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Northampton serve up rude welcome to Premiership newcomers Bristol

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder admitted his team wanted to put doubt in to the minds of recently-promoted Bristol about whether they could cope with the Aviva Premiership after claiming a 32-10 victory at Ashton Gate.

Saints ran in four tries, including a touchdown for Wales wing George North on his first start of the season, as they bounced back from last weekend's home defeat against Bath.

"Overall, I am pleased to get five points, particularly after last week. We needed to win today, and in the first-half we were very good," Mallinder said.

"We needed to come here, shut the crowd up and in a way put massive doubt into Bristol's mind that they could play at this level. That was our intention.

"Bristol have got something about them. They will find it difficult - everyone knows it is tough - and I think it is the home games they have really got to focus on. If they keep improving, there is a chance they can win some games here.

"Credit to Bristol, they came back into it and showed the spirit they've got in the second-half, but we got there in the end.

"Our set-piece went well, we put the ball into the right areas and really put them under pressure and made them make a lot of mistakes in the first half."

Mallinder, meanwhile, said that Saints' England captain Dylan Hartley went off at half-time due to a sore back, but expects him to be involved against Premiership champions Saracens next weekend.

"Dylan has just got a little bit of a sore back," Mallinder added. "We've got Mike Haywood back from injury now, so we thought it was a real good time to swap that over.

"He (Hartley) has had a bit of a sore back for a couple of weeks, so he has just been looking after himself."

North, number eight Louis Picamoles and North's fellow wing Ken Pisi all breached Bristol's defence during a dominant first-half spell as the west country club's first Premiership home fixture since 2009 ended in defeat.

Fly-half Stephen Myler kicked two penalties and two conversions, and Haywood claimed a bonus point-clinching injury-time try that Harry Mallinder converted.

Bristol enjoyed a far stronger second-half performance after being brushed aside during the opening 40 minutes, with Ross McMillan touching down and fly-half Tusi Pisi adding a conversion to en earlier penalty, but life is not about to get any easier for them, as their next three games are against Wasps, Exeter and Saracens.

Bristol rugby director Andy Robinson said: "We were schooled on how to play rugby in that first half, particularly Premiership rugby.

"It's a very difficult juggernaut to stop once it gets a rhythm, and we found that in the first 25 minutes.

"As soon we stopped being rabbits in the headlights and we found a little bit of our rhythm... but it is about taking your opportunities, and Northampton took their chances well.

"You saw the improvement in the second half, but we can't afford to give the opposition a head start in the way that we did with Northampton today. We have got to look at how we can put pressure on the opposition.

"We under-performed in the first-half, and we got punished. That's what the Premiership is about.

"We knew that this month was going to be tough for us. Northampton are a top-five side, and they showed that in the way they played."


From Belfast Telegraph