Northampton will not be repeating last season’s European heroics as their 41-22 defeat to Castres secured their exit from this season’s Heineken Cup.
Saints reached the final last season before being defeated by Leinster in the showpiece. But three defeats from their opening three games in the pool mean they will not be competing in the business end of the biggest tournament in Europe.
A sin binning in each half against Castres took its toll on Northampton, losing England star Tom Wood and Fly half Steve Myler for 10 minutes each, either side of half time. Four tries for Castres, two from Martial with Molonga and Diarra adding one each, proved enough to keep their slim hopes of qualifying alive.
The game was effectively a chance for one team to keep their dreams alive whilst the other would be going out and defeat for Northampton also acts as a huge blow in their fight to finish third and to secure a place in the Challenge Cup quarter finals, by way of conciliation.
Northampton’s high profile players will have to content themselves with their internationals as their only chance to tour Europe, with the latest Six Nations 2012 betting suggesting that Northampton’s Nick Easter could be on winning side.
European giants Munster took control of the group, defeating the Scarlets in the group’s other game, by 17 points to 14. Munster, who last season ended up in the challenge cup themselves, look set to advance to their more familiar territory of the Heineken Cup knock out phases.
The Saints’ result was not the only major suprise of the round though, Italian side Treviso ran out 30-26 winners over French giants Biarritz in another major advancement for Italian Rugby.
Saints exit (against the Betfair Heineken cup Rugby betting odds) should allow them to focus on their inconsistent start to the league season. They currently lie in third place, but in order to return to the Heineken Cup next season they will have to maintain a high standard. To do so they will have to prove to be the most consistant of the eleven teams with realistic aspirations for a top half finish.