Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Harry Mallinder keeps Northampton's European Champions Cup knockout hopes alive

Harry Mallinder enjoyed a dream European Champions Cup debut by scoring the winning try a minute from time to keep alive Northampton's quarter-final hopes.

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg looked to have put the boot into Saints' last-eight prospects by kicking a long-range penalty midway through the final quarter.

But Mallinder, who is the 19-year-old son of Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder, struck from replacement Stephen Myler's angled kick, before Myler's conversion secured a 19-15 victory.

It followed earlier Saints tries by number eight Teimana Harrison and lock Christian Day, while JJ Hanrahan also kicked a conversion as Glasgow were edged out despite Hogg's strike and four Finn Russell penalties.

Northampton, though, still have all it to do, with a bonus point victory effectively being required against the Scarlets in west Wales next Saturday in the push for one of three best runners-up spots.

French heavyweights Racing 92 have already won the group, but Northampton know they at least retain a fighting chance heading into the final weekend of pool action.

Around 40 volunteers helped clear snow off covers protecting the Franklin's Gardens pitch on Sunday morning, but the temperature barely rose above freezing as Saints kicked off their quest for a critical home win.

And despite making an uncertain start that saw Northampton concede a couple of turnovers, they found their rhythm through a couple of driving mauls that produced an inevitable outcome when Harrison was driven over from close range.

Hanrahan added the conversion for a 7-0 lead, before Glasgow missed a straightforward chance to open their account as Russell sent a penalty chance wide after full-back Hogg had failed to find the target from a much longer range.

Russell reduced the arrears through a 24th-minute penalty, but the game was then held up for several minutes while Saints wing Tom Collins received treatment following an accidental aerial collision with Hogg that saw Collins hit the ground heavily.

He was carried off and replaced by Mallinder, who went to full-back, and Ben Foden moved positions as Collins' replacement.

But Saints appeared affected by Collins' unfortunate exit, making a number of unforced errors and being pinned inside their own half as a second Russell penalty proved a justified reward for sustained Glasgow pressure, and Saints trooped off just 7-6 ahead following an opening 40-minute display that lacked conviction or fluency.

Russell completed his penalty hat-trick seven minutes after the restart to put Glasgow ahead for the first time, but it proved a short-lived lead as Saints once again prospered from a driven lineout.

Glasgow tried desperately to keep out a fast-moving Saints pack, yet it inevitably proved fruitless as irresistible momentum resulted in Day touching down, making it 12-9 as Stephen Myler appeared off the bench as replacement for an out-of-sorts Hanrahan.

A fourth Russell penalty tied things up with 23 minutes left, which coincided with Saints' England hooker Dylan Hartley, who made his first start since Boxing Day, being replaced by Mike Haywood.

Glasgow continued to give as good as they got, and when Saints substitute Jon Fisher was penalised for being off his feet at a ruck, Hogg booted the resulting 45-metre kick and edged Warriors back in front with time running out.

Glasgow, though, finished the game with 14 players as substitute lock Tim Swinson was sin-binned by French referee Romain Poite for a punch on Haywood.

And the visitors were punished a minute from time when Myler's inch-perfect kick deflected off North and Mallinder sealed the deal in dramatic fashion.


From Belfast Telegraph