Biggar puts the boot into Lyon as Saints get Champions Cup campaign off to a flying start
Dan Biggar was back with a bang as he booted Saints to a superb 25-14 victory in the Champions Cup opener against Lyon at Franklin’s Gardens.
Biggar, who was making a welcome return from World Cup duty, racked up 20 points with the boot as his side secured a precious win against the current Top 14 leaders.
Rory Hutchinson produced a fine finish during the first half, which helped Saints to secure an impressive 19-0 lead at the break.
Lyon battled back after the interval, winning a succession of penalties that helped them to send replacement Thibaut Regard over on two occasions.
But it was too little, too late from the French side as they fell to defeat in Northampton.
Saints were desperate to get off to a flyer ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Treviso, where they will face a Benetton side who lost their curtain raiser at Leinster.
And the black, green and gold made a strong start to the match, with Teimana Harrison bursting through the middle before the ball was worked wide to Taqele Naiyaravoro, who was stopped just short.
But a penalty was coming and Biggar slotted it to make it 3-0 inside four minutes.
Saints were on the charge and they soon had a lineout deep in French territory, but Lyon stood tall and then produced a huge shove at the next scrum, winning a penalty.
However, Saints stole the lineout to keep the pressure on, eventually earning another shot at goal, which Biggar slotted with ease.
Lyon looked to have issued the perfect response when they crossed the Saints line, but the effort was ruled out for a knock-on in the build-up.
And on the 20-minute mark, Saints were the ones who grabbed the first try of the game as centre Hutchinson finished superbly, taking a tap tackle and rolling his way to the line.
Biggar added the extras to bring a big roar from the Gardens faithful, and the 13-0 lead was no more than the hosts deserved for the territory they had enjoyed.
Lyon’s bid to gain ground was being thwarted by their lacklustre lineout, which Saints were picking off with ease.
Hutchinson was almost made to pay for a pass that went into Lyon possession, but Piers Francis and Naiyaravoro scrambled superbly to deny what looked likely to be a certain score.
Saints looked to have grabbed a try of their own at the other end after Biggar and Cobus Reinach combined for the South African star to finish with aplomb.
But the referee felt Biggar’s final pass to Reinach was forward and deemed it was no try.
Reinach didn’t get his score but he did soon earn his side three points, getting to grips with Carl Fearns and forcing the Lyon No.8 to give away a penalty, which Biggar landed.
And Biggar was at it again soon after, booting a long-range effort through the posts to give his team a 19-0 lead.
Lyon threatened to respond before the break, but Reinach pouched the ball five metres from his own line and then tried to run home, but he was stopped by Noa Nakaitaci.
It was a frantic end to a frantic half and Saints were forced into a change at half-time as centre Matt Proctor came on for his debut in place of the impressive Francis, who took a knock.
Saints were soon up and running on the scoreboard in the second half as the tee was sent on and Biggar booted the ball between the posts.
Lyon finally got the chance to put some pressure on soon after, but Saints showed resilience to defend the lineout and then won a penalty at a scrum.
Courtney Lawes then made a fantastic tackle on Josua Tuisova to pull the wing out of play as Saints soaked up another Lyon attack.
That collision forced Tuisova off with an injury, and Lyon were forced to send on fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski in his place.
Nevertheless, the men in red kept coming, winning penalty after penalty close to the Saints line.
Scrum after scrum came, with Saints determined to hold out, but Harrison was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle and Lyon scored almost immediately, cleverly using a crossfield kick to sent Regard over.
Pato Fernandez kicked the conversion and the deficit was down to 15 points with 18 minutes remaining.
New Zealand prop Owen Franks was soon sent on for his Saints debut and after Reinach made a huge hit on Wisniewski, Saints won a penalty for a high tackle from Patrick Sobela.
Biggar landed the kick to make it 25-7 with 15 minutes to go and Lyon soon saw what they thought was a score ruled out for an earlier knock-on after referee Frank Murphy went to the TMO.
Harrison returned from the sin bin but Saints were again under pressure, with a string of penalties continuing to go against them.
And Lyon made them pay, using a scrum five metres out to send Regard in out wide.
Wisniewski converted well from the touchline and the gap was 11 points with five minutes to go.
But Saints played the rest of the game in the Lyon half, finally finding favour with the referee as they put the seal on a hugely impressive home success.
Saints: Furbank; Collins, Hutchinson, Francis (Proctor 40), Naiyaravoro (Tuala 70); Biggar, Reinach (J Mitchell 75); Waller (cc) (Van Wyk 62), Haywood (Fish 62 (Haywood 73)), Painter (O Franks 62); Ribbans (Ratuniyarawa 65), Lawes; Wood (Gibson 65), Ludlam, Harrison (cc).
Lyon: Buttin; Tuisova (Wisniewski 50), Barassi (Regard 28), Ngatai, Nakaitaci; Fernandez, Pélissié (c) (Couilloud 26); Chaume (Kaabèche 50), Maurouard (Ivaldi 50), Ric (Bamba 50); Geraci (Bruni 75), Goujon; Gill, Sobela, Fearns (Roodt 58).
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)