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Northampton 31-27 Munster

Northampton (21) 31
Tries: Ashton 2, Geraghty Cons: Geraghty 2 Pens: Geraghty 4
Munster (14) 27
Tries: Wallace, O'Leary Con: O'Gara Pens: O'Gara 4 Drop: Warwick

Northampton
Geraghty boosted his England chances with a marvellous display

By James Standley

Northampton resisted a trademark Munster fightback to edge a pulsating Heineken Cup encounter.

It was 8-8 after a try apiece from Chris Ashton and David Wallace before Saints took control of the game.

Shane Geraghty scored a try and then set up Ashton's second soon after half-time as Saints took a 28-14 lead.

But a Tomas O'Leary try and Ronan O'Gara's boot helped Munster rally to trail by a point, only for Geraghty's fourth penalty late on to seal victory.

Munster went into the game on the back of a 30-point thrashing by bitter rivals and current European champions Leinster, but their European pedigree means only the foolish would ever take them lightly on big Heineken Cup nights.

606: DEBATE
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Franklin's Gardens was crackling with anticipation under the lights in front of a capacity 13,550 crowd and they were soon given something to cheer as the hosts took an early lead.

Munster flanker Wallace just dotted down a Geraghty kick ahead to prevent Saints scoring an early try but the Saints fly-half landed a ninth-minute penalty to reward Northampton's lively start and they scored the first try of the game eight minutes later.

Geraghty chipped ahead after a multi-phase attack and when the ball fell loose Ashton pounced and although Geraghty could not add the conversion, it was one of the few things he did not pull off in a sparkling performance in front of England manager Martin Johnson.

Paul Warwick soon landed a drop-goal to get Munster ticking over and they levelled the scores after 25 minutes.

The two-time former European champions swept the ball across to the left wing and Keith Earls took on Ashton on the outside before kicking infield with the inside of his right foot.

Wallace was in support like a good back-rower should be and won the race to collect and go over.

O'Gara pulled the conversion attempt badly wide but a brace of penalties apiece from Munster's Ireland fly-half, and Northampton's England hopeful Geraghty, made it 14-14 with half-time looming.

Northampton launched a final surging attack in injury time and when Munster infringed it looked as though the Saints would take the easy three points on offer, but Geraghty had other ideas.

The fly-half tapped and went for the line, and sliced his way through the stunned Munster defence from 20m.

He added the conversion and suddenly the hosts had a seven-point lead after 40 minutes of blood and thunder rugby at Franklin's Gardens.

It got even better for Northampton soon after the break as Geraghty orchestrated another sparkling score.

Soane Tonga'uiha
Soane Tonga'uiha is hauled back by the Munster defence

James Downey, the hugely impressive Courtney Lawes and Ben Foden all carried well before Geraghty spotted Lifeimi Mafi had stepped out of defence and scythed through before drawing full-back Warwick and putting Ashton over under the posts.

Geraghty's conversion gave Northampton a 14-point lead and it looked as though victory was in the bag, but Munster are renowned for their never-say-die spirit and they launched the latest in a long line of bloody-minded fightbacks.

O'Gara trimmed the gap with two penalties and his half-back partner O'Leary then scooted over down the blind-side after a powerful rolling maul had driven Munster deep into Saints territory.

O'Gara converted from wide out to make it a one-point game with just over 10 minutes to play and it looked as though the experienced Irish were about to break the hosts' hearts.

But this Northampton side have shown signs of becoming real contenders and after they went back on the attack, powerful work from their pack earned Geraghty the chance to take the lead back out to four points.

It looked a far from secure lead as Munster hammered away deep inside Northampton territory in the gripping final minutes of the game, but the hosts held out to win a marvellous encounter.


Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder on Shane Geraghty:

"We have seen Shane play at under-20 level for England and throughout the age groups and he is a special talent.

"What he has done today is to back up a number of very good performances for us this season and that is probably his best performance for us tonight.

"He made a lot of good options in attack, and he can see where space is. Whether it his passing or his running game, he's a real threat to defenders."

Munster captain Paul O'Connell:

"It wasn't a fabulous performance but it was an improvement on Leinster last week. But we let in too many soft scores.

"There were a few defensive lapses. Against a team of the quality of Northampton you can't give them those opportunities.

"They are good at taking their opportunities. Shane Geraghty is playing well at the moment and they are very good at what they do.

"They have a strong ball-carrying game and when we presented them with opportunities they took them and took them very well."


Northampton: Foden; Ashton, Clarke, Downey, Reihana; Geraghty, Dickson; Tonga'uiha, Hartley, Gonzalez Bonorino, Lawes, Kruger, Dowson, Best, Wilson.

Replacements: Mayor for Downey (67), Dickens for Dickson (70), Mujati for Gonzalez Bonorino (58), Fernandez Lobbe for Lawes (67).

Not Used: Sharman, Dreyer, Easter, Myler.

Munster: Warwick; Howlett, Mafi, de Villiers, Earls; O'Gara, O'Leary; Horan, Flannery, Buckley, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Quinlan, Wallace, Leamy.

Replacements: Dowling for Mafi (61), Brugnaut for Buckley (67), D. Ryan for Quinlan (65).

Not Used: Fogarty, D. Hurley, O'Driscoll, Ronan, Stringer.

Att: 13,550

Ref: C Berdos (France).



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see also
Wilkinson-Geraghty 'an ideal mix'
06 Oct 09 |  English
Heineken Cup group-by-group guide
08 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Leinster 30-0 Munster
03 Oct 09 |  Leinster
Wasps 20-15 Northampton
04 Oct 09 |  English
Heineken Cup 2009/10
22 Dec 09 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup tables
09 Aug 06 |  Tables
European rugby archive
16 Aug 06 |  Rugby Union


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