Northampton 30 Bristol 17: Bristol given hope by electric Turner

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The Independent Online

No sooner do Bristol unearth a gem of a player, than they have to leave him out. Mat Turner's try double in the EDF Energy Cup may not have helped Bristol beat Northampton at Franklin's Gardens, but it certainly got the travelling fans buzzing.

When the South Africa-born Turner, who qualifies for England through his mother, scored Bristol's first two tries he revealed searing pace but defended superbly and is clearly going to be a valuable addition to the winless West Country club.

Turner was only just registered for this match against Saints by a matter of minutes. He landed in this country last Tuesday. Bristol promptly secured his release from the South African Rugby Football Union, but his registration from the Rugby Football Union did not arrive until 30 minutes before Thursday afternoon's deadline.

That registration, however, does not apply to the European Challenge Cup. Bristol travel to Montpellier later this week for their opening Challenge Cup Pool Two match, but Turner will be ineligible to play until the quarter-final stages. That will be welcome news to Northampton, who are in the same pool, which also includes another French club, Toulon.

Yet Turner has already made an impression. Richard Hill, the Bristol director of rugby, said: "I was delighted with Mat Turner's performance. He scored a try on his own wing, then one on his opposite wing and saved a certain try under posts by tracking back and making a try-saving tackle, not only making the tackle, but then getting back on his feet and contesting and winning a holding penalty."

Hill revealed that the signing of the Western Province winger had in part been due to the eagerness of the England Sevens management team to get him on board as fast as possible.

"We found him through the England Sevens management," Hill explained. "They have been tracking him on the Sevens circuit. He played for South Africa in the Under-20s World Cup. Ben Ryan, who looks after England Sevens, said Mat was a bit special, so we had to move very quickly. He will be called into the England Sevens training squad next week."

Saints also had their good players, most notably scrum-half Lee Dickson, who formed a telling partnership with experienced Irish fly-half Barry Everitt. The pair controlled events, especially after the interval when Northampton pulled away.

Not even five yellow cards could detract from a match that had plenty of excitement and entertainment, with both teams prepared to run the ball whenever possible. Future meetings this season between these two in all three competitions promise much.

Northampton: Tries Diggin, Dickson, Ashton, Mayor; Conversions Everitt 2; Penalties Everitt 2. Bristol: Tries Turner 2, Lilo; Conversion Ashwin.

Northampton: P Diggin; C Ashton, C Mayor (N Greenhalgh, 80+6), N Mordt, S Lamont; B Everitt, L Dickson (J Brake, 77); S Tonga'uiha, P Shields (J Gray, 57), B Stewart (B Broster, 51), M Lord (J Vickers, 65; L Neale, 80+2), A Rae (capt), C Lawes, B Lewitt, R Milligan.

Bristol: V Lilo; L Robinson, L Eves, K Maggs, M Turner (G Barden, 71); C Ashwin, H Thomas (S Alford, 63); M Irish, M Regan (D Blaney, 57), P Bracken, R Winters (D Attwood, 63), R Sidoli, M Salter (capt; C Pennycook, 80), R Pennycook (A Clarke, 68-80), I Grieve.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).