ULSTER’S POOL FOUR rivals Northampton fell to a 21-16 defeat against Castres in Toulouse tonight.
The Saints did just enough to secure a losing bonus-point through Steven Myler’s 72nd minute penalty.
It was the Top 14 club’s night though. and they showed intent in the Stade Ernest Wallon which has been sorely lacking from some of their previous Heineken Cup campaigns.
Once the hosts took the lead through centre Paul Bonnefond’s seventh minute try, they would not release their strangle-hold on the game. They would soon lead 10-0 thanks to the boot of Romain Teulet, but Myler tagged on two penalties of his own to ensure the Premiership were never far off the pace.
Rory Kockott would restore Castres seven-point lead before half-time and the sides entered their changing rooms with the scoreline at 13-6.
Castres kick-started the second half, just as they did the first and prop Brian Mujati was sin-binned as the pressure mounted on the Saints. In his absence, number eight Antonie Claassen crossed for Castres’ second try of the night. Teulet failed to convert.
With Mujati back on the field, Northampton forced a rare opening on 59 minutes, outside centre George Pisi notching his second try of the tournament. Myler converted and it was to prove critical as Saints chased a reward for their effort.
Remi Tales stretched the lead out to 21- 13 with a drop goal from 30 metres, but Saints rumbled forward in the last 10 minutes to themselves back within seven.
The result leaves Northampton with six points in pool four, three behind Ulster who produced a dogged display to see off Glasgow in Scotstoun. Castres lie in third place with four points.