Super Saints just perfect
Aviva Premiership side finish Pool One campaign with perfect record
By Rob Lancaster. Last Updated: 22/01/11 8:19pm
Ansbro: influential for Saints
Northampton secured a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup as they made it six wins from six in Pool One with a 23-12 triumph in Castres.
Saints again demonstrated their European credentials as they became the first visiting team to enjoy success at Stade Pierre Antoine since April.
Winger Joe Ansbro was the star of the show, scoring the opening try before then having a hand in further scores from flanker Phil Dowson and full-back Ben Foden.
The impressive result on their travels means the Aviva Premiership side come out of their group with a perfect record, though no side who has achieved that feat previously has ever gone on to lift the trophy.
They now have to wait to see who their next opponents will be as well as the venue for the last-eight tie, with the possibility of the fixture being moved to Milton Keynes as Franklin's Gardens does not meet capacity requirements.
Despite having issues with their lineout, Northampton scored two tries in the opening half to hold a crucial 15-7 advantage at the break.
Ansbro was involved in both of them; he scored the first himself after 11 minutes to break the deadlock after being set free by Jon Clarke.
He finished the opportunity superbly, cutting back off his right foot to fool one defender and then forcing his way over with two others doing their best to try and stop him.
The Scotland international then turned from scorer to provider as his break from deep, which came thanks to Roger Wilson's offload back on the inside, eventually resulted in Dowson trotting over underneath the uprights.
Stephen Myler, who had unselfishly passed the ball on to the flanker when he could have scored himself, knocked over his second conversion attempt to add to an earlier drop goal that had wobbled its way over the bar.
After conceding 15 points, Castres kept themselves in contention thanks to a close-range try from Pierre Barnard on the half hour that he also converted.
The hosts, who had seen captain Chris Masoe held up just short soon after Ansbro's score, then laid siege to their opponents' line after the break.
For 15 minutes they huffed and puffed but to little effect. Instead, it was Saints who scored next thanks once again to that man Ansbro when turnover ball was turned into a try in the blink of an eye.
Hartley's sublime flick out the back of the hand set his team-mate scampering away and although Ansbro's progress was halted by a desperate ankle tap, Foden was on hand to accept a pass off the ground and get over.
Myler missed the conversion attempt but a 69th minute penalty from right in front of the posts put the visitors well clear with time firmly on their side.
Sébastien Tillous-Borde did score a second try for Castres but it was no more than a late consolation for the French, who saw their proud home run come to an end. Saints, in contrast, go marching on in Europe.