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Northampton Saints, bottom of Heineken Champions Cup Pool B, have a hard task on their hands on Saturday, as they welcome defending champions Stade Rochelais in Round 4.
The second-placed French club have already qualified for the knockout stages as a result of a 100 per cent win record in the competition so far this season.
Saints, in contrast, have a solitary point to show for their efforts – from their 23-27 defeat at 14-man Munster Rugby last weekend – although they will be heartened by their second-half comeback at Thomond Park, having gone in 24-0 down at half-time.
The Pool B match kicks off at 1pm local time at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, and can be watched on ITV, BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, SuperSport and FloRugby.
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) January 16, 2023
- Lewis Ludlam made 18 carries in Round 3 – more than any other player.
- David Ribbans has made more tackles above the waist than any other player (34), accounting for 76 per cent of his attempts.
- Northampton have the joint-lowest rate of scrum success in the competition (67 per cent).
- Saints have conceded the most penalties for foul play in this season’s competition (7).
- Despite scoring only two points in Round 3, Antoine Hastoy is still the competition’s top scorer so far this campaign with 44. His success rate off the tee is 84 per cent – the highest for a player who has attempted more than 16 shots at goal.
- Grégory Alldritt has made 20 pick-and-goes – more than any other player. From these, he has made a total of 29 metres, 21 in contact.
- Stade Rochelais have conceded the joint-fewest unforced turnovers in the competition (15).
- They have also made the most defensive ruck entries in the tournament so far (171), making a nuisance of themselves on 82 of these occasions.
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Northampton Saints exited the Heineken Champions Cup as they fell to a 31-13 defeat at the hands of defending champions Stade Rochelais in their Pool B meeting at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
A Fraser Dingwall red card in the dying embers of the first period put Saints behind the eight ball, with Tom James notching the hosts’ only try midway through the second period. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was then given his marching orders late in proceedings.
La Rochelle, who have won four from four in the pool stage, securing a home tie in the Round of 16, notched five tries in the contest, Quentin Lespiaucq scoring a brace in addition to solo efforts from Levani Botia, Grégory Alldritt and UJ Seuteni.
Mauls 🤝 @staderochelais
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 21, 2023
Saints fly-half Fin Smith was the first man to put points on the scoreboard when he dissected the uprights from close range with nine minutes played.
However, the lead would not last long as La Rochlle made the most of a kick to the corner. Botia was the man to benefit as the visitors ran through the phases before he dotted down from a close-range pick and go.
La Rochelle were by then dominating the scrum, winning a number of penalties, but Northampton were holding their own with large spells of territorial dominance.
Prior to the break, however, Northampton were dealt a crucial blow as Dingwall tackled Dillyn Leyds with head-to-head contact, referee Andrea Piardi left with no option but to send the Saints outside centre for an early bath.
La Rochelle, unsurprisingly, opened the second-half scoring with a try ten minutes after the break. Lespiaucq took the ball off a lineout and trundled over the line, dotting down with ease to open the lead up to eight points.
La Rochelle scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow was then shown a yellow card for a penalty for not releasing Northampton wing Courtnall Skosan after he broke the visitors’ defensive line.
That gave Northampton a glimmer of hope, and they produced arguably the try of the contest as Smith lofted a kick to the left flank for Rory Hutchinson, who in turn found Mike Haywood. He offloaded to James who scampered over.
Northampton’s joy was short lived as La Rochelle notched a pair of tries from rolling mauls. Firstly, Alldritt benefitted first before Lespiaucq notched his second of the contest.
La Rochelle continued to press in the final 20 minutes, Seuteni crossing after a well-worked scrum on the left, the wing scampering over untouched in the corner.
In added time, Northampton were reduced to 13 men as Salakaia-Loto was given a red card for an elbow to the head in the tackle.