Hartley happy with Saints’ Euro standing

SAINTS IN GOOD SHAPE - skipper Dylan Hartley (Picture: Linda Dawson)
SAINTS IN GOOD SHAPE - skipper Dylan Hartley (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Dylan Hartley believes Saints have set themselves up nicely for December’s decisive Heineken Cup double-header with Ulster.

Northampton may have lost at Castres on Friday night, but they claimed a losing bonus point in the 21-16 defeat in Toulouse.

That takes their pool 4 tally to six points, with Ulster topping the four-team table on nine after their victory at Glasgow Warriors on Friday night.

The Irish side, runners-up in the competition last season, will now be big favourites to progress to the quarter-finals as pool winners.

But Hartley says there’s plenty of puff left in Saints and the skipper feels the scene is set for two big clashes with Ulster just before Christmas.

“It is frustrating seeing Ulster win home and away,” he said. “They’re a good team, though.

“We’ve spoken about it; if we wanted to be serious contenders we wanted to win on Friday, but it’s not over for us.

“The next game we play is Ulster at home so we’ll get a good reading of where we’re at after that weekend. There’s still a lot to play for. The pool’s still open. We’ve set ourselves up.”

Saints paid the price for a poor first 14 minutes against Castres as the French side were allowed to dominate early on at the Stade Ernest Wallon.

Hartley and Co were 10-0 down before the clock struck 15, but battled back, with a late George Pisi score securing a bonus point.

And the Saints captain said: “Even with the last play of the game we could have drawn it up, couldn’t we?

“The importance of climbing our way back to taking something from the game was key. That was the message the week before when we went 15 points down, more or less just get back into the game and take a positive. Points, points points.

“We climbed our way back and cancelled out the first half. If there was an extra 10 minutes at the end there I think we would have sorted ourselves out.”