Saints beat Benetton with late Biggar kick
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Dan Biggar’s nerveless penalty deep into added time settled a fabulously hectic game in Champions Cup Pool One as Northampton Saints snatched a drama-packed 35-32 victory at Benetton.
With scores level at the end of a pulsating 80 minutes, Iliesa Ratuva was penalised for a deliberate knock-on as he tried to intercept a pass, giving Biggar the opportunity to slot the winning penalty, before being buried by jubilant Saints teammates.
It was brutal on Benetton after a super first-half showing. After an early Biggar penalty, the hosts’ first try came via Hame Faiva who rode two tackles to crawl over the line from five metres out.
Northampton responded thanks to a sublime piece of skill by Biggar, his behind-the-back pass allowing Ahsee Tuala to release Thomas Collins down the wing, although Biggar’s conversion went wide.
Tommaso Allan’s penalty gave Benetton a two-point cushion which they soon built on with some fine work from their forwards after a line-out. Northampton backpedalled and Ratuva Tavuyara had a simple task to dot down in the corner. Allan couldn’t quite add the extra two points though.
Biggar was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Ratuva and with the Welshman out of the picture, Benetton made hay. Monty Ioane was denied what would have been a wonderful try by his toe dragging just into touch, but the hosts were not to be denied a third try and Nacho Brex waltzed through, dummied and touched down, giving Allan an easy conversion.
Another three points for Allan made it 25-8 but the game-changing moment came right on half-time. With Saints camped on the Treviso tryline, Cobus Reinach’s quick thinking to take a tap penalty caught Benetton napping. Not only did Biggar convert, but Braam Steyn was given a yellow card for going off his feet.
After the re-start, Northampton levelled things up at 25-25 via a Biggar penalty and a converted try by Thomas Sleightholme, following a check with the TMO about a possible obstruction.
They then completed the comeback, and a run of 22 unanswered points, after a lovely burst by fullback George Furbank down the left wing and a simple offload to allow Collins to cross for his second try of the game.
However, in an unexpected plot twist, Benetton levelled the scores when strong work by the forwards allowed Faiva to barrel over for his second try of the match. That secured the Italians a bonus point, but the dramatic late penalty by Biggar broke Benetton hearts.
Tries: Faiva 2, Tavuyara, Brex
Cons: Allan 3
Pens: Allan 2
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Collins 2, Reinach, Sleightholme
Cons: Biggar 3
Pens: Biggar 3
Yellow cards: Dan Biggar (Saints, 23) Braam Steyn (Benetton, 40)
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Nacho Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommy Allan (captain), 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Ira Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Michele Mancini Parri, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Eli Snyman, 21 Marco Lazzaroni, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Ian Keatley.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison (captain), 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 George Furbank.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Dave Sutherland (Scotland), Finlay Brown (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)