Northampton Saints take on Perpignan in the second of this weekend’s Heineken Cup semi-final matches, with the winner progressing through to Europe club rugby’s most prestigious match where they will meet Leinster at the Millennium Stadium.
Yesterday Leinster overcame Toulouse 32-23 in the Aviva Stadium thanks to tries from Jamie Heaslip and Brian O’Driscoll, both converted by Jonathan Sexton, while Sexton also slotted six penalties to stretch his side’s lead.
In response Toulouse scored through Florien Fritz and Louis Picamoles, David Skrela converting both, along with a penalty and a drop goal, while Nicolas Bezy also slotted a penalty.
Although the French side were in touch, just three points adrift at half time, with the scores at 16-13, the home side took full advantage of their familiar surroundings and home support to pull away in the second half and book their place in the final on 21 May at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Both Northampton and Perpignan have to date appeared in one final, Perpignan in 2003 at Lansdowne Road when they were overcome by Toulouse in an all French affair in Dublin, while Northampton have to go all the back to 2000 when they reached their single final to date, however, unlike their French opponents today, the Saints came out on top in their final.
Northampton will be confident of reaching the Millennium Stadium this year after they went unbeaten throughout the group stages before they beat Ulster 23-13 at the stadium:mk, the venue for today’s showdown with Perpignan.
Perpignan on the other hand progressed through their group with 22 points, three less than the Saints, although they amassed 23 tries in that time compared to Northampton’s 16. The quarter-final was far from a formality for the Catalan club as they eventually beat Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon 29-25 in the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.
Northampton Saints: B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, P Diggin; S Myler, L Dickson; S Tonga’uiha, D Hartley [capt], B Mujati, C Lawes, C Day, C Clark, P Dowson, R Wilson
Replacements: B Sharman, A Waller, T Mercey, M Sorenson, M Easter, S Commins, S Geraghty, J Ansbro
Perpignan: J Porical; A Plante, D Marty, G Hume, J Candelon; N Laharrague, D Mele; P Freshwater, G Guirado, N Mas [capt], R Alvarez Kairelis, R Tchale Watchou, G Le Corvec, B Guiry, D Chouly
Replacements: C Geli, K Pulu, J Schuster, H Tuilagi, K Boulogne, M Edmonds, J Michel, G Vilaceca
Full Heineken Cup semi-final match report to follow live from stadium:mk.