Mallinder and Saints suffer at the hands of Priestland

Northampton 23 Scarlets 28

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The Independent Online

If, as seems increasingly possible, this was Jim Mallinder's final game as Northampton head coach, the Yorkshireman will not recall it fondly. With Graham Henry last night appearing to join the list of overseas candidates ruling themselves out of the running to replace Martin Johnson in charge of England, Mallinder's international candidature grows ever stronger, but his only thoughts last night concerned the fact last season's finalists are now close to bowing out of the Heineken Cup.

"There's been no knock on the door, no questions asked," said Mallinder, though he again confirmed he would be interested if approached about the England position. "At the moment I'm very, very happy and I think I have an important job to do getting this side back up winning rugby matches. [England] wasn't a distraction for me, so I don't see why it should have been for the players."

Perhaps still feeling the effects of their late defeat in Munster last week, Saints were off the pace from the start, and the first-half was something of a horror show as they conceded tries to Liam Williams, Aaron Shingler and Matt Gilbert. If the second in particular was controversial, Sean Lamont appearing to knock on in the build-up, there was no doubting which was the better side, and Rhys Priestland converted all three scores to put the Scarlets well clear at the break.

The pattern continued in the second period, in that Northampton continued to make errors and referee Peter Fitzgibbon to infuriate the crowd with some of his decisions. The decisive score came moments afterwards: Chris Ashton knocked on, Priestland and then George North kicked through, and Priestland won the race for the touch down. Late scores from George Pisi and Tom Wood did at least rescue a losing bonus point for Mallinder's side.

"It's a big result for us, a big scalp," said the Scarlets head coach, Nigel Davies.

Northampton Pisi; Ashton, Clarke, Downey, Artemyev; Lamb, Dickson;Tonga'uiha, Hartley (capt), Mujati, Lawes, Sorenson, Clark,Wood, Wilson. Replacements not used Haywood, A. Waller, Doran-Jones, Manoa, Dowson, Roberts, Myler, Armstrong.

Scarlets L. Williams; North, S Williams, J Davies, Lamont; Priestland, G Davies; I Thomas, M Rees (capt), R Thomas, Timani, Welch, Shingler (Gilbert, 30), J Edwards, Morgan. Replacements not used Owens, John, R Jones, Reed, R Williams, S Jones, Evans.

Referee P Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

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