|Northampton (9) 12|
|Pens: Biggar 4|
|Bordeaux-Begles (9) 16|
|Try: Cordero Con: Jalibert Pens: Botica 3|
Northampton’s miserable losing run continued as Santiago Cordero’s late try snatched a rearguard victory for Bordeaux-Begles at Franklin’s Gardens.
Saints, playing in front of their fans for the first time since lockdown, led 12-9 with six minutes left.
But Cordero reacted quickest when Matthieu Jalibert’s penalty rebounded off the posts to ensure an 11th straight defeat for the hosts.
The visitors survived to win despite two second-half yellow cards.
Bordeaux-Begles were behind in both possession (42%) and territory (35%), but have now stolen a march towards the knockout stages with an away win in the first of their four matches in the tournament’s revamped pool stages.
Northampton’s task only gets harder with back-to-back matches against Pro14 champions Leinster before they play the return fixture in the south of France.
Coach Chris Boyd indicated after the match that he would use the tournament to blood youngsters, rest his established stars and switch his focus to domestic matters instead.
It is a second successive gut-punch defeat for Northampton, who came within a minute of ending their losing streak away to Bristol last weekend.
Boyd’s frustration was visible and understandable at full-time. It seemed that his evening might end more happily when, bolstered by a raft of returning internationals, Saints enjoyed the best of the opening stages.
Dan Biggar was accurate with the boot and canny with the ball in hand, while Courtney Lawes, making his comeback from an ankle injury, added physicality alongside the impressive David Ribbans and Nick Isiekwe.
Biggar landed two early penalties before Bordeaux-Begles, who were at the summit of the Top 14 last season when the campaign was ended early by coronavirus, turned the screw in the scrum.
By the time half-time came, former Harlequin Ben Botica’s boot had provided parity at 9-9 and the visitors might easily have been ahead. With the line beckoning, flanker Mahamadou Diaby could not hold onto a pass after a late break from Cordero.
The visitors’ momentum did not last after the interval though.
Bordeaux-Begles flanker Cameron Woki was shown a yellow card for going into the side of a Saints’ rolling maul just five out from his own line early in the second half.
Soon after he returned to the pitch, Northampton were gifted another powerplay when Bordeaux-Begles scrum-half Maxime Lucu stamped on Lawes’ arm.
Saints could not capitalise on their field position or man advantage during either though.
George Furbank wasted an inviting opening when he had giant wing Taqele Naiyaravoro outside him. Replacement prop James Fish couldn’t hold Alex Mitchell’s clever reverse ball as he burst through round the fringe.
As those chances went begging, Bordeaux-Begles, fuelled by a sense of injustice after a string of calls against them, earned their reward for hanging tough.
Replacement Jalibert’s penalty hit the upright and Cordero snaffled the loose ball ahead of some flat-footed Northampton defenders to dive over for the decisive score.
Northampton could not mount any assault in the time remaining. Instead man of the match Woki almost got in at the corner to increase the winning margin for Bordeaux-Begles.
Northampton: Furbank, Tuala, Proctor, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro, Biggar, Mitchell, Auterac, Matavesi, Franks, Ribbans, Isiekwe, Lawes, Wood, Adendorff.
Replacements: Olowofela for Naiyaravoro (67), Taylor for Mitchell (67), Tonks for Auterac (49), Fish for Matavesi (49), Hill for Franks (49), Ratuniyarawa for Isiekwe (70). Not Used: Van Wyk, Dingwall.
Bordeaux-Begles: Buros, Cordero, Moefana, Lamerat, Lam, Botica, Lucu, Paiva, Lamothe, Cobilas, Petti, Cazeaux, Woki, Diaby, Higginbotham.
Replacements: Uberti for Lamerat (59), Jalibert for Botica (54), Gimbert for Lucu (74), Maynadier for Lamothe (54), Tameifuna for Cobilas (48), Tauleigne for Higginbotham (59). Not Used: Kaulashvili, Marais. Sin Bin: Woki (47), Lucu (64)