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PREVIEW: Myler eyes Saints improvement ahead of Clermont clash

Tuesday 31st March 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Steven Myler admits Northampton Saints will have to produce "something special" to beat French champions Castres Olympique on their home soil when the two sides kick-off their Heineken Cup Pool1 campaigns. - 08/10/2013 10:58

Steven Myler admits Northampton Saints will have to produce "something special" to beat French champions Castres Olympique on their home soil when the two sides kick-off their Heineken Cup Pool1 campaigns. - 08/10/2013 10:58

Stephen Myler has warned Northampton they must keep their cool if they are to end Clermont Auvergne’s long unbeaten home record in this weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final.

Clermont are going in search of their first European title and have not lost in 22 continental contests on their own turf, which makes Saturday’s trip a particularly daunting one, even for a Saints side who are clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership.

The English champions warmed up for their visit to Stade Marcel-Michelin with a 52-30 win over Wasps, but fly-half Myler, while pleased with the clinical edge shown in attack, has called for a more composed display this weekend.

“It can take time for the lads to gel when they come back after the Six Nations, there is a lot of energy and we have been overly keen at times. Against Wasps we gave away two penalties early in the second half and we ended up defending on our own try-line, those are errors we cannot afford to make against Clermont,” said Myler
“We need to work on that, those factors we can control, whether that be our discipline or being overeager and giving the referee a chance to give a penalty. But those things are fixable.”

The omens of last-eight meetings where English clubs have travelled to France do not offer much comfort for Northampton. Of nine trips across the Channel for a quarter-final, only one has ended in victory. But it was Saints themselves who pulled off the feat when they beat Biarritz 7-6 in San Sebastian in 2007.

“We are the underdogs, we know it is a massive game and a massive challenge,” said Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder. “It is a fantastic place to go and play rugby, they are a quality team. It is a great environment to play in but we are really looking forward to the challenge.”

Saints will hope to have Wales wing George North available to them for the game, with the giant three-quarter being monitored after being knocked-out in the process of scoring a try against Wasps last weekend. He has scored seven tries in Europe so far this season.

Clermont, meanwhile, were defeated by Stade Francais last time out, but hooker Benjamin Kayser feels no apprehension ahead of the return to Champions Cup action.

“We go into a period where we know the games count even more, but I feel more excitement than fear of doing something wrong. Every player wants to play in big games and we are facing a big rival for this title,” said Kayser.

Match Facts

  • ASM Clermont Auvergne have won their last three quarter finals in the competition and have won both their quarter finals against English opposition.
  • The French club have also never lost a home quarter final in the competition.
  • Northampton Saints have tasted victory in a knockout game in France before, in 2007 Saints became the only English team to win an away quarter final against French opposition when they beat Biarritz 7-6. English sides have lost the eight other quarter-finals they have played in France.
  • Saints’ Calum Clark has made the most tackles in the Champions Cup this year (78/82) whilst Clermont’s Sebastien Vahaamahina has made the most in the tournament without a miss (44/44).
  • Nick Abendanon has gained more metres in the competition than any other player (571) whilst George North has beaten the most defenders in the tournament (24).
  • Northampton have scored more tries than any other team in the tournament (25) with George North being the top try scorer in the competition on seven tries.
  • Five of Northampton’s previous six quarter-finals have been won by the home side on the day (W3 L3).

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REPORT: Classy Clermont crush Saints

Saturday 4th April 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Sans pitié avec Northampton

Sans pitié avec Northampton

English rugby’s forgotten man, Nick Abendanon, showed Stuart Lancaster what he’s missing as he made two tries and scored another as Clermont ripped the English champions apart, winning 37-5.

Clermont had won their past 22 European Cup games at home, and were protecting a record of never having lost a home quarter final in 10 previous games in all competitions, and never looked in trouble.

They led 27-0 at half-time, increased their lead to 37-0 after Abendanon had raced 60 metres to score their fourth try, and only a close range lunge from Alex Waller saved Saints’ blushes as they finally managed a consolation try in the second half.

Brock James calmed the home nerves with a penalty and French wing Noa Nakaitaci weaved his way over at the posts for the first of three first-half tries. James added the conversion and then extended the lead with a second penalty shortly after opposite number Steve Myler had missed a kick of his own.

Clermont ended the first half with a brace of tries as Abendanon created a second try for Nakaitaci and then dazzled the Saints defence with his footwork and offload to send Wesley Fofana streaking to the line.

That made it 27-0 by the break and the second half started with another James penalty before Abendanon stepped up into the defensive line to tackle George Pisi, rip the ball out of his hands and streak 60 metres to the Saints line for the try of the night.

James’ conversion made it 37-0, at which time it looked as though Saints were going to go down to a record defeat. Waller’s try saved them from that fate, but what promised to be a good European campaign when they won four on the trot ended in complete disarray with successive defeats to Racing Metro 92 (32-8 at home) and Clermont.

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