrived supporting either Leicester Tigers or the Ospreys, were thrilled with their team’s two try victory over Exeter Chiefs to win the EDF Energy trophy. Tries by Joe Ansbro and Paul Diggin, as well as fourteen points from kicker and skipper Bruce Reihana sealed the win at Twickenham.

Skipper Reihana said: “We are delighted with the win. This was a tough game against Exeter. We set our goal to win at Twickenham and we have done that. We are now looking forward to going back into the Premiership after an off season. Jim Mallinder and Dorian West are very good coaches. They have helped us along the way and really pulled the team together which is what we needed.”

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For Exeter though, who had kept Northampton to a five point deficit at half-time, the defeat will be hard to take. Their lost in the final was their fourth in a Twickenham cup final and ends a season where they have been playing second-fiddle to their league rivals all term. Most recently, the Devon outfit were defeated 18-8 in March and also suffered an 11-25 defeat at Sandy Park in November by the Saints.
Exeter captain Richard Baxter added: “Northampton are a team we aspire to be and after today’s performance we are clearly not too far off it. Now we will go back and keep on improving as we too look to do what Northampton have done and get into the Guinness Premiership.”

Although Northampton could have easily scored within the first few moments of the frantically-paced match, it took the Saints nearly sixteen minutes before registering their first score. Following a well taken line-out and a catch and drive, the ball was recycled and shipped along the backline until winger Paul Diggin put centre Joe Ansbro into space, who dived over the try-line for the game’s opening score.

The game was to become level at seven all soon after, when the Chiefs strung an impressive passage of play together to find themselves deep in the opposition 22, ending with flanker Chad Slade scoring the second try of the match. After Tony Yapp added the conversion and a penalty short after, Exeter took the lead at Twickenham.

Just before the interval, Paul Diggin and Chris Ashton combined, well in the Chiefs 22 before Diggin went over in the corner to score. Although Reihana missed the resulting conversion attempt, he later added a penalty kick to give Northampton a 15-10 lead at half time.

In the second half Saints continued to dominate, although their execution was found lacking. A strong Reihana run and a rolling maul were both ended when the Chiefs managed to turn the ball over, alleviating the danger. Exeter however still found it difficult to break down the Saints defence and in the end conceded more penalties. Reihana slotted three further shots at goal throughout the half to give his team a comfortable cushion, with a 24-10 lead. One of the penalties also resulted in an Exeter player being sin binned, Alan Miller, after he was deemed to have killed the ball in a Saints ruck five metres from his own line.

The Chiefs finished the match well however after being camped on the Northampton line in the final moments of the game; and in the end were unlucky to have their consolation try deemed to be held up. Exeter’s final score of the match was by Yapp slotting over a penalty resulting in a 24-13 full time score to the National Division 1 champions.

The Saints will be looking to finish their season in the most perfect of ways by winning their remaining two games against Newbury and Launceston in the coming weeks. Having uncovered a star in winger Chris Ashton and with high quality signings such as Sale’s scrum half cum fullback Ben Foden, Newcastle scrum half Lee Dickson and Romanian prop Petru Balan, together with established talent throughout their squad, Saints fans could be forgiven for getting excited about their time back in the Premiership next season.

Northampton Saints
1 Tom Smith, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 Barry Stewart, 4 Matt Lord, 5  Alex Rae, 6 Mark Easter, 7 Ben Lewitt, 8 Mark Hopley, 9 Johnny Howard, 10  Carlos Spencer, 11 Paul Diggin, 12 James Downey, 13 Joe Ansbro, 14 Chris Ashton, 15 Bruce Reihana.
Replacements: 16 Paul Shields, 17 Soane Tonga'uiha, 18  Euan Murray, 19 Paul Tupai, 20 Darren Fox, 21 Mark Robinson, 22 Stephen Myler,
 Tries: Ashbro, Diggin
Conversions: Reihana
Penalties: Reihana (4)

Exeter Chiefs
1 Dan Parkes, 2 Sam Blythe, 3 Brett Sturgess, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 5 James Hanks, 6 Chad Slade, 7 Andy Miller, 8 Richie Baxter (capt), 9 Clive Stuart Smith, 10 Wade Kelly, 11 Josh Drauninui, 12  Junior Fatialofa, 13 Mark Fatialofa, 14 Jason Luff, 15 Gary Kingdom.
Replacements: 16 Simon Jenkins, 17 Craig Dunlea, 18 Chris Bentley, 19 Tom Johnson, 20 Kevin Barrett, 21 Tony Yapp, 22 Alan Miller

Tries: Slade
Conversions: Yapp
Penalties: Yapp (2)
Yellow card: Miller (64mins)
JP Doyle


Northampton return to the Guiness Premiership

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Northampton Saints complete league and cup double
Unofficial England Rugby Union (IP Logged)
13/04/2008 23:10
Northampton Saints complete league and cup double

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