Saints claim narrow win
Northampton got their Heineken Cup campaign off to a nervy start with a somewhat fortunate 18-14 win over a lively Castres side at Franklin's Gardens.
For parts of the match Castres were the better team and the home side can count themselves lucky to have come away winning after missing five kicks in the first half.
But tries from Bruce Reihana and Ben Foden plus five ponts from the boot of Shane Geraghty and a penalty from Stephen Myler saw them home.
Reihana missed two early penalties before Castres full-back Pierre Bernard failed with an optimistic penalty attempt from inside his own half.
It was a shock and against the run of the play when Castres took the lead after 21 minutes. They moved the ball swiftly along the line with neat play from Bernard and flanker Ibrahim Diarra which culminated in Joe Tekori driving over from close range for the try which was confirmed by the video referee. Bernard's conversion attempt fell narrowly wide.
Reihana made another hash of his kick from an angled 22 metres, but with nine minutes to go before the interval Northampton finally got on the scoreboard. Castres lost a lineout in their own 22, allowing the home forwards to drive for the line and when the ball came back a clever blindside pass from Lee Dickson sent Reihana over totally unopposed in the corner. The wing missed his fourth kick with a difficult touchline attempt.
Cameron McIntyre restored the French lead with a neat drop goal before Geraghty's penalty attempt to level the scores with the last kick of the half almost ran across the floor.
Within 40 seconds of the restart the hosts were ahead. Geraghty ran to the blindside from a ruck 35 metres out. He fed Phil Dowson, whose splendid inside pass sent Foden on a clear run to the line for a try which Geraghty converted.
Bernard put a penalty wide and then kicked one on 60 minutes. But just two minutes later the visitors were penalised and Geraghty restored his side's four-point advantage.
Another Bernard penalty fell short before the visitors' full-back set up a tense finale with a successful kick with 10 minutes to go. At long last Northampton raised their game and put the French under pressure. The visitors offended and replacement Myler knocked over the penalty with three minutes to go - and the Saints held on.