Heroic Saints shock Biarritz
By Tony Curtis. Last Updated: 01/04/07 2:45pm
Northampton Saints produced a sensational display to reach the semi-final of the Heineken Cup with a 7-6 victory in Biarritz.
Few had given the Saints a hope of avoiding a heavy defeat, let alone knocking out last season's finalists in their own backyard.
However, despite battling against relegation from the Guinness Premiership and having lost twice to the French side in the group stages, Northampton produced one of the biggest upsets in the competition's history.
Robbie Kydd scored the only try of the match with a 60m interception try - converted by Carlos Spencer - however the win was built on a gutsy and disciplined defensive performance.
French scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili scored two penalties for the hosts, however, try as they might, they just could not find a way across the Saints tryline.
Despite facing long periods under pressure, Northampton kept their cool and scoring chances were at a premium.
In fact it took 38 minutes before the first points were on the board, with Yachvili, who had already missed one attempt at goal, slotting over a penalty.
Both sides had their moments in the first half, with half-breaks for Bruce Reihana and Kydd coming to nothing for Saints, while the Biarritz packed a constant threat when rumbling forward.
However the second half saw Northampton move up a gear as they pushed the home side back - but, with Spencer missing a penalty, it seemed their best chance had gone.
And Yachvili made them pay when he doubled his side's advantage on the hour-mark, just seconds after having hit the post with another penalty.
But Yachvili then had a hand in the Saints try as his pass out was intercepted by Kydd, who sprinted 60m to score.
Spencer kept his cool to slot over the conversion, leaving Saints 13 minutes to hold on - and how they did.
With Biarritz throwing everything at Saints, a heart-breaking score seemed a certainty - however, the visitors dug in heroically, while Spencer and Reihana used the kicking game to go effect to try and lessen the pressure.
Biarritz's best chance came with two minutes left as they worked an overlap on the left, however Imanol Harinordoquy knocked on with Saints defence stretched. The chance had gone, and so had Biarritz's hopes of victory.