Heineken European Champions Cup: Northampton Saints 33-20 Benetton

Harry Mallinder
Harry Mallinder was making his first appearance since October 2018
Champions Cup Pool 1
Northampton (5) 33
Tries: Mallinder, Taylor, Van Wyk, Dingwall, Symons Cons: Grayson 4
Benetton (10) 20
Tries: Benvenuti, Faiva Cons: Allan 2 Pens: Allan 2

Northampton recovered to earn a bonus-point win over Benetton to keep alive their Champions Cup hopes.

Saints failed to make their dominance count in the first half at Franklin's Gardens and trailed at the break after Tommaso Benvenuti's intercept try.

Harry Mallinder, returning from injury after more than a year out, had opened the scoring early on for the hosts.

Second-half tries from Henry Taylor, Francois van Wyk, Fraser Dingwall and Andy Symons ensured the win.

With Leinster taking top spot in Pool 1, Northampton will need to secure one of the three best runner-up places if they are to progress for the first time since 2016.

They enjoyed the perfect start on Sunday when 23-year-old full-back Mallinder, making his first Saints appearance since suffering a knee injury in October 2018, collected Taqele Naiyaravoro's clever offload to power over.

Northampton's dominance looked to have paid off again when Ollie Sleightholme touched down before the half-hour mark, but James Grayson's looping pass was judged to have drifted forward.

With Benetton scrum-half Charly Trussardi in the sin-bin, Saints, who lost five line-outs in the opening 40 minutes, failed to make their numerical advantage count and the Italians capitalised with an intercept try by Benvenuti.

Scrum-half Taylor's score four minutes after the interval looked to have settled the hosts' nerves but hooker Hame Faiva bundled over to edge Benetton back ahead and Tommaso Allan then kicked a penalty to cancel out prop Van Wyk's score.

Centre Dingwall hit a gap to guarantee the bonus point with eight minutes remaining, before Symons added a fifth try late on.

Northampton visit third-placed Lyon in their final pool fixture next Saturday.

'A horrible game, we were terrible'

Northampton's director of rugby Chris Boyd told BT Sport: "I apologise to everyone for that performance, a horrible game and I thought we were terrible. The lure of getting five points at home was too much for us at times.

"A dreadful performance. There is no point reviewing that on Monday, we'll get on and prepare for Lyon."

Northampton: Mallinder; Sleightholme, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Taylor; Van Wyk, Matavesi, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Ribbans, Lawes, Ludlam, Harrison.

Replacements: Fish, B Franks, O Franks, Coles, Eadie, Reinach, Symons, Moon.

Benetton: Hayward; Sarto, Benvenuti, Sgarbi, Ioane; Allan, Duvenage; Quaglio, Faiva, Pasquali, Zanni, Ruzza, Lazzaroni, Pettinelli, Barbini.

Replacements: Makelara, Zani, Traore, Snyman, Fuser, Trussardi, Rizzi, Zanon.

Sin Bin: Trussardi (28)

Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)

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