Northampton 36 Overmach Parma 0: Saints find little cheer for Spencer

Northampton's maestro underwhelmed by bloodless win
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The Independent Online

However jubilant the Northampton supporters were after the Saints marched nearer a place in the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup, the stony expression of their fly-half, Carlos Spencer, told a different story. On his website the former All Black had spoken of his dissatisfaction with last week's performance, when they scored 68 points against the hapless Italians over there.

"Quite honestly," wrote Spencer, "it wasn't good enough. If we are going to beat the likes of Wasps then we need to be consistent from beginning to end. Quite frankly, against weaker teams we still have a lot of work to do." The score in that first match included 10 tries, but when Spencer was replaced late in the second half yesterday Saints had just half that total - although Sean Lamont's try in added time added a fraction more credibility. At least this time they did not concede any points, thus reinforcing their case for a solid runners-up spot, or even winning Pool Six.

The scrum, from the outset, was a farce. Parmaoffered nothing by way of competition and the upshot was virtually uncontested scrums. The referee, David Changleng of Scotland, added to Parma's misery by orderingaround half a dozen scrums on their five-metre line in one tedious five-minute spell. At pretty well every scrum Parma would collapse, conceding a penalty, and each time the Saints would opt for another scrum. Eventually the Italian side cracked under the torture and lost their loosehead prop, German Fontana, who was sent to the sin-bin.

His replacement, Alberto De Marchi, came on, and his first scrum collapsed. At which point Changleng finally silenced those in the crowd who had been baying for a penalty try by awarding one.

It was unedifying stuff. Away from the set-piece, at least, Parma were a little more clued up and they spent a fair amount of time in the opening quarter - either side of Northampton's opening try - in Saints' half, and indeed in their 22.

But the home side were far too canny to concede anything. They withstood all that the Italians could throw at them, biding their time, wearing down their opponents and then breaking out tellingly for that first try, which saw the centre Robbie Kydd chasing down Spencer's delicate chip ahead.

And while Parma were still down to 14 men, the Northampton full-back Paul Diggin was put through on the right, evading a couple of half-hearted tackles and touching down for the third try of the match.

Saints put Parma under extreme pressure for the best part of five minutes at the start of the second half. Their reward was a penalty, which was quickly taken and which resulted in the left wing, Chris Wyles, dashing over in the corner to earn the vital try-scoring bonus point.

But the slaughter that many had expected did not materialise. There were careless errors aplenty and a too-casual approach to the opposition tryline, which gave rise to some sloppy handling and daft decisions which will not have pleased Mr Spencer.

A flattering fifth try came when the man of the match, the prop Soane Tonga'uiha, was driven over 10 minutes from the end. Lamont's late, late effort merely added to the illusion of efficiency.

Northampton: P Diggin; S Lamont, C Spencer (J Howard, 71), R Kydd, C Wyles; I Vass, M Robinson; S Tonga'uiha, S Thompson (D Hartley, 66), P Barnard (C Budgen, 66), M Lord (capt), C Short, P Tupai (B Lewitt, 71), S Harding (D Fox, 52), Daniel Browne (M Easter, 52).

Overmach Parma: R Robuschi; G Ghidini (N Mazzucato, 53), E Galon, M Sego, R Pavan; A Canale, J Pellicena (capt; M Frati, 71); G Fontana (A De Marchi, 63-76), B Masetti, F Staibano (T Paoletti, 49), L Tait, F Minello (J Soffredini, 64), R Barbieri, L Pascu, M Vosawai (A De Marchi, 33-40).

Referee: D Changleng (Scotland).

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