Rugby Union: Tainton torments Saints

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The Independent Online
Northampton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Bristol. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

NORTHAMPTON were hoping to mark Ian McGeechan's arrival yesterday as full-time director of rugby with a victory at Franklins Gardens, and it looked as if the Saints would oblige him. But Mark Tainton, the Bristol stand-off, refused to play second fiddle to Paul Grayson in the penalty stakes and won a private duel 6-5.

Saints made another half-a- dozen changes to go with the five they made for their previous match, which, after the opening blanks against Leicester, Bath and Sale, hinted at desperation.

'It has been an awkward interim period,' Tim Rodber, the captain, conceded. 'But with Ian at the helm we can really get to work.' McGeechan, meanwhile, noted that 'rugby here is serious'. And even more serious if you are not winning. This, however, has not been a problem for Bristol, an acceptable opening reversal at Bath followed by successes against Sale and Harlequins.

No one has scored any League points for Northampton other than Grayson, and the trend was to continue in overcast conditions that matched much of the heavyweight rugby. Having said that, few come heavier in the forward department than Peter Walton, and when he charged off after David Elkington had poached the ball from under the nose of Mark Chudleigh at a scrum, Bristol fell offside.

Grayson potted the penalty without any trouble before Tainton replied with a beauty from Bristol from the left touch line. Then it was Grayson's turn again, the stand-off aiming to jink through for a try in similar fashion to his effort against Bath, but Bristol encroaching again in blocking the break.

While this penalty attempt rebounded off an upright, Bristol immediately went offside once more, Grayson accepting that gift and another in the 30th minute when he found the target from 50 yards.

So far so good, but it was all square come the interval because Northampton's persistence at killing ruck ball resulted in two more penalties from Tainton.

This was becoming monotonous, especially after some of the expansive football seen elsewhere, but Northampton, of course, were only too happy to accept anything going.

Naturally enough the onus was on Grayson, with two more penalties which brought up his 50 points for the season. He had met his match, though, and so again had the Saints - Tainton landing three more, the last in injury time.

Northampton: I Hunter; F Packman, N Beal, R MacNaughton, H Thorneycroft; P Grayson, D Elkington; M Hynes, P Roworth, C Allen, J Phillips, M Bayfield, P Walton, T Rodber (capt), S Foale.

Bristol: P Hull; D John, M Denny, D Wring, G Sharp; M Tainton, M Chudleigh; A Sharp, M Regan, D Hinkins, S Shaw, A Blackmore, C Barrow, I Patten, D Eves (capt).

Referee: J Wallis (Bridgwater).