Investec Champions Cup: Northampton 24-14 Munster – Four-try Saints reach quarters

Home » Investec Champions Cup: Northampton 24-14 Munster – Four-try Saints reach quarters
Investec Champions Cup last 16
Northampton Saints: (14) 24
Tries: Ramm, Freeman, Hendy 2 Cons: Smith 2
Munster: (14) 14
Tries: O’Brien, Haley Cons: Crowley 2

Northampton Saints beat two-time winners Munster in a breathless display of rugby to set up a Champions Cup quarter-final against the Bulls.

James Ramm – in-form after two tries against Saracens last week – crossed first for Saints but Munster wing Sean O’Brien replied swiftly.

Munster’s Mike Haley and Saints’ Tommy Freeman traded tries to level up the scores at half-time.

But George Hendy’s two second-half scores sealed a brilliant Saints win.

Phil Dowson’s side, who lifted the trophy in 2000, set up a home quarter-final against South Africa’s Bulls next weekend.

The Bulls, in the last eight for the first time, will travel to Franklin’s Gardens to take on a side now with five wins from five in the competition, and in fine attacking form.

Munster and Saints light up Champions Cup

These two teams contested another superb match in January, with Northampton securing a dramatic 26-23 victory at Thomond Park in the pool stages, playing the second half with 14 players after Curtis Langdon’s red card.

Perhaps with revenge for that defeat in mind, Munster began the match at pace, with multiple phases of quick ball delivered by scrum-half Craig Casey until Lewis Ludlam held the ball up over the tryline.

But this Saints side – top of the English Premiership – relish high-pace games and were soon down the other end, poking and prodding until full-back Ramm was put through a gap for the game’s first try.

The reply came from O’Brien, in as a late replacement, the wing picking a short line off Alex Nankivell to go under the posts.

The match swung from end to end but Munster’s power game overwhelmed the home defence once again, Haley’s quick pick-up finishing off a succession of attacks.

Saints’ second arrived via a flowing move off the back of a scrum, Sam Graham making yards before Courtney Lawes passed on to Fin Smith, with Freeman in off his wing into a yawning gap to score.

The sides went in at 14-14 at half-time and the second half became an arm-wrestle, until replacement wing Hendy got the decisive try on the hour.

The strike play from Saints’ 22 began with a smart delayed pass from England fly-half Smith and Ollie Sleightholme breaking down the right, before Hendy scored with his first touch.

The replacement soon had a brilliant second score, stepping round a grasping defender and holding off Simon Zebo to seal Saints’ place in the next round.

Saints and England scrum-half Alex Mitchell, speaking to Sport about the last eight, said: “We will focus on ourselves but look at their [the Bulls’] threats. They have a big pack and some outstanding individuals.

“We’ve had a great season and the confidence going through the squad is massive, which has been showing out on the pitch. With some legends of the game leaving as well and friends for many years.

“There is a massive buzz around the club at the moment. We are performing well and winning games. It feels like we can fight on both fronts and do a really good job in both tournaments.”

Northampton: Ramm; Freeman, Dingwall, Odendaal, Sleightholme; Smith, James; Iyogun, Langdon, Davison, Moon, Coles, Lawes, Ludlam (capt), Graham

Replacements: Matavesi, Waller, Hill, Mayanavanua, Scott-Young, Augustus, Mitchell, Hendy

Munster: Haley; Zebo, Frisch, Nankivell, O’Brien; Crowley, Casey; Loughman, Scannell, Archer, Beirne (capt), Ahern, O’Mahony, Hodnett, Coombes

Replacements: Clarke, Wycherley, Donnelly, O’Donoghue, Kendellen, Murray, Carbery, McCarthy

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

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