No let up for North

Congleton Guardian: George North ran in the first try for Northampton George North ran in the first try for Northampton

George North insists that Northampton will go "flat out" in their pursuit of an unlikely Heineken Cup quarter-final place.

The Saints need a bonus point victory over Franklin's Gardens visitors Castres next Friday night, and have to hope that Pool One leaders Leinster collect nothing from a Dublin appointment with the Ospreys.

Northampton could still progress as one of two best runners-up if they topple Castres, but that is an improbable scenario, given the remaining fixtures in other groups.

Wales wing North scored a superb 70-metre breakaway try as Saints saw off the Ospreys 29-17 in Swansea, yet Leinster's away win against Castres on Sunday quickly brought them back down to earth.

"From our point of view, we've got one game left and we are going to go flat out and try to get five points," North said.

"It has been a tough group for us to get back into after a couple of early losses, and it is now win or nothing for us against Castres. We've still got a chance of making it, and we will go hard until the end.

"The first-half was quite frustrating today. It was quite a slow game, and we needed to bump the pace up to how we wanted to play. I had a bit of space and time for the try, so it was happy days."

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder paid tribute to North's game-breaking ability, with the Welshman being followed over Ospreys' line by fellow try-scorers George Pisi and Glenn Dickson.

"It was a quality try by George," said Mallinder.

"He is really settling in to the way we want to play. People say he had a slow start with us, but he did some brilliant things early on in the season.

"He's a quality player. I know he is young, but he is determined to improve and work hard at his game, which is what he's doing. He is playing for a good club, he's playing for Wales, and he is happy."

Reflecting on the result, Mallinder added: "We are playing quite well at the moment, but tinged with a little bit of disappointment that we didn't go on and get the fourth try and a bonus point.

"The quality of the Heineken Cup is there are six tough pool games, and you have got to be accurate in all six.

"If you look at Leinster, to win at Castres, Ospreys and Franklin's Gardens, they've deserved to do well in the group. We need that consistency in our performances."

Mallinder, meanwhile, allayed any early injury fears surrounding Saints' England flanker Tom Wood, who went off 10 minutes from time.

"I think he has just got a knock to his knee," Mallinder said. "I don't think we are too concerned. He is icing it up."

Saints' Liberty Stadium triumph - the eliminated Ospreys replied with Rhys Webb and Alun-Wyn Jones tries, plus a Dan Biggar penalty and two conversions - owed everything to their set-piece dominance.

But a crushing home loss to Leinster last month is set to prove the pivotal result in terms of Northampton's quarter-final ambitions.

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy was left to reflect on a frustrating Heineken campaign for his team, although he refused to blame Welsh rugby's ongoing volatile political climate as a factor behind their pool stage elimination.

"It is not a great situation. It doesn't get resolved, it is always getting put back, but it is a side issue, it is not an excuse for us," Tandy said.

"When we go back over the Heineken campaign, we know in this tournament that if you don't take your opportunities then there are massive shifts in games.

"The endeavour and effort was there right across the board. There is a lot of good in our game, but just little pointers where we take our foot off the gas.

"We looked half-decent at times when we had the ball, but in these environments and these games if you switch off for a second, it's curtains."

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