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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Contepomi fires Bristol through
Northampton's Andrew Blowers
Blowers was a second-half scorer for Saints
Bristol 32-24 Northampton

Bristol continued a fine end to an average season by securing a place in the Zurich Championship final - and a Heineken Cup spot for next season.

A vociferous crowd at the Memorial Ground crowd watched their side beat Northampton for the first time in three attempts this year, and set up a return to Twickenham after 14 years away.

And they had fly-half Felipe Contepomi to thank after the Argentine scored all 32 points, including three late penalties that overhauled a Northampton lead.


I didn't want the season to finish this way nor did the players
Wayne Smith,
Saints coach
"Contepomi has an uncanny relationship with (Agustin) Pichot, and the pair are very slick, and he did it again in this game," said Bristol coach Dean Ryan.

"I think we will see him play for Argentina against England this summer and for the Pumas in the next World Cup.

"He really is that sort of statesman on a world stage."

Bristol's Argentine half-back combination of Pichot and Contepomi set up the first try, Contepomi diving over before adding the conversion for a 10-6 lead.

Three penalties from Paul Grayson kept Northampton in touch, and when blindside flanker Andrew Blowers scored in the right corner, the visitors were ahead.

But Contepomi completed a superb first-half display with his third penalty to take the score to 16-14 in Bristol's favour at the break.

Things got even better for Bristol in the opening moments of the second half as David Rees cut through the inside-centre channel and released Contepomi to score.

Comeback

But Wayne Smith's Northampton side were not about to give up their final chance of silverware and launched an impressive comeback.

Grant Seely cut the deficit when he scored out wide after Bristol lost a scrum in midfield, and Andrew Blowers put the Saints 24-23 ahead with a try in the 65th minute.

Bristol camped in the Northampton 22 as they went in search of the vital score, but when Matt Carrington put a foot in touch as he crossed for a try it seemed the chance might have gone.

The pressure told in the final five minutes, however, and Contepomi took advantage of three penalties from close-range to take Bristol into the final.

Saints coach Smith felt his side had thrown victory away.

"I'm really disappointed with the result," said Smith. "We made a couple of breaks from which we should have scored simple tries.

"People said that we had nothing to win from this game but my response to that is that we have a lot to lose.

"I didn't want the season to finish this way nor did the players."

The winners of Sunday's Heywood Road meeting between Sale and Gloucester will meet Bristol at Twickenham next Saturday.


Bristol: Best, Carrington, Rees, Little, Christophers, Contepomi, Pichot, Crompton, McCarthy, E. Bergamaschi, Archer, A. Brown, Short, Lipman, Sturnham.
Replacements: Nelson, Johnstone, Sheridan, Beattie, Brownrigg, Blake, Cadwallader.

Northampton: Beal, Brooks, Tucker, Leslie, Moir, Grayson, Malone, Morris, Thompson, Stewart, Phillips, Brouzet, Blowers, Pountney, Seely.
Replacements: Richmond, Budgen, Hunter, Soden, Hyndman, Kirk, Shaw.

Referee: Chris White (RFU)

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Alastair Hignell
"The Shoguns wanted victory more than the Saints"
Northampton coach Wayne Smith
"We hate losing"
See also:

19 May 02 | English
18 May 02 | English
20 Apr 02 | English
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