Saints crushed in Biarritz
By Graeme Mair. Last Updated: 22/10/06 5:00pm
Biarritz opened their Heineken Cup campaign with a 22-10 bonus-point victory over Northampton Saints at the Parc des Sports Aquiléra.
The highly-fancied French outfit were always in control after three first-half tries allowed them to open a 15-3 advantage by the interval.
Fijian winger Sereli Bobo [pictured] touched down twice in the left-corner either side of No.8 Benjamin Noirot's try, while the Saints had just a Johnny Howard penalty to show from the opening 40 minutes.
The tie was effectively killed off by Benoit August's 45th-minute converted effort, meaning Howard's late score was little consolation for the visitors.
The scoreless opening quarter was ferociously contested by both sets of forwards, but the hosts always controlled possession and territory and were guilty of wasting several good positions.
Lock Davide Couzinet was most culpable, knocking on with the try-line begging, while Dimitri Yachvili gave an indication of things to come by missing with a 13th-minute penalty attempt.
Northampton's physical defensive approach allowed them to weather the early home pressure, but on 20 minutes they were exposed from long-range.
From a scrum on the half-way line, Biarritz moved the ball swiftly out to the left where centre Romain Cabannes drew in the defence and chipped ahead into the vacant left-corner.
Winger Bobo had anticipated the kick, racing ahead of the cover defence to touch down for a 5-0 lead. Yachvili, usually an accurate place kicker with his cultured left foot, sliced the conversion attempt wide.
Howard immediately hit back for Saints by slotting a penalty to get his side on the board, but it provided little respite as the hosts were in again in the 26th minute.
No.8 Noirot crossed in the left-corner after a flick pass in midfield ensured Northampton's drift defence was unable to move across quickly enough.
Yachvili hit another horrible slice with his conversion attempt, meaning his side led only 10-3 despite their dominance.
Just prior to the break, Biarritz added a third try after keeping the ball alive through several phases. That approach eventually created space for Bobo to cross for the second time, again in the left-corner.
Yachvili's kicking nightmare continued as he spurned a third conversion effort as his side took a 15-3 lead into the break.
Any thoughts of a famous Saints comeback were dashed five minutes into the second-half when home skipper August secured a bonus point with his side's fourth try.
The hooker was shoved over by his forward colleagues and, with Yachvili adding the conversion to break his duck, the lead was stretched to 22-3.
With the bonus point in the bag, Biarritz opted to sit on what they had, keeping Saints at bay until the 72nd minute when Howard pounced on replacement Ian Vass' chip ahead to score a consolation try.
Howard took his personal haul to 12 points by stroking the touchline conversion to reduce Biarritz's winning margin to 22-10.