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Heineken Cup: Northampton beat Castres to stay in quarter-final hunt
Northampton avoided elimination from the Heineken Cup after grinding out a 18-12 victory over Castres at Franklin's Gardens.
Both sides scored all of their points from the kicking tee, with Stephen Myler and Ryan Lamb each scoring three penalties for the Saints and Rory Kockott converting four for the visitors.
Ulster's victory over Glasgow means Northampton can no longer qualify for the last eight as Pool 4 winners, but one of the two best runner-up spots could still be within their grasp.
A bonus-point victory over Glasgow on the last matchday would give them 19 points, which has traditionally been right on the limit of being enough to make it through.
Each team had opportunities to score tries in a lively opening but the first points came from the boot of Castres scrum-half Kockott, who slotted over a penalty in the 17th minute.
Northampton were soon back on level terms as Myler sent over three points of his own and it was the Saints who began to assert themselves as the contest passed the midway point of the first half.
Myler edged the hosts in front with his second penalty of the night on 30 minutes but Dylan Hartley was penalised for slowing the ball soon afterwards and Kockott was on target to make it 6-6.
Castres held onto that score until the interval despite having prop Anton Peikrishvili sin-binned, with Northampton then only having another three points from Myler to show for a heavy period of pressure early in the second half.
The Saints continued to push forward as the match wore on but as they headed into the final 20 minutes their hopes of securing a four-try bonus point had all but vanished.
Replacement stand-off Lamb slotted over his first penalty to extend the lead to six points in the 66th minute as the home side focused on making sure of the win rather than chasing extra points.
Kockott quickly reduced the gap by three points only for Lamb to make it 18-9 with two more penalties at the other end. But Kockott added a fourth penalty to his tally in added time to salvage a losing bonus point.
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|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Friday 17th October|
|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|19:45||Harlequins vs Castres|
|Saturday 18th October|
|13:00||Sale vs Munster|
|15:15||Saracens vs Clermont Auvergne|
|19:45||Leicester vs Ulster|
|15:15||Glasgow vs Bath|
|17:15||Racing Metro 92 vs Northampton|
|Sunday 19th October|
|17:15||Leinster vs Wasps|
|15:15||Toulon vs Scarlets|
|13:00||Toulouse vs Montpellier|
|13:00||Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso|
|Friday 24th October|
|19:45||Munster vs Saracens|
|Saturday 25th October|
|13:00||Ulster vs Toulon|
|19:45||Scarlets vs Leicester|
|15:15||Bath vs Toulouse|
|17:15||Montpellier vs Glasgow|
|17:15||Northampton vs Ospreys|
|Sunday 26th October|
|15:15||Clermont Auvergne vs Sale|
|14:00||Castres vs Leinster|
|17:15||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|17:15||Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92|
|Saturday 6th December|
|TBC||Munster vs Clermont Auvergne|
|TBC||Sale vs Saracens|
|TBC||Castres vs Wasps|
|TBC||Harlequins vs Leinster|
|TBC||Ulster vs Scarlets|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com