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Two-time Challenge Cup winners, Northampton Saints, return to the competition after five seasons away to face three-time European Cup finalists, ASM Clermont Auvergne, in a Pool 1 match on Saturday (15:00 BST) at Franklin’s Gardens.
- This will be the first Challenge Cup meeting between Northampton and Clermont, however, they have met five times before in the top flight with the TOP 14 side claiming victory in four of those clashes (Ll).
- Saints and Clermont met in the pool stage of the Champions Cup last season with both teams claiming home wins, the only previous time Saints had hosted Clermont was in October 2001 with the TOP 14 side winning 21-15.
- This will be the first time in 10 years that Northampton have participated in the pool stage of the Challenge Cup, that season they went on to win the competition with five of their nine victories coming against TOP 14 opposition.
- Northampton (91%) and Clermont (90%) were two of just four teams to record a lineout success rate of 90% or better in the Champions Cup last season, although Saints also recorded the lowest serum success rate (63%).
- Saints’ Dan Biggar recorded the best goal kicking success rate (94%) of any player to attempt 10+ kicks at goal in European competition last season, he slotted 15 of his 16 place kicks for the Ospreys in the Champions Cup.
🏆 European rugby returns on Saturday afternoon when we host the mighty Clermont Auvergne at the Gardens
— 😇 Northampton Saints (@SaintsRugby) October 7, 2018
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ASM Clermont Auvergne demonstrated exactly why they lead the TOP 14 with a classy display against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday to cruise home 41-20 in this tussle between double European Rugby Challenge Cup winners.
The outcome of this Pool 1 clash never looked in doubt as the French club rattled in six tries, with braces for Peter Betham and Peceli Yato, before allowing the Saints a consolation double in the dying stages.
Dan Biggar had given Northampton the lead with a 13th minute penalty, but that was the only time they were ahead as Greig Laidlaw soon levelled with his own three-pointer, before Betham grabbed his pair of tries and Yato netted his first to steer Clermont 20-6 ahead at the break.
Laidlaw only converted one of those tries, but he was on target with three conversions in the second half, when Rabah Slimani and Arthur Iturria crossed before Yato claimed his second.
With the hard work done, Clermont took their foot off the pedal in the last three minutes and Tom Collins and David Ribbans capitalised, with James Grayson adding the extras.
💬 "There are lots of ifs and buts. We've just got to go away and train very hard to sort it out."
— 😇 Northampton Saints (@SaintsRugby) October 13, 2018
However, the French club are now firm favourites to top the pool, with their Round 2 game at home to Timisoara Saracens next Saturday, the day after Northampton have visited Dragons.