Hodge's final foray stuns Saints

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The Independent Online

Don Mackinnon left Franklin's Gardens in the summer having helped Northampton to win the Heineken Cup last season. Yesterday he returned to his old stamping ground as captain of Edinburgh Reivers and further loosened Saints' grip on the Trophy.

Don Mackinnon left Franklin's Gardens in the summer having helped Northampton to win the Heineken Cup last season. Yesterday he returned to his old stamping ground as captain of Edinburgh Reivers and further loosened Saints' grip on the Trophy.

It was not the shock of the tournament, but when Duncan Hodge's 40-yard drop goal in the fourth minute of injury time sailed between the uprights the crowd was stunned into silence. Only when the Italian referee, Antonio Lombardi, whistled for time shortly after did they remember their manners and applaud a deserved win. Northampton were left to contemplate their second defeat and one which must render remote their chances of reaching the quarter-final stages.

In the end Northamptoin just did not do enough; Reivers did that and more; as the game progressed they closed in on their prey like a patient pack of wolves. Marshalled by the canny Australian Mackinnon, Reivers clawed themselves back from a 13-point half-time deficit, when Saints seemed to have done enough to secure their first victory in Pool One.

Reivers had served up enough warnings in the opening stages. Their outstanding player, the No 8 Simon Taylor, began the match in Northampton faces and played that way throughout. Indeed, it was his superb break in the 71st minute which helped set up the move that saw Chris Paterson touching down for Reivers' second try and the lead for the first time.

The game entered a dizzy spell when Northampton wrested back control with two Paul Grayson penalties, the second of which came at the end of normal time. Perhaps Saints thought that was that. Reivers did not. They set up Hodge for a drop goal from 30 yards, he sliced it. Reivers pressed again, worked the ball left, found Hodge lurking wide and this time the fly-half worked the magic.

Physically, early on at least, the Scottish side gave as good as they got, in fact in the case of Stuart Lang, perhaps a mite too much. He had trotted on while the full-back Paterson had his head bandaged, only to be shown the yellow card by Lombardi for a shoulder check on Luca Martin that put the late into blatant.

In his 10 minutes in the cooler, Saints added a try to Grayson's opening two penalties when a prolonged spell of pressure finally saw Tim Rodber released by the scrum-half Dom Malone and from short range the England man does not miss that often.

Hodge landed a 24th-minute penalty but the Scots found it difficult to breach the Saints' defences after Hodge's effort and they were further hampered by the yellow card shown to Mackinnon, which caused him to miss the opening few minutes of the second half.

By the time the former Saint returned, his men had closed the gap thanks to some hard work by the pack and the opportunism of the scrum-half, Graeme Burns, who tapped and went over from a short penalty to start the Saints' slide.

Northampton: P Grayson; L Martin, A Bateman, M Allen, S Webster; A Hepher, D Malone (J Bramhall, 60); G Pagel, S Brotherstone (S Thompson, 74), M Stewart, A Newman (R Hunter, 64), O Brouzet, T Rodber (G Seely, 60), P Lam (capt), B Pountney.

Edinburgh: C Paterson; C Murray, G Shiel, K Utterson, C Joiner; D Hodge, G Burns; A Jacobsen, S Scott (P Robertson, 80), B Stewart (C Smith, 68), N Hines, R Metcalfe (A Lucking, 62), D Mackinnon (capt), S Taylor, G Dall.

Referee: A Lombardi (Italy).

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