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Mallinder not giving up on Heineken Cup progress

TRY GUY - George Pisi accepts the congratulations from his team-mates after scoring the Saints' try against Castres (Pictures: Linda Dawson)

TRY GUY - George Pisi accepts the congratulations from his team-mates after scoring the Saints' try against Castres (Pictures: Linda Dawson)

Jim Mallinder is hoping Connacht can spring a surprise against Saracens after Saints kept themselves in the Heineken Cup quarter-final hunt.

George Pisi’s try, six points from the boot of Stephen Myler and Glenn Dickson’s conversion ensured Mallinder’s men saw off a stubborn Castres side 13-3 at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.

But Leinster’s win against Ospreys in Dublin means the Irish side finish top of Pool 1, leaving Saints eager to claim a best runner-up spot.

They would need Saracens to lose at home to Connacht and Cardiff Blues to fail to win their home clash with Exeter Chiefs, as well as other favourable scorelines elsewhere.

And Mallinder was in upbeat mood after the win against Castres, with his first three words ‘Come on, Connacht!’.

He added: “There’s still a chance but we just talked about going out, performing and seeing what happened.

“Of course you’ve always got that bonus point in the back of your minds and we kicked to the corner a couple of times when we could have potentially taken the three but it wasn’t to be.”

If Saints don’t make it through to the last eight, they will be left to rue October’s loss in Castres.

Northampton dominated the encounter at Stade Pierre Antoine, but went down to a 19-13 defeat thanks to an early Romain Martial interception try and the boot of Rory Kockott.

And Mallinder said: “The damage wasn’t done tonight against the French champions. They’re a good side and I think they proved that tonight.

“Defensively they were very good, their linespeed cut down their options and stopped us really getting on the front foot and getting any momentum, so that wasn’t easy.

“You look at the tournament and ask what we’ve learned, but first of all you could really do with an Italian side and not having three quality sides in your pool. That’s the first thing.

“We’ll look back at the game that we played down at Castres and that was a big interception score we gave them early on.

“We came back into the game and very nearly won it, but when you’ve got good teams like that you’ve got to take your opportunity.”

 

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