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Mallinder frustrated by Saints

Jim Mallinder was left frustrated after Northampton Saints lost their opening game of the Heineken Cup campaign 19-13 at Castres.

Dylan Hartley scored but Saints lacked the finishing touch to overcome the defending French champions.

Steven Myler kicked the conversion and two penalties to at least ensure Saints left Stade Pierre Antoine with a losing bonus point.

Director of ugby Mallinder said: "It was always going to be a bit of a scrap out here. It's the way they play, they're a good side with a big chunky pack, bossed around well by Rory Kockott and that's what happened today.

"We came with the intention to play some rugby, which backfired against us a little bit in the first minutes with that interception.

"What Castres did very well is slow us down, we struggled to get any real quick ball in the contact, we struggled to get on the front foot. When you combine that with hard decisions from the referee, it gets frustrating.

"Our set piece was solid today, our scrum in particular did well against a massive pack. Our defense is looking good, and generally our game is in good shape.

"We came back into the game and had our chances. If we had taken those we could be the ones smiling right now. Instead we're frustrated that we couldn't get a win, but it is a point."

Saints were well aware of the challenge they faced having been drawn in the same pool as their opponents for a fourth year in a row.

Saints dominated during the first 25 minutes of the game, getting all the possession they wanted but not being able to break a strong and aggressive French defensive line.

And they gifted Castres their first try when Romain Martial ran back an interception almost the full length of the field after 11 minutes.

The Top 14 defending champions then started to show more, with great efficiency in their kicking game as Kockott was able to add penalties either side of half-time.

Saints finally found a way back in the 50th minute when Hartley finished a series of rolling mauls.

Myler's conversion brought Saints to within three points only for Kockott to steer Castres to victory.

Head coach David Darricarrere said: "The Heineken Cup was a perfect opportunity to get some confidence back and we're very satisfied with the result.

"We got the win through spirit and determination we put into the game against a high quality side.

"The boys put their guts into that game. We would have loved for it to go down even better with more possession but even that says a lot about how much the boys worked to get the win."

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