Unbeaten Saints out to break the mould by going all the way

Castres 12 Northampton 23

In qualifying as the top seeds for the last eight of the Heineken Cup, Northampton won six pool matches out of six, culminating with this three-try victory. Seven teams have achieved a clean sweep before and not one went on to the final, never mind winning the cup. Saints' attempt to break the duck will begin with a home quarter-final against Ulster in April. Yesterday's semi-final draw, giving Saints a tie in England with Perpignan or Toulon if they knock Ulster out, offered the 2000 champions a fantastic shot at making it all the way.

"Home" is a word in need of its own qualification. A Heineken Cup quarter-final venue must have a minimum 15,000 capacity, and Saints' Franklin's Gardens is short at 13,591. A switch to the 22,000-capacity Stadium MK in Milton Keynes, 20 minutes away, looks certain.

Some Saints supporters poured scorn over the ability of the uncapped midfielders Steve Myler, James Downey and Jon Clarke to mix it with the best later in the competition. It will be hotter stuff, in both the sporting and climatic senses, in April. The injured England duo Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton should be back by then; Ashton, according to director of rugby Jim Mallinder, is ready to face Wales on Friday week after missing two matches with a quad injury.

This was Castres' first home defeat of the season, and Northampton led 15-0 after 25 minutes, with tries by Joe Ansbro and Phil Dowson, and a conversion and dropped goal by Myler, while Calum Clark, normally a flanker, gave a great impression of a hard-nut lock. Northampton's third try was a beauty. Mark Sorenson, Jon Clarke and Dowson counter-rucked over the Castres centre, Pierre-Manuel Garcia, and Ansbro, Clark and Dylan Hartley interpassed on the short side up the right wing. Ansbro was tap-tackled by Yoan Audrin but Ben Foden applied the finish. Myler's penalty made it 23-7 and Sébastien Tillous-Borde's try from a scrum came too late.

"Going away and playing quarter-final rugby is not easy," said Hartley, referring to last season's defeat by Munster in Limerick. "Closer to home we'll be able to pack it out and it will be a big occasion for us."

Scorers: Castres: Tries Bernard, Tillous-Borde; Conversion Bernard. Northampton: Tries Ansbro, Dowson, Foden; Conversion Myler; Penalty Myler; Drop goal Myler.

Castres: F Denos; M Nicolas, Y Audrin (R Martial, 61), P-M Garcia (S Bai, 72), V Inigo; P Bernard, S Tillous-Borde; M Coetzee (A Peikrishvili, 60), B Kayser (A Giorgadze, 52), D Saayman (L Ducalcon, 67), S Murray, R Capo Ortega, C Masoe (capt; G Adamou, 52), S Malonga (I Tekori, 80), J Bornman.

Northampton: B Foden; J Ansbro, J Clarke, J Downey (B Reihana, 67), P Diggin; S Myler (S Geraghty, 78), R Powell (S Commins, 78); S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 72), D Hartley (capt; B Sharman, 69), B Mujati (T Mercey, 72), C Clark, M Sorenson (C Day, 57), P Dowson, T Wood (M Easter, 67), R Wilson.

Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland).

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little