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Mallinder: Win shows pedigree

Jim Mallinder believes Northampton are a growing force in European rugby following their bruising 23-13 victory over Ulster at stadium:mk.

Saints booked their passage into the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup where they will meet Perpignan in three weeks' time, also in Milton Keynes.

"It can only help the more the team plays in these occasions, the more these lads play international rugby," said Mallinder, the club's director of rugby. "We're a young side and we don't have any players who have played in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup. We're inexperienced in those terms but we're learning all the time."

Saints trailed 13-10 at half-time but scored the game-turning try in the 56th minute through scrum-half Lee Dickson.

It may have been Dickson who crossed, but the try was created by the vision of England pair Chris Ashton and Ben Foden who swapped passes down the touchline to clear a path to the whitewash.

"In a good team you need a powerful set of forwards and some class finishers out wide," said Mallinder.

"We're fortunate that we have both of those. In Ashton, Foden and Paul Diggin we have good finishers. Give them half a chance and they'll always be dangerous.

"We got stronger and stronger as the match went on. To see your pack scrummage like that after 70 minutes and for your defence to be hitting breakdowns in numbers and getting turnovers is a credit to the lads."

Dylan Hartley was heard complaining to referee Romain Poite in the second half that he had been bitten, but the Northampton hooker refused to elaborate on the incident.

"I can't remember - I think I got sun stroke," said the England hooker. When he was told he was overheard via the TV microphone worn by Poite, he responded: "Really? That will teach me for trying to pull people out of rucks by the head."


From Belfast Telegraph