NORTHAHAMPTON avenged last week’s 25-6 defeat by Ulster with a 10-9 victory at a packed Ravenhill that keeps their Heineken Cup hopes alive.
Ruan Pienaar had a chance to kick a penalty three minutes from time that would have extended Ulster’s winning run in all competitions to 14 games.
But the South African hooked his attempt wide and the Saints held on for a deserved victory from a scrappy and error-strewn contest.
Few gave Northampton a hope after their four-try demolition in the reverse fixture at Franklin’s Gardens, but this was a very different Saints performance from the outset.
They raced out of the traps and created three early opportunities, the best of them wasted by George Pisi when he ignored a three-man overlap to cut back inside and waste the chance in defensive traffic.
But that attack gave Stephen Myler the opportunity to kick the visitors ahead and on 17 minutes Saints got the try their pressure merited when GJ Van Velze crashed over in corner, blasting through Andrew Trimble with a powerful finish.
Myler added the extras and Saints had the start they needed to restore some belief.
Ultimately those 10 points proved enough.
Paddy Jackson’s three penalties chipped away at the lead but both sides were unable to turn decent attacking opportunities into more tries, although Tom May came closest, just failing to ground Myler’s grubber kick.
Pienaar attempted a penalty from 60 metres just before the hour but was well short.
His chance in the closing moments was a lot easier, although he may have been distracted by a lengthy wait as Tommy Bowe received treatment.
Despite his miss and their first Heineken Cup defeat at Ravenhill for four years, Ulster remain in comntrol of Pool 4 after three wins, but Northampton are still alive heading into round five.