Saints score four but Turner is a prize asset for Bristol

Northampton 30 Bristol 17
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The Independent Online

Saints overran a hapless Bristol to open their EDF Energy Cup campaign in convincing fashion.

The spectacle was not helped by the referee, Nigel Owens, sending five players – three of them from Bristol – to the sin-bin, the final two cards (one for each side) creating confusion as to whether uncontested scrums would be needed. They were, as long as the players were in the bin. The crowd expressed its disapproval.

After riding out an early Bristol storm, when the West Country side twice took the lead, Saints' half-backs, Lee Dickson and Barry Everitt, were able to direct affairs. In the end the home side ran in four tries. The consolation for Bristol was that they appear to have unearthed a diamond from South Africa in Mathew Turner, who has been signed from Western Province on a two-year contract.

Turner, who has an English mother and is England-qualified, only arrived at the club on Tuesday. Playing on the left wing here, he scored two tries, the first from a suspiciously forward-looking pass by Lee Robinson and the second after his full-back, Vunga Lilo, pushed through a grubber kick from the Saints' 22. Turner beat Chris Ashton to the touchdown.

The pity of it was that the Northampton posts appeared to be off Chris Ashwin's radar. The Bristol fly-half failed to convert either of Turner's tries. Ashwin was not alone, however. Everitt also found things a trifle tricky, failing with two conversions and one of two first-half penalty attempts.

Saints' first two tries were counter-punches, following hard on Turner's tries. Paul Diggin went over for the first, courtesy of a well-judged miss-pass by Everitt. Then the full-back's break down the right helped set up the opportunity for Northampton's second, the second-row Matt Lord's speculative lob being snatched up by the excellent Dickson, who wriggled enough in Luke Eves' tackle to allow him to stretch an arm over the line. Everitt missed the conversion but landed a penalty to give Saints a half-time lead.

A minute or so before the interval Bristol lost the lock forward Robert Sidoli to the sin-bin, and early in the second half they were reduced to 13 men when the veteran centre Kevin Maggs was shown a yellow card of his own. Saints took advantage of their superior numbers to score a try, Ashton snaking past two defenders and across the line. Everitt landed the first conversion of the match and added a second after the centre Chris Mayor was put over for the fourth try a few minutes later. Things went to pieces somewhat after that as the Saints replacements Joe Gray and Ben Broster and Bristol's Mark Irish were sent to sin-bin. Saints emerged from the mess with victory.

Northampton: P Diggin; C Ashton, C Mayor (N Greenhalgh, 80), 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), 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).