Diggin scores four to ensure Northampton stroll to victory

Northampton 37 Edinburgh 0
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The Independent Online

Five wins out of five for Northampton, coupled with victory for Cardiff Blues over Castres, means a quarter-final berth in the Heineken Cup is secured for Saints.

After two straight defeats for the Saints in the Premiership, which included a harsh lesson last weekend at the hands of bitter rivals Leicester, all is well for Northampton in Europe. They will hope to put aside the disappointment of exiting the Heineken Cup last season in a bruising quarter-final encounter away at Munster.

The Edinburgh coach Jim Moffat had promised that his team would play fast and loose and not get caught up in a dogfight with their more muscular opponents. Yet his prop Geoff Cross must have been on a bathroom break when Moffat laid out his game plan. Just 30 seconds into the game, Cross lived up to his name to give Northampton outside-half Stephen Myler an angry late crunch. French referee Monsieur Berdos waved play on.

Saints came back with the perfect response on five minutes. Myler kicked a penalty to touch and the pack drove on from the lineout before Brian Mujati snuffled a try beneath a pile-up on Edinburgh's line. Myler converted then slotted over a penalty to give Saints a 10-point comfort blanket.

To their credit, the Scots impressed on the counter-attack keeping the ball alive through nifty hands. But the burly Saints defence held strong.

There was even a spot of fisticuffs before half time that ended with Edinburgh's prop Carl Trainer being sent to the sin bin for his efforts. Paul Diggin added to the visitor's pain picking up a fumble to score a try in the corner on the half-hour to extend Northampton's lead to 15-0.

If Edinburgh had designs on coming out for the second half and taking the game to Northampton, their plans went hopelessly awry from the kick-off. Penalty to Saints and a further three points for Myler.

Everything went right for Northampton. Diggin hogged the spotlight to score his second try on 70 minutes, steaming down the left wing unopposed from the half-way line as Edinburgh's defence crumbled in tatters, exhausted and battered.

Joe Ansbro even had the cheek to hand Diggin his hat-trick shortly after, off-loading to his pal from beneath the posts. And then a fourth for Diggin. "We don't fear any team coming here," Diggin said. "We can win this tournament as the competition for places is so fierce."

He has notched scored 10 tries in 10 Heineken Cup matches and that's 11 victories in a row at Franklin's Gardens in the tournament.

"He's not the fastest winger," said the Northampton coach Jim Mallinder laughing. Diggin was standing behind him at the time. "But Digger gets into great positions and he's been doing that all season," Mallinder said.

Not a single point for Edinburgh. They were routed. And their coach, Rob Moffat, admitted that his side had been outplayed.

"Northampton had too much control," he said. "They pressurised us into making too many mistakes. We panicked and made a whole lot of errors."

Northampton: Tries Mujati, Diggin 4; Conversions Myler 2, Ford; Penalties Myler 2.

Northampton: Foden; Ansbro, Clarke, Downey (Reihana, 64), Diggin; Myler (Ford, 79), Powell (Commins, 69); Tonga'uiha (Waller, 70), Hartley (capt, Sharman, 56), Mujati (Mercey, 58), Clark, Day (Sorenson, 32), Dowson, Wood (Easter, 69), Wilson.

Edinburgh: Paterson (Webster, 34); Thompson, Cairns (King, 64), De Luca, Visser (Little, 73); Blair, Blair (Laidlaw, 64); Traynor, Ross Ford, Cross (Young, 49; McInally, 58), MacLeod, Lozada (Niven, 56), MacDonald, Rennie, Grant (capt, Niven, 42; Grant, 49; Hamilton, 56).

Referee: C Berdos (France)