28 January 2012, 6:26pm
46 was the magic number once more for Bath, as they stayed on course for a semi-final place in the LV= Cup, beating Northampton Saints 46-14, securing a try bonus point in the process.
Bath started the game at a blistering pace, attacking hard and playing very flat on the gain line. Quick recycling from scrum half Michael Claassens and slick hands in the backs were stretching the Northampton Saints defence right across the pitch. A spilt line out from Saints provided Bath with an early attacking platform with a scrum on the visitors 22. A well-orchestrated backs move seemed to have enabled England Saxons fullback Nick Abendanon to slip through, but he was to be caught just shy of the line. Despite the Saints clearing their line and relieving themselves of the pressure, Bath were straight back at them with further pressure resulting in an early penalty from centre Olly Barkley. He added another three points shortly after, doubling the early lead to 6-0.
The Saints clawed back three points soon after, following an impressive break from flanker Ben Nutley, who evaded the tackle of winger Tom Biggs and good supporting play forced Bath offside as they rushed back in defence. Fly half Stephen Myler slotted the simple penalty. After further infringements from both sides, Barkley and Myler traded penalties to take the score to 9-6.
Following on from last week's powerful forward performance, Bath were really utilising the pin point accuracy of Barkley as another penalty in quick succession saw Barkley take Bath to double figures with ten minutes left in the first half. 12-6.
It was three minutes from half time before either side managed to cross the try line, and it was Bath who struck with a deserved try. Bath's determination prevailed as some great hands, especially from fly half Stephen Donald, used the full width of the Recreation Ground. The Saints defence, now under immense strain from the intensity of the Bath attack, suffered from a dog legged defence and as the ball found hooker Ross Batty, he threw the dummy and strolled past his defender to score to the joy of the crowd. Barkley added the extras. 19-6.
At the close of the half, Saints added a further three points to their tally with another penalty from Myler, but Bath still held a ten point lead as the teams went in for the break.
An incredible fine individual effort ignited the second half as prop Anthony Perenise lit up the field. A fantastic chase by Olly Woodburn forced Saints to knock the ball on and gave Bath the chance to attack early. As the backs whipped the ball wide with Nick Abendanon straightening up, the ruck was quickly recycled with Claassens' pass falling low. However, the bounce was picked up well by Perenise, who threw an outrageous dummy and accelerated forwards. With a couple of defenders to beat the Samoan international turned on the skill with two fancy side steps and a 'goose' step to reach out and score under the sticks, followed by a huge roar from the crowd. Barkley converted. 26-9.
To the Saint's credit, their professional response was rewarded as a well rolled maul forced its way over from close range, and after a pending TMO decision, Alex Waller was awarded a try. 26-14.
Saints, now aware of the upper hand Bath had on the game rang the changes with heavy weight props Brian Mujati and Soane Tonga'uiha making their way onto the field alongside speedster winger Noah Cato.
Despite the presence of the Saints first choice props, Bath showed they could provide the muscle up front and as a maul began to roll towards the try line, Saints came offside again allowing Barkley to slot another three points. 29-14.
Bath were showing their threat from every area of the pitch as a counter attack from Abendanon started a long run of phases that eventually led to a superb team-effort try. Bath were patient with their possession as a hold up in a ruck could have dampened their momentum with an attacking scrum. However, with Bath players running hard off every phase, something had to give. A signature Donald miss pass looped over three defenders to find Sam Vesty who gave the inside ball to young Woodburn whose athletic effort saw him touch down in the far right corner. 34-14.
With the bonus point just a sniff away, Bath went surging forward again as the Saints could not seem to get out of their half. More clinical play saw the ball make its way from one touch line to another. After some great physicality by the forwards working hard at the breakdown, the ball was spun wide once more and with holes in the Saints defence, the ball found a waiting Donald who crossed over for the bonus point try. 39-14.
Bath added insult to injury for the visitors who had nothing left in the tank with a fifth and final try. The forwards, who had been working so hard all game, sensed the try line and with a handful of pick and drives, replacement prop Charlie Beech powered over from close range. Barkley slotted the conversion. 46-14.
The final play of the game summed up the match as the Saints went surging for a last minute consolation try. However, like most of the game, the Bath defence stood strong and determined, and after a penalty to the home side, the ball was sent flying into the stands, the game won and a full five points taken. Final Score Bath Rugby 46 Northampton Saints 14.
By Rob Breckon
Referee: Sean Davey
Half Time score: 19-9
Tries: Batty (36), Perenise (41), Woodburn (69), Donald (72), Beech (76)
Cons: Barkley (36,41,77)
Pens: Barkley (8,14,19,26,64)
Tries: Waller (44)
Pens: Myler (17,22,39)
|28/01/12||London Wasps||16 - 30||Exeter|
|28/01/12||Harlequins||9 - 19||Leicester|
|28/01/12||Scarlets||27 - 19||London Irish|
|28/01/12||Gloucester||40 - 3||Cardiff Blues|
|FB||Nick Abendanon||15||Paul Diggin||FB|
|1||W||Ollie Woodburn||14||Jamie Elliott||W|
|C||Sam Vesty||13||Scott Armstrong||C|
|5||3||C||Olly Barkley||12||Greig Tonks||C|
|W||Tom Biggs||11||Vasily Artemyev||W|
|1||FH||Stephen Donald||10||Stephen Myler||FH||3|
|SH||Michael Claassens||9||Martin Roberts||SH|
|P||David Flatman||1||Alex Waller||P||1|
|1||H||Ross Batty||2||Brett Sharman||H|
|1||P||Anthony Perenise||3||Tom Mercey||P|
|L||Stuart Hooper||4||Mark Sorenson||L|
|L||Ryan Caldwell||5||Chris Day||L|
|FL||Ben Skirving||6||James Craig||FL|
|FL||Francois Louw||7||Ben Nutley||FL|
|8||Simon Taylor||8||Samu Manoa||8|