Chris Boyd’s Northampton Saints clinch English rugby premiership playoffs place
The Hurricanes’ Super Rugby Pacific title hopes are over but their former coach Chris Boyd is still in with a shot of rugby glory in England.
Boyd – in his last season as Northampton’s director of rugby before returning home – watched the Saints thrash Newcastle 65-26 on Saturday (Sunday NZ time) – to clinch a place in the English Premiership playoffs.
Wing Tommy Freeman grabbed a hat-trick of tries and hooker Sam Matavesi a brace for Northampton, who fielded former Hurricanes and All Blacks centre Matt Proctor on the right wing.
Boyd, who has been with the Saints since 2018, admitted his side had snuck into the top four.
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“To be fair, two months ago I think we were sitting eighth or ninth and a long way away from looking fourth,’’ Boyd said.
“We talked about the fact we were probably playing knock-out football and we’ve managed to just sneak into that top four.”
England halfback Alex Mitchell and Wales flyhalf and captain Dan Biggar were outstanding for Northampton, who ran in 10 tries against a Newcastle team that lost lock Sean Robinson to a second half red card for head contact.
Northampton will meet the Leicester Tigers, the minor premiership winners, in the semifinals, while champions Harlequins – coached by former All Black Tabai Matson – will host Owen Farrell’s Saracens.
Leicester completed the regular season in top place after a 20-10 win over a Wasps side captained by former Hurricanes backrower Brad Shields.
Matson’s Harlequins hardly had an idea dress rehearsal for the semifinals after a 47-38 loss at Exeter Chiefs in a game likened by the Kiwi coach to “a festival match’’.
The defeat made no difference to the final standings as Harlequins were destined to finish third before kickoff.
Saracens rested most of their frontliners for their trip to Gloucester where the home side recorded a rousing 54-7 win to finish fifth in a rebuilding season.
Former All Blacks prop John Afoa played his final game for the Bristol Bears before taking up a two-year deal in France. The 38-year-old 2011 Rugby World Cup winner took the field at tighthead for the first half of Bristol’s 42-19 loss to Sale.
A hat-trick by fullback Jamie Shillcock ensured the Worcester Warriors consigned Bath to bottom place on points differential after a 43-27 win.
Final standings (after 24 games)
Leicester 94 pts, Saracens 87, Harlequins 80, Northampton 75, Gloucester 73, Sale 70, Exeter 69, London Irish 63, Wasps 60, Bristol 48, Worcester 35, Newcastle 34, Bath 34.
Semifinal draw (home teams first)
Leicester v Northampton.
Saracens v Harlequins.
United Rugby Championship
Two Irish teams and two South African sides will contest the semifinals of the five-nation United Rugby Championships.
Leinster – last year’s Pro 14 champions – will host the Bulls in Dublin next weekend while the Stormers will be at home to Ulster in Cape Town.
Glasgow Warriors copped the backlash from Leinster’s European Champions Cup final defeat when the Irish side returned to URC playoffs.
Leinster served up 12 tries in a crushing 76-14 win over their Scottish rivals, with hooker Dan Sheehan and wing Jordan Larmour both dotting down twice in Dublin.
Kiwi halfback Jamison Gibson-Park and former Crusaders prop Michael Alaalatoa were also among the try-scorers.
The Bulls edged the Sharks in an all-South African quarterfinal in Pretoria after an 84th minute dropped goal by Chris Smith.
Both sides scored three converted tries and kicked two penalties before Smith ended the stalemate.
The Stormers beat Edinburgh 28-17 in Cape Town after tries to Warrick Gelant, Ruhan Nel and Evan Roos.
Ulster will travel to meet the Stormers in the semifinals after a crushing 36-17 win in Belfast over Irish rivals Munster on Friday (Saturday NZ time).
United Rugby Championships quarterfinals
Ulster 36 Munster 17.
Leinster 76 Glasgow Warriors 14.
Bulls 30 Sharks 27.
Stormers 28 Edinburgh 17.
Semifinal draw (home teams first)
Leinster v Bulls.
Stormers v Ulster.