Match Report – Northampton 24 – 14 Munster

Northampton prevail 24-14 after a dramatic clash with Munster at Franklin’s Gardens; 21-year-old replacement wing George Hendy played a starring role scoring two vital tries; Northampton to face Bulls in Champions Cup quarter-finals

Last Updated: 07/04/24 4:19pm

George Hendy dives over to score his second try

George Hendy dives over to score his second try

Northampton charged through to the Investec Champions Cup quarter-finals after two tries by George Hendy broke Munster’s resistance in a 24-14 victory at Franklin’s Gardens.

Hendy, Saints’ 21-year-old replacement wing, crossed twice in the final quarter of a gripping round-of-16 encounter fought out by the Gallagher Premiership’s leaders and current holders of the United Rugby Championship crown.

This rematch of the 2000 final was every bit as dramatic despite the swirling winds that made kicking and patrolling the backfield tricky.

Hendy scored two vital tries

Hendy scored two vital tries

Saints missed injured full-back George Furbank, one of their most effective attacking weapons this season, while another influential England star Alex Mitchell was limited to a supporting role off the bench.

Yet they still produced the match’s decisive moment when replacement back Hendy finished a superb try made possible by Fin Smith’s decision making, before England U20 international Hendy showed strength to grab his second in the 73rd minute.

Northampton join Premiership rivals Harlequins and Exeter in next weekend’s quarter-finals where they will host South Africa’s Bulls, having proved their mettle and attacking class against Munster.

In the opening 10 minutes they soaked up phase after phase of Munster’s early onslaught before hitting back with their first attack through James Ramm.

The visitors went straight back on the offensive to draw level through wing Sean O’Brien and the frantic pace of the opening quarter continued as the rivals took it in turns to threaten the whitewash.

Munster were clearly on top, however, with their growing dominance founded on their ability to retain possession and intent to keep the ball moving, tactics that were creating holes in the home defence.

Hendy leaps over the line to score

Hendy leaps over the line to score

Mike Haley was the next over after scrum-half Tom James had ducked under tackles to keep the move alive and in a sign of Northampton’s struggles, a turnover close to their line produced a loud cheer from their fans.

They were given more to shout about when Tommy Freeman raced over in the 36th minute once Saints had sucked in defenders following a scrum to create space in midfield.

The high-octane play continued into the second half but Munster were no longer able to hold on to the ball for such long stretches, while handling errors increasingly affected the endeavour shown.

Instead, Northampton were controlling territory and possession, and having seen a number of moves foiled by self-inflicted errors, their attack clicked into gear beautifully in the 61st minute for Hendy to cross.

The move started from a lineout inside Saints’ 22 with Smith racing forward and feeding Ollie Sleightholme off his wing with a delayed pass before Ramm sent Hendy over.

Smith failed with a conversion and then a penalty attempt, the wind intervening to make both kicks a lottery, but Hendy ended any doubt when he broke two tackles to touch down in the left corner.

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