Hartley proud after win

Northampton skipper Dylan Hartley praised his side's character as they dug out an ugly win against French champions Castres.

Leinster's thrashing of Ospreys meant the 13-3 win was to no avail in terms of Heineken Cup qualification, not that it took anything away from the quality of Northampton's performance.

George Pisi scored the only try of the game in the final minute, though Northampton needed a bonus point win to have any chance of topping pool one meaning it mattered little.

Saints are now hoping for an unlikely set of results to finish as one of the two best runners-up to reach the quarter-finals or it will be the third season in a row that they have missed out on the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup.

Hartley said: "Before the game I said 'let's not worry about the maths, let's just win tonight and see where we are at. Whatever competition we will be in we will give it a good crack'.

"We showed plenty of character to play to 80 minutes against the French champions and take that opportunity right at the end. As frustrating as it was to watch, playing it was equally frustrating.

"With nothing to play for you might have expected them to fold, but they didn't. We probably should have got the scoreboard ticking over early on, but I decided to go for the pushover try and it didn't come off. If we had gone 3-0, then 6-0, 9-0, 12-0 they might have shut up shop.

"But if you have a feel for it on the field you have to go for it, the scrum was dominant so you have to go for it."

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder was impressed by Castres' defence and feels ultimately it was the defeat in France that cost his side finishing top of pool one.

"They are the French champions and they proved it tonight," said Mallinder.

"Their defence was very good, their line speed cut down our options, stopped us getting on the front foot and getting any momentum.

"You asked what we have learned from the Heineken Cup this year, and first of all you could really do with an Italian side in your pool rather than three quality sides.

"We will also look at the game down at Castres and think that was a big opportunity we missed. We gave them an interception try early on. We came back into the game and very nearly won the game. But when you are up against good sides like that you have really got to take your opportunities."

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