Amlin Challenge Cup 2014: Jim Mallinder hails Saints’s Kahn Fotuali’i
Amlin Challenge Cup 2014: Jim Mallinder hails Northampton Saints's star Kahn Fotuali'i
Jim Mallinder hailed scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i as a special player after his inspirational performance led Northampton Saints to the Amlin Challenge Cup final.
The Australian-born Samoan international produced a magic moment to set up the Saints’ first try for Tom Collins and broke away to score their second after the break as they overcame Harlequins 18-10 at Franklin’s Gardens.
He’s a quality player and we’ve got Lee Dickson as well, who has got a little bit of a knock as well, so we’re very, very lucky we’ve got some quality scrum-halves at the club
“Kahn’s a special player,” said the Saints director of rugby. “There were two outstanding nines on the field today and Danny Care—as we’ve seen over the last few weeks—has been in great form.
“I think we marshalled him well and I thought Kahn was outstanding.
The win sees Saints through to a second final this season after their LV=Cup defeat to Exeter Chiefs in March, and they will head to the Arms Park aiming to win the Challenge Cup for a second time on Friday 23 May to take on London Wasps or Bath who meet on Sunday in the second semi-final.
For Fotuali’i, 31, it will be a return to south Wales, where he spent two seasons with the Ospreys, and Mallinder admits Saints are lucky to have options at nine.
“He’s a quality player and we’ve got Lee Dickson as well, who has got a little bit of a knock as well, so we’re very, very lucky we’ve got some quality scrum-halves at the club,” he added.
With two rounds of the Aviva Premiership season remaining, both sides have been hit by injuries for the run-in but Saints overcame an early sin-binning of winger Jamie Elliott for a dangerous tackle and he loss of Wales star George North early in the first half.
“It was a hard-fought win and it was always going to be tough,” Mallinder said.
“Quins are a good side and they value the competition. They wanted to win it and you see from the team they put out that they were going to be competitive.”
Despite boasting influential England quartet Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw, Joe Marler and Care, Quins were unable to live to get into the match until the second half but their reward for dominating possession and territory in the final 40 yielded just one score as Nick Easter found his way over in the final quarter.
“We had to work hard for it,” Mallinder added. “We were brilliant defensively for 80 minutes, stopped a lot of their threats, Danny Care in particular.
“We took our opportunities in attack and our half-backs were very, very good at giving us field position and putting us in the right places.”