Heineken Cup: Leinster 9-18 Northampton

Leinster (3) 9

  • Pen: Madigan 3

Northampton (7) 18

  • Tries: North, Elliott
  • Con: Myler
  • Pen: Myler 2

Northampton hit back from last week's humiliating home defeat by Leinster with a dramatic win that keeps Pool One of the Heineken Cup very much alive.

George North's converted try put Saints in front before an Ian Madigan penalty made it 7-3 at the break in Dublin.

Madigan cut the gap to one point with his second penalty but Stephen Myler restored the lead with 15 minutes left.

Madigan landed a third penalty but Kahn Fotuali'i slotted a drop-goal and Jamie Elliott's 90m try saw Saints home.

These two sides are generating quite a Heineken Cup rivalry in the wake of Leinster's remarkable victory in the 2011 final, when they fought back from a 22-6 deficit at half-time to win.

Heineken Cup Pool One

P W L Pts

Leinster

4

3

1

13

Northampton

4

2

2

9

Castres

4

2

2

8

Ospreys

4

1

3

5

Last week the Dublin-based side crushed Saints in front of the east midlanders' own fans but Northampton have established a reputation for bouncing back, and they did so in style in front of nearly 50,000 at the Aviva Stadium.

Northampton's scrum was dominant, their defence unbreakable and they competed at the ruck with a ferocity that was absent at Franklin's Gardens.

Leinster, helped onto the front foot from the first whistle last weekend by the powerful carrying of Sean O'Brien - who was missing though injury in Dublin, were on the receiving end this time as Samu Manoa, Courtney Lawes, North and Luther Burrell all attacked with intent.

When three-time champions Leinster did get possession they were met by some ferocious Northampton tackling, with Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood joining that quartet in dishing out the punishment, and it knocked the hosts out of their stride, with their usual precision deserting them.

Saints went in front when they hammered away through Manoa and Lawes from an attacking line-out and then switched the ball into midfield, where North latched onto Burrell's pop pass and beat two men to score by the posts.

Myler converted and although home fly-half Madigan soon trimmed the gap with a penalty, it was the visitors who remained well on top.

They threatened through North again, with Madigan pulling off a superb one-on-one tackle, before England scrum-half Lee Dickson was held up as he tried to burrow over.

Jamie Elliott celebrates his dramatic late try

Elliott's try brought joy to Northampton, but left the Leinster fans stony-faced

Just before the break another Manoa surge from the base of a scrum led to a penalty, but the normally reliable Myler pulled his kick, and Leinster cut the lead to only two points soon after the restart with a penalty.

It came after Leinster's most threatening attack of the game so far but they could not break the visitors down and Saints extended their lead when their scrum won a penalty and Myler made no mistake.

Northampton had been on top both territorially and in terms of possession but the closing stages were all about Leinster.

Hartley, trying to lead by example, gave away two penalties in quick succession and from the second Madigan once more cut the gap to a single point.

Hartley was promptly replaced by Mike Heywood and the stage was set for a thunderous climax, with Leinster determined to maintain their unbeaten record in this year's competition.

Captain Jamie Heaslip's 40m break took them deep inside Northampton's 22 as the clock ticked past the 80-minute mark and several times they came within inches of scoring in a desperate late assault.

But Northampton threw their bodies into the fray and when Leinster moved the ball wide Heaslip spilled the pass, Saints wing Elliott latched onto it and left the hosts trailing in his wake to deny them even a losing bonus point.

Post-match reaction

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder:

"It gives a little bit of life to the group - it's not sort of dead and buried. We've still got two tough games, but Leinster have got that as well.

"It gives us hope and it is still great to be in the competition with something to play for and it sets us up well for the next few weeks in the Premiership.

"It is definitely one of the good wins. You don't get many wins away from home in the Heineken Cup and you certainly don't get many wins against a quality side like Leinster. And they are still a quality side, just because we beat them doesn't put them down in my estimation."

Leinster boss Matt O'Connor:

"We were inaccurate. We didn't look after the ball as well as we would have liked.

"We certainly didn't look after it as well as we did last week and that let Northampton into the game. They went out in front and to be fair they played the upper hand quite well.

"They were playing for pride for a large part of it. We understood that. We knew they would come back at us and I think the defence at the end from Saints summarised the massive effort throughout the game."

Team line-ups

Leinster: R Kearney; D Kearney, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Fitzgerald; Madigan, Reddan; McGrath, Cronin, Ross, Toner, McCarthy, Ruddock, O'Brien, Heaslip.

Replacements: Kirchner for D Kearney (60), Gopperth for Madigan (78), McLaughlin forMcGrath (56), Moore for Ross (60), Cullen for McCarthy (72), Bent for Ruddock (56).

Not Used: Dundon, Cooney.

Northampton: K Pisi; Elliott, Waldouck, Burrell, North; Myler, L Dickson; A Waller, Hartley, Ma'afu, Lawes, Day, Clark, Wood, Manoa.

Replacements: Mercey for L Dickson (52), E Waller for A Waller (70), Haywood for Hartley (72), Fotuali'i for Ma'afu (52), Dowson for Lawes (72), Dickinson for Manoa (67).

Not Used: Dickson, Collins.

Att: 48,000

Ref: Jerome Garces (France).