Foden stakes claim as Saints hammer Castres

Northampton 45 Castres 0

Franklin's Gardens

Apart from the obvious – a little straight-line speed, a lot of defensive know-how and a kick like a mule – what weapon does a full-back need in his armoury to survive at the top end of the professional game? A sense of timing, that's what.

Happily for Ben Foden, whose World Cup performances in the No 15 shirt did little to suggest his place in the England team was any more rock-solid than Twickenham's ability to keep embarrassing information out of the press, his eye-catching display yesterday caught the moment perfectly, not least because the national side's caretaker coach, Stuart Lancaster, was looking down on him from on high.

If this was not quite a "dead" affair, it was certainly a fixture of the "not feeling terribly well" variety. Northampton were already out of the tournament, having lost three from three, while Castres travelled without a host of front-line players: Marc Andreu, Max Evans and Romain Teulet among the backs; Ibrahim Diarra, Chris Masoe and Joe Tekori among the forwards. Therefore, Lancaster could only have been in the East Midlands – as opposed to Toulouse, say – for very specific reasons pertaining to Six Nations selection and it was perfectly reasonable to suggest Foden was one of them, especially as some of his rival full-backs, Mike Brown of Harlequins and Alex Goode of Saracens to name but two, had been setting tongues wagging.

The coach is known to favour "footballing" full-backs, as opposed to No 15s who run like Usain Bolt while possessing all the distributive skills of a third-team prop with a bad case of butterfingers. Foden is as quick as any No 15 in Europe; indeed, he reminded the 11,000-plus crowd of this when he covered 60-odd metres in the blink of an eye to score his second try with the last attack of a one-sided match, circumnavigating the unfortunate Florian Denos en route. But he was also contributed handsomely to Vasily Artemyev's fine touchdown on 66 minutes with a high-calibre pass out of contact – a classic case of extracting maximum value from minimal opportunit.

Foden's first try, just past the hour, was a more straightforward affair: the teenage wing Jamie Elliott, one of several bright young things to emerge from the Northampton academy, did the hard work with an energetic thrust in centre-field, leaving the fully-fledged international to score unchallenged towards the right flag. But Foden had already made his mark during a tryless – and very nearly pointless – first half with a series of dangerous raids up the left. When he finds himself some space and resists the temptation to kick the ball aimlessly upfield, he remains a significant handful.

"There are quite a number of other full-backs getting good write-ups, but in fairness to Ben he's been outstanding for us since he returned from the World Cup," said Jim Mallinder, the Northampton director of rugby. As Mallinder is not known for talking up his players in public without good reason – given the choice, he would take the Trappist approach to rugby management – it was a meaningful remark.

Castres turned in precisely the kind of performance the Heineken Cup does not need: an understrength side playing undercooked rugby so early in the tournament is never edifying. Given the semi-interested nature of their offering, Northampton's first-half display was a long way short of exhilarating, Stephen Myler's sand-wedge penalty from in front of the sticks on 12 minutes the sole difference between the teams. The Frenchmen lost Pierre Roussel to the sin bin yet still managed to keep their line intact.

Sadly for those who prefer a contest to a procession, they were not up to keeping themselves intact after the interval. Myler's flurry of penalties between the 44th and 51st minutes put the game out of French reach and Foden's opening strike broke the visiting resistance once and for all.

Scorers: Northampton: Tries Foden 2, Artemyev, Haywood, Tonks Conversions Myler 4 Penalties Myler 4.

Northampton: B Foden; V Artemyev, J Clarke (G Tonks, 67), J Downey (S Armstrong, 61), J Elliott; S Myler, M Roberts (L Dickson, 61); A Waller (S Tonga'uiha, 56), D Hartley (capt, M Haywood, 62), P Doran-Jones (T Mercey, 56), C Lawes (J Craig, 51), M Sorenson, T Wood, B Nutley (J Ingle, 63), S Manoa.

Castres: F Denos; M Nicolas (V Inigo, 68), P Bonnefond, P Garcia, P Lakafia; P Bernard, T Lacrampe (R Kockott, 61); A Peikrishvili (L Ducalcon, 52), M Bonello (M-A Rallier, 52), R Kruger (M Coetzee, 45), M Rolland (capt, R Capo Ortega, 68), S Murray, P Roussel, S Malonga, J Bornman (Y Caballero, 43).

Referee G Clancy (Ireland).

Attendance 8654.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot