Saints outmuscle Edinburgh
Edinburgh left disappointed as efforts come to nothing
Last Updated: 16/10/10 4:43pm
Hartley: scored first Saints try
Northampton maintained their 100% start to the Heineken Cup as they produced a rugged second-half display to clinch a thrilling 31-27 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
Edinburgh appeared to have taken control of a scintillating contest in the first-half as they opened a 11-point lead courtesy of tries from Allan Jacobsen, Netani Talei and Ben Cairns.
But Northampton battled hard to stay in touch and a try on the stroke of half-time from James Downey, added to an earlier effort from Dylan Hartley, ensured they headed in at the interval just three points adrift at 24-21.
The Guinness Premiership side's greater physicality up front then told in the second period as they turned the screw and, having got their noses in front through a Paul Diggin try, they kept their opponents at bay to secure an important away triumph.
From the first whistle Edinburgh signalled their intent to run the ball at every opportunity and it quickly paid dividends as Northampton were penalised for coming in over the top after just two minutes allowing Chris Paterson to slot the first of his two penalties from the 22-metre line.
The lead did not last long, Northampton responding with their opening try five minutes later.
Stephen Myler's clever kick forced Paterson to concede a Northampton line-out virtually on his own try-line. The visitors took full advantage of the platform, Hartley throwing in before joining the ensuing rolling maul and emerging from the bottom of it having touched down after the Saints pack drove over - Myler added the conversion.
The action continued apace, Edinburgh hitting straight back when a slick, flowing move finished with Mike Blair offloading to Jacobsen who produced a neat side-step before charging over under the sticks to provide Paterson with a regulation conversion.
Myler took the opportunity to kick Northampton level when Edinburgh skipper Roddy Grant was caught offside, but Edinburgh looked to have taken charge of the contest with two quick tries around the half-hour mark.
The exhilarating end-to-end nature of the contest was underlined by the first of them which came after Northampton had themselves been threatening.
Edinburgh turned the ball over and launched a lightning counter-attack from deep inside their 22 with the ball swept through numerous pairs of hands and phases before Mike Blair sent in Talei at the corner.
Paterson again converted and, while Myler quickly notched his second penalty of the afternoon, Edinburgh were soon celebrating again after another superb team try.
Once again demonstrating their fluidity and confidence with ball in hand, the Scottish outfit moved the ball from one side to the other before Alan MacDonald expertly released Ben Cairns who scooted over to touch down out wide - Paterson slotting the extras to make the score 24-13.
Northampton refused to panic and used their power up front to get back into the contest, their forwards crashing their way down the middle with several pick up and drives to create a platform.
The effort was rewarded when Edinburgh were penalised for not releasing in the tackle and Myler kicked his third penalty.
There was still time for one further twist in a breathless first-half as the visitors got themselves back within striking distance.
It was another long-range score with Northampton producing several half-breaks before Phil Dowson set Downey free, the centre just having the legs to get to the line and touch down, although Myler missed the conversion.
Straight after the interval Hartley was pinged for pulling a jersey and the ever-reliable Paterson kicked the penalty to move Edinburgh six clear.
But three minutes later they found themselves behind as an increasingly physical Northampton began to turn the screw.
Chris Ashton looked to have gone over moments before only for replays to prove to the video referee that the winger had dropped the ball as he went to touch down.
But Edinburgh number eight Talei inexplicably gave the ball back to Northampton following a five-metre scrum and it was to prove very costly for the hosts.
After knocking at the door for several phases, the visitors finally unlocked the home defence as they moved the ball left with Diggin scampering over in the corner and Myler added an excellent conversion from the touchline to put his side 28-27 ahead.
By that stage Northampton's power was beginning to tell and, as well as enjoying the better of territory, they forced more errors from their opponents.
One such allowed Myler to kick his side four ahead with his fourth pen on 62 minutes and it was a lead Edinburgh were unable to close.
They launched a desperate late assault to conjure a crucial fourth try, but Northampton stood firm to move three points clear at the top of Pool One.