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Hartley happy as Saints keep hopes alive

Northampton captain Dylan Hartley hailed his side's character after they battled to an 18-12 victory over Castres to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

The Saints prevailed with three penalties apiece from Stephen Myler and Ryan Lamb and they can still qualify as one of the best group stage runners-up. That scenario seemed unlikely after Northampton had been thumped at home by Ulster but Jim Mallinder's Saints revived their fortunes with a return victory at Ravenhill.

They dealt with a tough Castres outfit and next weekend they will go in search of a bonus-point win at Glasgow and hope it is enough. Hartley said: "It shows we have a good character (to still be in the competition)."

He added: "Tonight was a good all-round performance. We wanted to score four tries and take five points but they are a good team and to close out a game as close as that was quite professional.

"Recently we haven't closed out those games. Going into next week, we have to get five points to keep hopes alive. We are doing all right away from home. The spirit is good in the camp. All we can do is worry about winning and hopefully the tries will come with that."

Northampton had their chances to win by more. Hartley was held up over the line and they did not put Castres to the sword when the French side were down to 14 men.

Those mistakes will focus the mind this week but director of rugby Jim Mallinder felt his side deserved the victory and he is relieved to still be in pursuit of a place in the knock-out stages.

"It was a difficult game. Castres are a good side and we struggled to break them down. We probably deserved to win but we did have a few opportunities when we should have been more accurate," Mallinder said.

"We will look at the period they were down to 14 men which was a good opportunity for us to score some tries. We spoke about getting ahead and scoring a try and Castres maybe giving up but we never got to that. They were always within that seven points and we need to be more accurate.

"At the end of it we will take the win and go up to Glasgow still in the competition."


From Belfast Telegraph