x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Northampton chief has high hopes for match-winning Geraghty

Northampton's director of rugby Jim Mallinder hailed Shane Geraghty as "a special talent" after the fly-half set up a stunning 31-27 Heineken Cup win over Munster.

Northampton's director of rugby Jim Mallinder hailed Shane Geraghty as "a special talent" after the fly-half set up a stunning 31-27 Heineken Cup win over Munster at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday night. Geraghty scored 21 of the Saints' points and capped a superb performance in front of watching England manager Martin Johnson by stealing over for an opportunist try late in the first half when he tapped and ran a penalty that Munster expected him to kick for goal. "We have seen Shane play at Under 20 level for England and throughout the age groups and he is a special talent," Mallinder said.

"What he has done today is to back up a number of very good performances for us this season and that is probably his best performance for us. "He made a lot of good options in attack, and he can see where space is whether it is his passing or his running game, he's a real threat to defenders." But Mallinder declined to be drawn on whether Geraghty should be promoted from England Saxons to the elite squad.

"That's a decision for Martin Johnson to make," Mallinder said. "Martin has got to decide whether he wants to play Shane and, if so, where. I have no hesitation in playing him in either position, at No 10 [fly-half] or 12 [centre]." Mallinder also praised young lock Courtney Lawes, who stood up to a thorough examination by Munster's British and Irish Lions second-row pairing of Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan.

"He's certainly got the size, he's certainly got the athletic ability and he's certainly got the desire," Mallinder said. "As for whether he is ready for England, we will probably know after this next series of European games. But he certainly didn't let himself down against two outstanding and experienced locks for Munster." Chris Ashton scored two tries for the Saints, while David Wallace and Tomas O'Leary both claimed tries for Munster and Ronan O'Gara kicked 14 points.

The Munster captain O'Connell admitted that his side's defensive lapses had cost them the chance of opening their campaign with a win. "It wasn't a fabulous performance but it was an improvement on Leinster last week. But we let in too many soft scores," O'Connell said. "Against a team of the quality of Northampton you can't give them those opportunities. "They are good at taking their opportunities. They have a strong ball-carrying game and when we presented them with opportunities they took them very well."

* With agencies