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Northampton Saints into Champions Cup semi-finals with statement win over the Bulls

Northampton Saints laid down another marker of their champion credentials as they romped to a huge 59-22 victory over the Bulls.

A James Ramm double, alongside other scores from Courtney Lawes, Ollie Sleightholme, Alex Mitchell, Alex Coles and Fraser Dingwall steered the Saints past their South African opponents to cement their spot in the final four of the Champions Cup. 

Northampton created plenty of chances in the opening 10 minutes, but they eventually opened the scoring through James Ramm. A wonderful strike move saw Ramm charge through a gaping hole in the defence to score.

Credit: IMAGO

Ramm’s effort set the tone for the next five minutes, as the teams exchanged tries. A Cameron Hanekom turnover gifted the Bulls valuable field position, and he finished the work himself as he powered over from short range.

His effort was neutralised straight away though, as Courtney Lawes dotted down. Alex Coles broke through the Bulls line to create a two-on-one, and he sent Lawes in for the score.

Another turnover from the Bulls gifted Smith an easy three points, making the scores 14-10.

With the game ebbing and flowing; a quick-fire double from Northampton took the sting out of the Bulls attack. In typical fashion, Ollie Sleightholme bashed his way through the defence to score, dragging four defenders over the line with him. His effort was swiftly followed by Northampton’s fourth, as Mitchell slithered through a gap around the ruck to score from close range.

Credit: IMAGO

The Bulls were here to fight though, and they notched a double of their own. They pulled one back through Akker van der Merwe, after a nice pass from Zak Burger found the former Sale hooker in space on the wing. His effort was backed up quickly by an interception try from Sebastian de Klerk

As the clock struck forty minutes, Northampton nearly notched their fifth of the half, but stubborn defence from the Bulls held them out.

Saints put on a second-half show

Credit: IMAGO

Saints got off to a perfect start in the second-half, as Coles crossed after just forty seconds. A wonderfully executed strike play saw Tommy Freeman charge through the defence, and he sent the second-rower in for the try.

Saints’ fast start to the half continued, as Ramm grabbed his second. A period of sustained pressure drew in the Bulls defenders and create space for the fullback to dive over the whitewash.

De Klerk thought he had his second of the half, but it was chalked off following a dangerous tackle from Hanekom in the build-up; which also saw the number eight sent for a 10-minute spell on the naughty step.

Northampton rubbed salt into the wound, as Fraser Dingwall added his name to the scoresheet. A mix-up at the lineout gave Saints possession just five meters out, and a clever offload from Fin Smith sent Dingwall over for the try.

Trench warfare ensued in the next 10 minutes, with the teams just taking the sting out of each other’s attack. The best chance fell to Sleightholme after he scooped up Fin Smith’s charged-down kick, however his chip kick was well dealt with by Jan-Hendrick Wessel.

The impact of replacement front-rowers Alex Waller, Sam Matavesi and Paul Hill started to take it’s toll, and it eventually helped get their eighth try. The Saints pack pounded the Bulls line, which created a tiny gap for Mitchell to sneak in for his second of the night.

It wasn’t long until they grabbed their ninth either, as Juarno Augustus trucked his way over the line to get his name up in lights.

Northampton Saints: 59

Tries: Ramm (11, 47), Lawes (14), Sleightholme (21), Mitchell (24, 68), Coles (40), Dingwall (50), Augustus (73)

Conversions: Smith (7/9)

Bulls: 22

Tries: Hanekom (13), van der Merwe (31), de Klerk (35)

Conversions: Smith (2/3)

Penalties: Smith (1/1)

Yellow card: Hanekom (48)

Northampton Saints player ratings: Sleightholme, Smith, Ramm and Mitchell all score 9’s

Credit: IMAGO

15 James Ramm-9

14 George Hendy-7

13 Tommy Freeman-8

12 Fraser Dingwall-7

11 Ollie Sleightholme-9

10 Fin Smith-9

9 Alex Mitchell-8

1 Emmanuel Iyogun-7

2 Curtis Langdon-7

3 Trevor Davison-7

4 Alex Moon-8

5 Alex Coles-8

6 Courtney Lawes (c)-7

7 Sam Graham-7

8 Juarno Augustus-8

Replacements:

16 Sam Matavesi-8

17 Alex Waller-8

18 Paul Hill-8

19 Temo Mayanavanua-6

20 Angus Scott-Young-7

21 Lewis Ludlam-7

22 Tom James-6

23 George Furbank-6