A Sunday afternoon match in the Heineken European Cup, and a must-win match for the Saints if they are to qualify for the knockout stages. Fortunately, Perpignan can’t qualify and therefore sent a weakened team.
It has to be said that the first half wasn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen, ending a mere 6-0 to the Saints. I managed to get a couple of decent photos in the good light – one of the better lineout shots I’ve taken (Juandre Kruger), and one of the rare situations where one of the better best shots of the day is of the opposition!
The second half was much better, with the Saints scoring 3 tries in the first 15 minutes. The first came from another dazzling break by Ben Foden, who shipped it on to the try scoring machine that is Chris Ashton. I managed to keep track of this one, leading to quite a good scoring shot.
After the third try (which took place exactly behind the posts – I took the best ever photo I’ve taken of the posts), the Saints relaxed a bit and took a few key players off for a rest ahead of Friday’s game in Munster, allowing Perpignan back into the game. We spent the rest of the half defending – rather well it has to be said – until we managed to turn the ball over with no time left on the clock. Next time the ball went dead, the game as over. But, in the never-say-die style that has already given us 2 last-minute wins in the last month, the players kept attacking. Suddenly the ball was shipped out wide, quickly making its way to Jon Clarke. He reminded us that he’s no slouch and scooted down the touchline towards the try line, jinking back inside the last defender to touch down for the bonus-point try – pretty much right in front of me, thank you very much.
So, a 34-0 thumping of the reigning French champions just leaves the Saints with the small matter of going to Munster on Friday night (which is not long enough of a rest), knowing that a win puts them in the quarter finals. If they lose, they may well still get through – although their likely opponents would be, um, Munster away…
It never ceases to amaze me how many people leave before the final whistle. That means that in the last month they will have missed game-winning tries in two matches and a last-minute (crucial) bonus point try.
The full set of photos can be found on my website.