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Hartley happy to secure home tie

Northampton captain Dylan Hartley declared himself "quietly happy" after an assured Saints performance saw them defeat Castres 23-12 in the Heineken Cup and guarantee themselves a home quarter-final.

The visitors were forced to soak up a lot of pressure from a determined Castres side, but the Saints proved too strong as tries from Joe Ansbro, Phil Dowson and Ben Foden saw them claim six wins from six games in Pool One - the first English team to win all their group games since Bath in 2002.

"We started the game well," said Hartley. "We played in the right areas of the field, Stephen Myler did well in that respect. Everything seemed to go well. We played at the right times, set-pieces could do with a bit of a tidy up but away from home we're very happy with the win."

He added: "We knew it was going to be confrontational, French teams are passionate and it was always going to be tough. Stephen Myler put us in the right areas of the pitch at the start of the game and he took the sting out of them and that put us on the front foot.

"Winning away from home is vital. To do it in the Heineken Cup is a big achievement so we're happy, quietly happy. We scored a couple of good tries but what won the game was the defence. We're really happy with the defence."

Hartley reserved special praise for man-of-the-match Ansbro as the 25-year-old Scotland international, starting in place of the injured Chris Ashton, celebrated his first Six Nations call up with an impeccable performance at the Stade Pierre-Antoine. The England hooker was also impressed by another young gun, lock Calum Clark.

He said: "Joe and Calum were the two men of the match, I think. Calum's work rate was phenomenal, he's awesome and he's only young. Joe as well. It's going to be a loss to the team him going to play for Scotland, but it's recognition for him and he's certainly playing well."

Hartley also hopes the home draw will help them avoid a repeat of the 33-19 defeat they suffered in Munster at the quarter-final stage of last season's competition.

"Winning the pool and six from six is important," he continued. "What we learned from last year is that going away in quarter-final rugby is certainly not easy so we're certainly happy with the home draw.

"There's no team we want to avoid. Everyone's going to be tough. Whoever has gone through has earned it and it's going to be tough when we come to that. Hopefully we'll get a good result."


From Belfast Telegraph