Saints beat Perpignan to reach final

by Staff Writer

Northampton set up a European Cup final against Leinster after notching up a comfortable 23-7 victory over Perpignan on Sunday.

The Saints will now face the Irish province, 32-23 winners over Toulouse on Saturday, in the final of European club rugby's showpiece event at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on May 21.

Tries from England fullback Ben Foden and centre Jon Clarke, allied with three penalties and two conversions from Stephen Myler were enough to outclass Perpignan, for whom hooker Guilhem Guirado scored a try converted by Nicolas Laharrague.

Northampton coach Jim Mallinder called the result "something special".

"I'm delighted with the lads, the first half was outstanding and they kept it going," Mallinder told Sky Sports.

"We've got a really good group, and they're playing well. It's massive for the town, club, players, everyone involved. We don't want to go to the final and lose."

Man-of-the-match Phil Dowson highlighted Northampton's discipline as key, with the home side conceding only one penalty in the first-half, albeit one Perpignan eventually scored from.

"We've got there and are still unbeaten," Dowson said. "We're delighted with it.

"We played with territory and played with pressure."

The final, he said, was "a massive challenge". "The ambition of club is to be in big games and it doesn't get any bigger than Leinster in Cardiff."

Perpignan prop Perry Freshwater credited the Saints' tactics of running the French team around the park.

"They ran us around a lot and we defended a lot," the Kiwi-born ex-England prop said. "That was very smart from Northampton against us old, fat fellahs.

"They got on top of us at the end of the game. There was a lack of discipline, but Northampton were very good on the day."

On Saturday, 2009 champions Leinster beat holders Toulouse 32-23 to reach the final.

Tries from No.8 Jamie Heaslip and centre Brian O'Driscoll plus 22 points from the boot of Ireland five-eighth Jonathan Sexton saw the Irish province progress after a strong performance in the final quarter in Dublin.

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