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Club Rugby

Saints on the up after vital try by Downey

Edinburgh 27 Northampton Saints 31: Northampton centre's timely score helps rein in free-running Edinburgh.

Northampton may have been overshadowed by their free-running hosts but they are developing a knack of grinding out important wins in the Heineken Cup. Having misfired but still won at home to Castres a week earlier, they secured four potentially crucial points here.

The Saints captain, Dylan Hartley, gave his team a great start, scoring from a line-out drive after seven minutes. But they were then left rocking by tries from Allan Jacobsen, Netani Talei and Ben Cairns. James Downey's subsequent try, on the stroke of half-time, could yet prove the most important of their European campaign.

Saints were 24-13 down and Edinburgh were threatening to run them off the pitch when Downey touched down in the corner. Stephen Myler missed the conversion but the try had knocked the wind out of Edinburgh's sails.

Northampton's coach, Jim Mallinder, said: "It's a very pleasing win because this isn't an easy competition. We didn't play well last week but we got a win, now we have come to Edinburgh, played a lot better and got a hard-fought win that takes us top of the pool [Pool One]. We're in a good position."

How refreshing it was to see two teams committed to playing rugby. There was so much resting on this match yet neither side was shackled by pressure or inhibited by fear. Edinburgh led the way in a blistering first half, stretching Saints at every chance and with great success. They scored three handsome tries including a near length-of-the-field effort that was finished by Talei. However, all that provoked an emphatic response from Northampton, who clawed their way back and then took the lead through Myler's conversion of Paul Diggin's 52nd-minute try. Myler was successful with six of seven kicks and finished with 16 points.

Northampton got to grips with Edinburgh in the final 20 minutes. Greig Tonks just managed to nudge Talei into touch before the Fijian No8 slipped what would have been a scoring pass inside and the flanker Tom Wood came up with a telling turnover in his own 22. Courtney Lawes then left Talei seeing stars after a bruising head-on challenge.

Mallinder said: "Our attacking game was very good but we were defensively weak in the first half. We stood off tackles and allowed Edinburgh to score some good tries. At times it looked as if they were able to score tries at will. We had to tighten up and we were far more solid in the second half. We put in some good tackles to stop their offload game and we always knew our attacking game was good enough to win."

The uncapped Fraser McKenzie, a 6ft 6in converted flanker, was at the heart of everything good for Edinburgh as he stretched his long legs on the Murrayfield turf. His break, aided by the scrum-half Mike Blair, ended with Jacobsen scoring his second try of the tournament, under the posts and not long after Hartley's opener. McKenzie was also involved in Edinburgh's second try. From a turnover, the lock combined several times with David and Mike Blair, Chris Paterson supported and Talei touched down in the corner.

Myler kept Saints in touch with a second penalty but they could not contain McKenzie, who provided a delightful offload to Paterson before Alan MacDonald delivered a scoring pass to Cairns. However, Saints stayed in control up front to reduce the deficit first with a penalty and then, following thrusts from Roger Wilson and Phil Dowson, Downey's timely try.

Paterson re-established a six-point lead but Northampton's power in the scrum led Talei to fumble the ball into the hands of Phil Dowson, yards from his own line, and Diggin finished in the corner.

Edinburgh: C Paterson; J Thompson, B Cairns, J King, T Visser; D Blair, M Blair (G Laidlaw, 70); A Jacobsen (K Traynor, 65), R Ford (A Kelly, 65), G Cross (D Young, 61), S MacLeod (C Hamilton, 61), F McKenzie, A MacDonald, N Talei, R Grant (capt).

Northampton Saints: G Tonks, C Ashton, J Clarke (J Ansbro, 72), J Downey, P Diggin, S Myler, L Dickson (R Powell, 62), S Tongauiha, D Hartley (capt), B Mujati (E Murray, 55), C Lawes, C Day (M Sorenson, 72), P Dowson, R Wilson, T Wood (C Clarke, 70).

Referee: J Garces (France).