Round-Up: Saints latest to benefit from frozen fields

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The Independent Online

Frozen Italian pitches on consecutive weekends have led to a flurry of unexpected opportunities for two fortuitous Guinness Premiership sides.

Leeds have a Heineken Cup quarter-final place in their sights when they entertain Cardiff in Pool Two this afternoon. And Northampton have earned home advantage for their European Challenge Cup quarter-final over the weekend of 31 March-2 April.

Leeds, who gained five points after their twice-postponed match with Calvisano, will reach the last eight if they collect another five and score nine tries against Cardiff, but they will also hope Leinster do not beat Bath in Pool Five today.

Northampton's Pool One game at Viadana, originally scheduled for Friday night, was finally called off yesterday morning and the ERC awarded them five points. Saints thus finished fourth-best of the five Pool winners and will entertain Worcester, who won Pool Five by beating Montpellier on Friday, at Franklin's Gardens.

The leading three Challenge Cup teams are Gloucester, who shaded Bayonne 32-19 at Kingsholm in Pool Three yesterday, Newcastle, who won 24-17 at Brive in Pool Four, and London Irish, who hammered Pau 75-12 in Pool Two. Bristol should also reach the last eight if they beat Narbonne in Pool One at the Memorial Stadium today.

A sub-plot to the Leeds-Cardiff game will be the reunion of Tykes' Justin Marshall with his former All Black team-mate Jonah Lomu. "Anyone who knows him will be pleased to see him back out on a rugby field after everything he has been through," said Marshall.

In Pool One yesterday, Newport Gwent Dragons salvaged some pride by defeating Castres 28-17 while Ulster saw off Treviso 43-26 in the dead game in Pool Four.