Northampton Saints vs Viadana Review Franklinâ€™s Gardens European Challenge Cup Saturday 22nd October â€œFor 89 minutes it looked as if Saints return to the Guinness premiership was going to end in disappointment. But in the last rays of Autumn sunshine, and in front of a record Franklinâ€™s Gardens crowd, Englishman Ben Cohen scored a try that could prove to be vital in Saints league campaignâ€ Moving away from last weekendâ€™s thriller of a match, we now have to focus on yet another competition, The European Challenge Cup. Some people might say Northampton sits nice and comfy in the easiest group in the EEC, but I for one donâ€™t think so. Well, itâ€™s not the hardest, but it will prove to be a challenge for all. The other contenders in Pool One are Bristol, Viadana, and Narbonne. Qualification from the group should be between Northampton and Narbonne. For Saints itâ€™s one way of qualifying for Heineken cup. Despite our great form in the HC last year, our league form brought Northampton to their first EEC match in six years. But it doesnâ€™t mean the competition is much easier, you get some pretty good teams in front of you and you are expected to perform to the peak of your ability on occasion. And today was not going to be any exception, with Saints debuts from Charlie Beech, Mark Hopley, and Daniel Browneâ€™s first appearance in front of the Franklinâ€™s faithful. Saints could boast nine internationals but Viadana were not looking too shabby either as they matched that figure. Key men for the home side had to be Bruce Reihana and big Ben Cohen. Their ability to use quick ball whilst moving at incredible speeds is something that makes them both highly respected amongst the team, and fans. Let us not forget the likes of Carlos, Wally, Clarke, Sharky, and Digger. They are influential players and play a massive part amongst the team week in week out. The entire team seems to be fitting together nicely, and you donâ€™t have to take my word for it. Just watch them in there last 3-4 games, except LI, well not until the 89th minute anyway. Today was certainly a game for high scoring, for Northampton anyway. And why not? If you donâ€™t aim high you are going nowhere. Four tries and a bonus point were a must as Northampton set out on their European endeavours. Viadana, not exactly a top side, but never doubt them. It was just 2 years ago when they took part in the elusive HC. Both teams looking to get back up there with the big guns. But both teams have to give it there all. Johnny Howard was given the nod at number 9 today, as Sharky was being rested. Howard can perform really well when he wants to. It was a game that took a while to get going but when we got going, boy, did we run riot. 7 tries crossed the line from the men in BG&G. The scoreâ€™s came from Sam Harding, Jon Clarke, two from John Rudd and a long over-due hat trick from â€œAirâ€ Ben Cohen. It was a game full of excitement, some decent officiating. Not so sure why the referee was wearing his national shirt, along with the linesmen but, oh well. Paul Diggin came on with twenty minutes to go. He took over kicking duties from Bruce but had a bit of a nightmare! He scuffed the first one and then hit the post with the second. I think that nerves got the better of him at the end, as Digger should really have nailed his third attempt. It went wide again. Oh well, he really got stuck in and apart from a missed tackle he had a good gameâ€¦ Carlos, Bruce, Rudd, and Quinlan along with Charlie Beech and Chris Budgen, came off to give the whole team some game time, with Richmond, Mallon, Diggin, Smith, and Brett Sturgess coming on for some action. There were a few argy bargy moments, but nothing Julian White would be cheering about. The team looked focused, imaginative, and switched on for most of the afternoon. I donâ€™t think Budge will be too happy with the defending though when Viadana picked up three tries, all starting from close to the line. Even though the Italians almost picked up a try bonus point, the boys stuck it out and won the game 47 points to 25. I expected plenty of tries, and I wasnâ€™t disappointed. Bristol away is next on the agenda. A win next week will put us in a pretty good position so early in the competition, but there is still a long way to go. Just remember, â€œItâ€™s a marathon, not a sprintâ€ A great game, a great day and great rugby! Come on You Saints!