Mallinder clinches play-off victory for Northampton

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Harry Mallinder proved the difference as Northampton Saints downed Connacht 21-15 in the European Champions Cup play-off semi-final at Franklin Gardens.

Mallinder scored the game's first try after just 57 seconds and finished with a tally of 16 points as Northampton set up a meeting with European Challenge Cup winners Stade Francais on Friday.

The result means Pat Lam departs for Bristol having failed to secure Connacht a place in the premier continental competition after their eighth-place finish in Pro12.

An excellent kick and chase was followed by great hands from Ben Foden and Ahsee Tuala put Mallinder in for the opening score in the first minute, but Connacht hit back through Niyi Adeolokun.

A pair of Mallinder penalties helped give Saints a three-point lead at the interval, and Nic Groom darted over to extend their advantage in the 57th minute.

Dave Heffernan kept Connacht's hopes alive with a quick response, but Mallinder split the posts once more and Northampton saw out the win despite Jamie Gibson being shown a yellow card in the closing stages.