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European Rugby Champions Cup Round-Up: Clinical Saints march on


Director of rugby Jim Mallinder could have few complaints with the way Northampton Saints continued their quest for the European Rugby Champions Cup knockout stages on Sunday.

The Aviva Premiership Rugby champions travelled to the Liberty Stadium and returned 20-9 winners, courtesy of tries from Calum Clark and George North.

They are now level at the top of Pool 5 with Racing Metro and will welcome the French outfit to Franklin’s Gardens next weekend with the winner guaranteed a home quarter-final.

"I'm pleased with the game because it's about control and we had good control of the game,” reflected Mallinder.

"We didn't overplay because when Ospreys defend the way they do they're dangerous. They look to come up in the outside channels and cut you off. Sometimes that can be dangerous and it can work for or against you.

"We didn't want to take chances, we thought our pack could get on top, they did and it was a good scrum performance.”

Bath Rugby produced a memorable display to claim a bonus-point win away at French giants Toulouse.

First-half tries from Matt Banahan, Chris Cook and Jonathan Joseph put the Aviva Premiership Rugby high-flyers in control before Francois Louw grabbed the all-important fourth ten minutes from time.

“I was really pleased with the first half,” said head coach Mike Ford. “I thought we were fantastic.

“Credit to them, they fought their way back into it. They were always going to do that here and the game was in the balance for a long while. I’m really glad we saw their pressure out and kicked on.”

Saracens beat Munster 33-10 at Allianz Park to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the knockout stages, as Chris Ashton crossed twice while Chris Wyles also dotted down.

Denis Hurley did pull one back for the Irish province, whose hopes of making the knockout stages are now all but over, but it was more than they deserved.

The only disappointment for Mark McCall’s men was that they couldn’t find a fourth try and, with it, a useful bonus point.

Wasps boss Dai Young singled out skipper James Haskell after his side won their all-Premiership clash at the Stoop, beating Harlequins 23-3.

First-half tries from Christian Wade and Joe Simpson put them in control, before a heroic defensive display firmly shut the door on Quins’ second-half fightback.

The result moves them second in Pool 2, knowing victory over Leinster at the Ricoh Arena next weekend will deliver a quarter-final, and Young believes flanker Haskell was instrumental.

“I don’t think he’s had a bad game for us for a while,” he said of the England international. “He probably covered every blade of grass and his tackle count must have been right up there.

“I don’t think there was a bad performance from any of our players out there tonight. We didn’t have the ball certainly for large periods of the game.

“We didn’t have enough possession in the right areas but our defence won us that game. Our shape, as always, was pretty decent against a very good attacking team.”

Sale Sharks are still on the hunt for their first European win of the season after they slipped to a 13-22 defeat at home to Clermont.

Danny Cipriani and Camille Lopez traded a handful of penalties as the league regularly changed hands, but Fritz Lee’s try ultimately took the visitors out of reach.

Leicester Tigers earned themselves a European lifeline on Friday night by brushing aside Scarlets 40-23 in a clinical display at Welford Road.

Richard Cockerill’s charges lost the reverse fixture back in October but they made no mistake at home as Miles Benjamin and Jordan Crane crossed early on in a tightly-contested first half.

Adam Thompstone, Tom Youngs (2) and Sam Harrison completed the job after the break and most crucially, bagged the bonus point to keep the Tigers’ quarter-final hopes alive.
Ospreys 9 Northampton Saints 20
Penalties: Biggar 3
Northampton Saints
Tries: Clark, North
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Myler 2
Referee: Jerome Garces
Attendance: 7, 308
Toulouse 18 Bath Rugby 35
Tries: Maestri, Huget
Conversion: Flood
Penalties: Flood 2
Bath Rugby
Tries: Banahan, Cook, Joseph, Louw
Conversions: Ford 3
Penalties: Ford 3
Referee: George Clancy
Attendance: 16,061
Saracens 33 Munster 10
Tries: Wyles, Ashton 2
Conversions: Farrell 3
Penalties: Farrell 4
Try: Hurley
Conversion: Keatley
Penalty: Keatley
Referee: Romain Poite
Attendance: 9,999
Sale 13 Clermont 22
Try: Penalty
Conversion: Cipriani
Penalties: Cipriani 2
Try: Lee
Conversion: Lopez
Penalties: Lopez 5
Referee: Ian Davies
Attendance: 6,108
Harlequins 3 Wasps 23
Penalty: Botica
Tries: Wade, Simpson
Conversions: Goode 2
Penalties: Goode 2, Daly
Referee: Nigel Owens
Attendance: 14,132
Leicester Tigers 40 Scarlets 23
Leicester Tigers
Tries: Benjamin, Crane, Thompstone, Youngs, Harrison
Conversions: Burns 4, Williams
Tries: Evans, Robinson 2
Conversions: Priestland 2
Penalty: Shingler
Referee: Pascal Gauzere
Attendance: 18,913
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