sport

Northampton book final berth

Northampton secured their place in the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup with an 18-10 victory over Harlequins at Franklin's Gardens.

The clash of the two Aviva Premiership sides went the way of the hosts, Saints surviving the early sin-binning of Jamie Elliott and the loss of George North in the first half to run out comfortable winners.

Kahn Fotuali'i created a try for substitute Tom Collins before then scoring the home side's second himself, while Stephen Myler added one conversion and two penalties to set up a clash with either Bath or Wasps in Cardiff on May 23.

Harlequins' cause wasn't helped by injuries to lock George Robson and full-back Mike Brown; they did manage a try through Nick Easter, but it proved to be no more than a consolation effort.

Brown did not make it out for the second half, though it was unclear if he was forced out of the action by a tackle from Elliott when high in the air that led to the Northampton man seeing yellow in just the fourth minute.

Saints came through the period with 14 men unscathed and seemed equally undeterred by the departure of winger North midway through the half.

Clever kick

His replacement, Collins, showed he could fill the boots of the Wales international, in terms of scoring output rather than shoe size, by breaking the deadlock in the 27th minute thanks to a clever piece of thinking by Fotuali'i.

After the forwards had pushed Northampton to the brink down the middle, the scrum-half added some width to proceedings with a left-footed kick to the left corner that allowed his team-mate to catch and finish under no pressure.

Myler proved unable to add the extras but did slot over a penalty, with Ben Botica following suit just before the break to at least get Quins on the scoreboard.

The fly-half, deputising for the injured Nick Evans, missed a further attempt at the posts early in the second half before Northampton put some daylight between themselves and their opponents.

A sliced clearance from Danny Care surrendered territorial advantage and possession and, although Quins seemed to have briefly got the ball back, a popped pass out of the ruck was accepted by the quick-thinking Fotuali'i.

He had enough pace to keep clear of the covering defenders and then benefited from any doubt over an earlier knock-on as he took possession, pictures proving inconclusive as to whether he had touched it or not.

Myler this time added the extras and at 18-3 the Saints looked certain to progress, particularly as they had conceded a combined total of just 15 points in doing the league double over their rivals.

Harlequins at least made them work right through to the final whistle, Easter's 64th-minute try being converted by Botica to cut the gap to eight points with plenty of time remaining.

Yet the home side simply kept their opponents at arm's length after that, substitutes Luther Burrell, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood all coming off the bench to help make sure the prospect of a league and cup double is still very much on the cards for Jim Mallinder's squad.