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Foden boosts Saints treble hopes

Fit-again Ben Foden can bolster Northampton Saints' three-pronged push for silverware, according to boss Jim Mallinder.

Foden returned from knee ligament trouble for his first appearance since November as Northampton overwhelmed Gloucester 39-13 at Franklin's Gardens.

The Saints blasted five tries past limited Gloucester, to step back to the Aviva Premiership summit.

Error-strewn Northampton needed the cavalry of their replacements to turn a 13-13 second-half lead into a five-try romp, with full-back Foden prominent on the attack after coming off the bench.

Rugby director Mallinder backed the 28-year-old to hit top form as Northampton line up for an LV=Cup semi-final and Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final, all while leading the league.

"I was really delighted to see Ben Foden back, he was particularly sharp," said Mallinder.

"That's pleasing for us now and fingers crossed he can have a really good run-in until the end of the season.

"Ben is realistic enough to know where he is at the moment.

"We know he's a quality player who is a good international player.

"He's had a long lay-off, he won't expect to walk into an international team, particularly when someone like Mike Brown is playing so well.

"So he knows what he's got to do, and that's find his form playing for Northampton.

"And I think if he can do that then there's no reason why Stuart won't be looking at him, hopefully sooner rather than later.

"I think he'll need game-time now, so it may make sense.

"Ben Foden needs games now, so he'll be involved in the LV= Cup game against Saracens, definitely."

Ken Pisi, Calum Clark, Tom Stephenson, Alex Waller and Will Hooley claimed Northampton's tries, with Stephen Myler slotting four conversions and two penalties.

Henry Trinder grabbed Gloucester's solitary score, with Freddie Burns landing a conversion and two penalty goals.

Until flanker Clark powered home just before the hour, Northampton had struggled to shrug off a litany of errors.

Saints demolished Gloucester in a scrum to set up Clark's score, with front-row replacements Alex Waller and Tom Mercey having immediate impact.

Hailing his pack's second-half effort, Mallinder praised captain Clark.

"Calum was only talking last week in the team meeting about how he's not bothered about ever being man of the match, how he never scores tries, but how he's very, very happy to be part of the team," said Mallinder.

"So he's just completely gone against everything he said there and turned it on its head.

"I think the replacements did a really good job, it was a question of looking after the ball and continuing to apply pressure.

"We were guilty, particularly in that first half, of even though we created chances, trying to force the ball.

"In the second half the replacements came on, and I think it was a continued pressure.

"We made the changes, and a massive scrum on their ball, and that pressure just counted in the end."

Northampton extended their club-record unbeaten Premiership run to 13, avenging their defeat at Gloucester back in September, still the Saints' only loss in the league.

Gloucester edged home 26-24 at Kingsholm courtesy of a hotly-contested overtime penalty from Billy Twelvetrees.

Mallinder said there were no thoughts of revenge when facing the only side to beat them in the Premiership this term though.

"The only thing we've talked about is our play in the other 78 minutes, not the last two minutes from that game, because there's some things you can't do anything about," said Mallinder.

"It wasn't about that last game, or revenge, simply about how we could beat them."

Gloucester's 11th defeat of the season leaves them in ninth place, with rugby director Nigel Davies frustrated not to capitalise on the previous week's win over Harlequins.

"We didn't impose ourselves on any aspect of the game today, I'm really disappointed," said Davies.

"We were inaccurate, we gave away sloppy penalties, and you can't afford to do that against a team of this quality.

"The most disappointing thing for me is that we didn't have control in any single aspect of the match."


From Belfast Telegraph