Wood scores the winner as Saints see off Castres
Tom Wood's try helped Saints claim revenge against Castres with a bonus-point 28-21 victory at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday afternoon.
The skipper powered over the line to earn the victory, which went some way to making amends for the 41-7 evisceration at Stade Pierre Antoine back in October.
Saints had been bottom of Pool 4 going into the game, having only racked up four points from as many games.
But two tries from Teimana Harrison and one from Stephen Myler had them in control at 21-8 up at half-time.
Castres roared back in the second period, scoring 13 unanswered points in 18 minutes before Wood forced his way over the line to win it for Saints.
The victory was a fourth in succession for Jim Mallinder’s men, who had beaten Sale, Gloucester and Bristol in the Aviva Premiership during the previous three weeks.
Saints got off to the perfect start against Castres as Myler kicked a penalty to the corner and the home side cranked up the heat, with Harrison eventually bursting through to score.
Myler converted to make it 7-0 after just three minutes, but Castres were soon rewarded for some weaving runs in the Saints half, with Rory Kockott landing a penalty.
But Mallinder’s men had come out with real purpose and after continually ramping up pressure in the maul, they forced Castres hooker Jody Jenneker into the sin bin.
The French side did well to repel another Saints surge soon after but having failed to take their chances, the hosts were made to pay.
Some disappointing defending opened the door for flanker Alexandre Bias to score out wide but the conversion was missed, leaving Castres a point up nine minutes before the break.
But having scored with 14 men on the field, Castres were to concede with 15 as Saints responded immediately.
Nic Groom made the initial break and Myler eventually found a gap to dart over the line for his first try of the season.
The fly-half added the extras and Saints were to score again before half-time as Harrison picked up the pieces close to the Castres line and darted over.
Myler again landed the conversion and Mallinder’s men had a healthy 21-8 lead going into the second period.
Castres had been looking strong in the scrum during the first half and that good work continued as they won an early penalty after the interval.
But Kockott chose to goal for goal from close to halfway and dropped his kick well short of the target.
Nevertheless, Castres were building some pressure in the opening 10 minutes of the half and Saints had to be alive to constant charges, with JP Estelles and Luther Burrell making big tackles.
But eventually the French side scored, with Julien Dumora finding space to fly over the line.
Kockott converted from out wide to cut the cap to six points and he was soon reducing the deficit to three with a penalty.
Saints simply hadn’t got going in the second half and another Kockott penalty levelled the game at 21-21.
When Mallinder’s men finally woke up, Myler hit the right post with a drop goal attempt from distance and Ben Foden produced a sparkling run into enemy territory.
The pressure told as Wood powered over, earning the bonus point, with Myler kicking to make it a seven-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.
And Saints saw the game out, to the delight of the fans who had turned out in the cold conditions to support the team.
Saints: Foden; Estelles (Tuala 50), Burrell, Mallinder, North; Myler, Groom (Dickson 62); A Waller (E Waller 66), Haywood (Clare 75), Hill (Beesley 79); Lawes, Day (Craig 50); Wood, Gibson, Harrison (Nutley 75).
Castres: Palis; Agulla; Taumopeau (Combezou 64), Ebersohn, Smith; Dumora (Urdapilleta 68), Kockott (c) (Dupont 68); Lazar (Tichit 62), Jenneker (Mach 62), Tussac (Kotze 62); Jacquet, Moreaux (Capo-Ortega 40); Caballero, Bias, Vaipulu (Mafi 39).
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)