Hopefully this year’s Heineken Champions Cup will provide more harvesting competitions and for Northampton there is currently no escape from the bitter taste of disappointment. At the bottom of the table after the first three rounds of the Premiership and now without a win in 11 games, the Saints were ahead with six minutes left only for a rare late attempt to gift Bordeaux a priceless opening night win. .
When Matthieu Jalibert’s penalty attempt to level the game bounced off a vertical, momentarily it seemed as if the Saints might enjoy a much-needed change of fortune. Instead, the home defenders did not react quickly enough and the ball bounced upward for the stalking Santiago Cordero to follow and lunge, with Jalibert’s conversion compounding Northampton’s pain.
With Bordeaux losing two players to sin-bin in the second half, it was a result that did little to improve the mood of local coach Chris Boyd. “We are finding new ways to lose,” Boyd admitted. “We shouldn’t have been in that situation, we had more than enough opportunities. We know what to do, we just aren’t doing it. It’s frustrating. I don’t think we lacked confidence, we just lacked consistent execution. “
With little room for error in this season’s restructured tournament, Boyd has already indicated that he will field a weakened team against Leinster in Dublin next week, acknowledging that it will now be very difficult for the Saints to reach the final eight. The competition organizers will be less than thrilled, but Northampton is no longer in a position to break in.
Despite taking a 9-3 lead in the first 27 minutes, courtesy of Dan Biggar’s boot, he always seemed to have the slightest chance that the Saints would end up being screened. The visitors stole three lineouts in the first half alone and there was no question as to which of the two packages had the advantage in scrums. Northampton also had to constantly distrust Cordero, the Argentine winger who has also enjoyed a productive stint with Exeter Chiefs. The diminutive Puma slalomed his way past several home forwards and looked ready to prepare his captain Mahamadou Diaby for the first attempt only for the final pass to be deflected.
He made sure the two teams were tied at 9-9 at halftime, hardly the comfortable cushion Northampton would have hoped for. In front of England coach Eddie Jones, who was watching, Alex Mitchell’s kicks from the base of the scrum were consistently good, but despite all the cues from Biggar and the power of Taqele Naiyaravoro, his best chance to try came when Shaun Adendorff broke free but support George Furbank was unable to pick up a complicated volley from Naiyaravoro around his shins.
Furbank might also have wanted to revisit the moment early in the second half when he chose to keep the ball at five meters rather than invite the lurking Naiyaravoro to force his way into the left corner. Biggar’s fourth penalty pushed the Saints back to the front, but the visitors, reduced to 14 men by the rubbish of excellent Cameron Woki, were able to successfully withstand a prolonged period of pressure near their own line.
Bordeaux, however, was also finding the rhythm of attack elusive. Even as they were building a promising position deep within the Saints’ half and had a penalty lead for collapsing a maul, visiting scrum half Maxime Lucu went for the ball with his boot and received a yellow card for stepping on the arm. by Courtney Lawes. It could have been the turning point, but, even with its international contingent available, Northampton is proving increasingly adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.