NORTHAMPTON ARE excited about playing their Heineken Cup semi-final at stadium:mk.
The Saints beat Ulster 23-13 in front of more than 21,000 fans at the home of MK Dons to reach the last four and will return to the venue on Sunday 1 May to play Perpignan.
Northampton captain Dylan Hartley described the atmosphere as “electric” while Stephen Myler, who contributed 13 of the Saints’ points with his boot, said: “It felt like Franklin’s Gardens but was even louder than that today. We were behind at half-time so we needed them to get behind us and they definitely spurred us on. They helped us to go from strength to strength.”
Northampton started the better in Milton Keynes, Soane Tonga’uiha crossing after just two minutes, but Ulster scored just before the break to lead 13-10. Two beautifully-timed inside balls allowed first Simon Danielli and then Andrew Trimble to bust the Saints’ defensive line and the latter’s break was accurate enough for him to touch down near the posts.
The Saints made Ulster pay for their errors and indiscipline in the second half, Myler slotting the penalties and Lee Dickson touching down after a lovely piece of link play down the wing between Chris Ashton and Ben Foden.
Their physicality told in the last 20 minutes as they overpowered Ulster at the breakdown and director of rugby Jim Mallinder is now looking forward to that semi-final against Perpignan, which will kick off at 3pm.
“Perpignan have got threats all over the field,” he said, “but we can take confidence from the fact that we’ve beaten them before and can do it again. ”
Hartley certainly doesn’t want to settle for a place in the last four, saying: “We’ve gone one step further than last year (when they lost in the quarter-finals to Munster) so that’s a positive, but we can’t be happy with just that.”
Northampton Saints 23 Ulster Rugby 13
HT: 10-13 Attendance: 21,309 at stadium:mk
Northampton Saints: B Foden, C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, P Diggin, S Myler, L Dickson, S Tonga’uiha (A Waller 78), D Hartley [capt] (B Sharman 78), B Mujati, C Lawes, C Day, P Dowson (C Clark 74), T Wood, R Wilson
Scorers: Try – L Dickson, S Tonga’uiha; Conversion – S Myler (2) ; Penalty – S Myler (3)
Ulster Rugby: A D’Arcy, A Trimble, N Spence, P Wallace, S Danielli (C Gilroy 79), I Humphreys, R Pienaar, T Court, R Best [capt], B Botha (P McAllister 71), J Muller (I Whitten 78), D Tuohy (T Barker 57), R Diack (W Faloon 62), C Henry, P Wannenburg
Scorers: Try – A Trimble; Conversion – I Humphreys; Penalty – I Humphreys (2)
Heineken Man of the Match: C Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)