Tom Vickers’ Saints v Castres verdict and player ratings

TRY GUY - George Pisi
TRY GUY - George Pisi

When the points totals are added up come the end of the pool stages, Saints may rue a missed opportunity against Castres.

Alternatively, they may be thankful for a losing bonus point on a night where not too much went right.

Tom Vickers staff photograph

Tom Vickers staff photograph

While Castres’ coping mechanism clicked into gear, Saints struggled to get off the starting blocks on a slippery night in Toulouse.

The Frenchmen dealt with the tricky conditions and, crucially, referee Alain Rolland, far better, especially in the early stages of the game.

Saints, to their credit, stuck at it, and were finally rewarded for their efforts in the final 10 minutes as George Pisi took advantage of a fumble to score.

But it was too little too late for Jim Mallinder’s men, who were made to pay for going 10-0 down inside 14 minutes.

That sort of points deficit, though Saints came back from 15-0 down five days earlier to beat Glasgow, is simply too much of a head-start to hand to a side at home in Europe.

And Mallinder, as well as the two players nominated to speak to the media after the game, Rhys Oakley and Dylan Hartley, admitted as much.

It was errors that saw the win slip away, while Ulster surged clear at the top of the pool thanks to victory at Glasgow.

But with back-to-back games against the Irish side to come in December, Saints may just feel this was a point gained, rather than three lost.

PLAYER RATINGS

STEPHEN MYLER - Kicked very well out of hand and from the tee. Looked very assured at full-back and vindicated Jim Mallinder’s decision to select him at 15… 7

KEN PISI - Some trademark bursts of pace gained Saints valuable yards and he also did his job in defence, making a crucial tackle on Marcel Garvey to prevent a try… 7

GEORGE PISI - Scored his third try in two Heineken Cup games this season and is emerging as a real predator. Not the busiest of games, but he knows how to finish… 7

DOM WALDOUCK - Put himself about a bit as always but wasn’t the night he had hoped for and came off halfway through the second half… 6

VASILY ARTEMYEV - Didn’t look as sharp as Ken Pisi on the other wing and still has plenty to prove in games away from Franklin’s Gardens… 6

RYAN LAMB - With kicking duties taken by Stephen Myler at full-back, Lamb looked like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders and was allowed to showcase his creativity… 7

LEE DICKSON - Wasn’t allowed to dictate proceedings as Saints were on the back foot for much of the game. One of his more subdued nights… 6

SOANE TONGA’UIHA - Couldn’t get on top in the pack or in the loose, but he was not the only Saints player to whom that applied… 6

DYLAN HARTLEY - Tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but Castres were a tough nut to crack and the captain had his work cut out… 7

BRIAN MUJATI - Silly sin-binning in the second half for pulling down a maul. It was easily preventable and he put his team in trouble… 5

SAMU MANOA - The physical battles of the Premiership may have taken a little out of the American warrior and he was replaced during the second half… 6

COURTNEY LAWES - Always manages to put in trademark hits that have an impact on the opposition and this night, despite Saints struggling for spells, was no different… 7

PHIL DOWSON - Tried to get over the gainline as much as possible but had the door shut in his face by the imposing French defence… 7

TOM WOOD - Showed plenty of fire and determination to get involved in the heat of the physical battle, but couldn’t dominate as he would have liked… 6

RHYS OAKLEY - Steady showing, but it wasn’t the best of nights for the Welshman and the rest of the Saints pack as they were continually penalised… 6

Replacements (who played 20 minutes or more)

TOM MAY - Made a positive impact after coming on for Waldouck and his experience in the later stages of games could be vital… 7