Rugby Union:Thorneycroft swift to condemn sinners

Northampton 35 Bristol 12
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The Independent Online
IF EVER there was an appropriate place for the sin bin to be put into operation then it had to be Franklins Gardens, home of the Northampton Saints. And it was not used once, but twice, as the referee Brian Campsall consigned the Bristol pair David Corkery and Chad Eagle to the sidelines for a 10-minute spell either side of half-time.

Added to that there was a marvellous hat-trick of tries for the popular Northampton wing Harvey Thorneycroft and eye-catching performances from Tim Rodber and Grant Seeley in the Saints back row and Ian Hunter at full- back, which the watching England manager, Roger Uttley, will have noted with interest.

The double appearance of the white triangle left the Bristol ship, which had been listing badly anyway, holed below the waterline and ultimately they foundered against the rocks of the rugged Northampton defence. As bravely as the Allied Dunbar Premiership strugglers tackled they were always playing catch-up - that is once Saints had woken up to the fact that their visitors had stolen into a 19th-minute lead.

That came when the scrum-half, Gareth Baber, a feisty operator around the base had spurted over the line from a five metre scrum - conceded when Jon Sleightholme's ill-advised long pass beat everyone on both sides and bounced over the dead-ball line.

So sharp was Baber that not a Saint was moving when he darted through as the scrum wheeled right. Makeshift Bristol fly-half Josh Lewsey landed the simple conversion.

It still took a while longer before the match picked up. But when the first half finally came to life it did so in absolutely fabulous fashion. Northampton strung together some outrageously adventurous moments, with touches of genius in their handling and running.

Hunter had been in threatening mode all afternoon, buzzing the Bristol air space repeatedly as he tried to find a way through. When he finally burst away, leaving the defence gasping in his contrail, it sparked a great move in which the hooker, Chris Johnson, was involved three times before Thorneycroft bullocked his way over.

Thorneycroft's first, like his third, had come from a tap penalty. A close range affair each time, although it had taken Northampton some six attempts to get that opening try, Mr Campsall awarding the home side half a dozen penalties in an intense spell of pressure as Bristol were continually caught offside close to their line.

Without their two sinners Bristol fell further behind after the interval, first Jason Chandler crossed after another decent trundle from Johnson, then the rock-hard centre Matt Allen beat everyone to a cross kick.

Unfortunately the usually reliable Paul Grayson was off target with much of his goal- kicking, but with tries coming thick and fast there was no cause for concern.

Darren Yapp did score a consolation try but a deserved try by Johnson restored the natural order and Bristol were well and truly sunk.

Northampton: I Hunter (G Townsend, 76); J Sleightholme, A Northey, M Allen, H Thorneycroft; P Grayson, M Dawson; G Pagel, C Johnson, M Stewart (M Volland, 54), J Phillips (S Foale, 76), J Chandler (D Mackinnon, 72), T Rodber (capt), G Seely, B Pountney.

Bristol: S Jones; K Chesney, S Martin, K Maggs, D Yapp; J Lewsey (M Armstrong, 65), G Baber; A Poole (J Wring, 53), F Landreau, K Fullman, P Adams, C Eagle (T Devergie, 41), D Corkery (capt), J Brownrigg, E Rollitt.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).