Cohen unbowed as Leeds pack crush Saints' resistance

Northampton 19 Leeds 24
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The Independent Online

Remarkably, given just how appalling Northampton were, there was a plus or two to be dragged out of the rubble of this abject display. The positives came from one man - Ben Cohen.

Remarkably, given just how appalling Northampton were, there was a plus or two to be dragged out of the rubble of this abject display. The positives came from one man - Ben Cohen.

Had it not been for the timely intervention of the England wing the scoreline might have been even more embarrassing. Cohen insisted afterwards that he had been playing on the wing, but he was wearing the No 13 jersey and worked hard up the middle as well as out wide, turning up wherever his services were required in this scrappy but entertaining Powergen Cup quarter-final.

In defence, out wide, he pulled off a couple of last-ditch tackles, one in each half. The first denied Diego Albanese, the second the burly, bustling centre Phil Christophers. They were what made the difference to the depth of Northampton's blushes.

All this was witnessed by the England head coach, Andy Robinson, who should have been pleased, not to say relieved, at the way Cohen revealed his all-round threequarter ability, especially given the injuries to England's centres.

"I thought generally I played quite well," said Cohen. "I've learned a lot from playing in the middle; it has added more awareness to my game and given me another string to my bow. I'll probably play in the centre again at some point. Of course players are happy to play anywhere for England, but you also want to go and play for England and not do yourself an injustice. You want to go and play in a position you prefer, not in one that is a little unfamiliar. I like it in the centre but I love playing on the wing."

Despite Cohen's efforts, though, the rest of Saints' game was poor. They were comprehensively outplayed by an efficient Leeds team, who reached the semi-finals for the second season running.

They will be a far different prospect from the side that lost to Sale last year. On Saturday their line-out was outstanding and their captain, Tom Palmer, will have done his stock no harm with an exemplary display, especially on Saints' throw. Their scrum was an immovable object and with the loose-head prop Mike Shelley, who scored his first try for Tykes since 2001, to the fore the pack claimed both the Tykes tries. The second involved the otherwise excellent Cohen, who spilled a sharp pass on his line for the hooker Mark Regan to pounce.

That was just 30 seconds into the second half, but by then the game was pretty well beyond saving, despite Wylie Human's try and Shane Drahm's goal-kicking. Just three weeks earlier Northampton had comfortably disposed of the Tykes in a Premiership match at Franklin's Gardens, while in November 2000 they had annihilated them by 73 points in the cup.

Both Leeds tries were scored with 14 Northampton players on the field. Darren Fox had been sent to the sin-bin for pulling down a maul for the first, and Saints went back to 14 men when Mark Robinson was shown a red card for stamping on Regan's head in the 72nd minute. He deserved to go, but Regan made enough of a song and dance about it to have earned an Oscar nomination.

Northampton: Try Human; Conversion Drahm; Penalties Drahm 4. Leeds: Tries Shelley, Regan; Conversion Ross; Penalties Ross 3; Drop goal Ross.

Northampton: B Reihana; W Human, B Cohen, M Stcherbina, M Tucker; S Drahm, J Howard (M Robinson, 40); S Emms, D Richmond (J Van Wyk, 46), C Budgen (R Morris, 70), G Seely, D Browne (M Lord, 47), A Blowers (capt), R Beattie (M Soden, 58), D Fox.

Leeds: T Stimpson; I Balshaw, P Christophers, A Snyman, D Albanese; G Ross, A Dickens; M Shelley, M Regan (R Rawlinson, 76), G Kerr (R Gerber, 61), C Murphy (J Dunbar, 61), T Palmer (capt), S Morgan, C Rigney, R Parks.

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).