17 September 2012, 12:26pm
With the game barely 60 seconds old, a grubber kick by wing Tom Biggs sent the ball at an angle into the corner, which was grabbed by a delighted Nick Abendenon who dived over for the first and only try of a hard, pulsating and, at times, frustrating game for the boys in black, blue and white.
With an early lead of 5-0, which became 8-3 with exchanges of penalties between the two teams, Bath looked comfortable and in control against one of the favourites for this year's Aviva Premiership title. The battle of the forwards was seen as a test as to how far the boys have progressed this season and the front three of Wilson, James and the resurgent Mears proved to be more than a match for the Saints front row. With England coach Stuart Lancaster looking on, it was debatable whether he was more drawn to full back Bendy staking an early claim for the England 15 shirt or thinking why on earth had Lee Mears called a premature end to his International career as he dominated in the scrum against the current England hooker and Saints Captain Dylan Hartley.
The game became peppered with Bath infringements being penalised by the Ref. The Captain and players looked irritated by some decisions, which allowed Northampton to slowly grind their way ahead in the match with penalty after penalty as indiscipline appeared to become an issue, at least in the eyes of the match officials. Olly Barkley had opportunities to keep Bath in contention and even nudge ahead in the penalty stakes but Friday night was just not his night as he gave 100% effort to keep Bath on a winning streak.
The Saints enjoyed a greater amount of possession in the second half, as Bath continued to focus on a strategy of kicking and trying to force Northampton on to the back foot. With greater accuracy and better decision making this may have unsettled the opposition, who instead retained ball in hand and made slow but steady territorial advantage, without ever looking like they would penetrate a strong and well organised Bath defence for a try.
Ben Williams, who was having his first start to the season in place of the injured Matt Banahan, produced a solid performance in a strong centre pairing with Dan Hipkiss. Kyle Eastmond was not given the same opportunities to shine as last week, whilst Biggsy produced yet again in both defensive and attacking duties. At 15, Nick Abendenon stood out as the man of the game, despite one minor fumble. He looked class, possibly International class, which would not have gone unnoticed by the England selectors.
There is a sense of belief that we could have won and maybe we should have won. Hopefully this frustration and momentum will carry forward to the next game at London Irish, which will be interesting for all and, in particular, to the Bath coaches, who will be returning to a very familiar place.