28 December 2013, 6:14pm
Bath Rugby's 11 game winning run came to an end in a fiercely contested encounter between the teams lying in second and third place in the Aviva Premiership at Franklin's Gardens, with Northampton Saints securing a 43-25 win.
The start to the game was disrupted after referee Luke Pearce got caught up in play and suffered a nasty looking cut. This meant he couldn't continue and after a delay, he was replaced by Martin Fox.
When play re-started, it was Bath who were out of the blocks first. A powerful shunt by the forwards earned the penalty and a first shot at goal for George Ford. The young fly-half made no mistake with his kick. 0-3.
Minutes later, a seering run by Anthony Watson along the left touchline split the Saints defence and the flying Kyle Eastmond followed up in support to finish a great move. Ford slotted the easy conversion. 0-10.
The Bath scrum looked to be in full force as Saints again infringed leaving Ford with another opportunity to kick at goal. 0-13.
However, Saints went straight back on the attack and despite a booming hit on Hartley by Louw, Bath were penalised at the breakdown. The home side's ambition was clear as Myler kicked for the corner and Saints thought they'd scored from the resulting maul, but referee Fox ruled the try out after a quick consultation with the TMO.
With the pressure now very much on the visitors, Bath soon found themselves down to fourteen men as Paul James was sent to the bin having adjudged to have collapsed a maul. Myler again kicked for the corner and after sustained pressure on the Bath line, Christian Day dived over unopposed in the corner. Myler was on target with a tricky touchline conversion to move Saints back within a score of the visitors. 7-13.
Saints continued their pressure, and a pin-point crossfield kick from Myler found Elliot, and a quick pass to George Pisi saw the centre crash over. Myler was again accurate with the boot to give his side the lead for the first time in the match. 14-13, after 30 minutes played.
With the momentum with the home side, another attacking lineout, followed by some quick play from the backs, spread the Bath defence too wide and Jamie Elliott touched down in the corner. Myler converted to move the score to 21-13 with only minutes of the first-half remaining.
Half-time: Northampton Saints 21 - Bath Rugby 13.
Saints started the second half exactly how they ended the first, with Day going on over for his second try of the game. Bath were caught cold in defence and the lock bundled his way over from close range to secure the bonus point for Saints. Myler again split the posts with his conversion to move his side further in front. 28-13.
Bath were still fighting though, and were straight back on the attack. They came close to scoring after a perfectly weighted crossfield kick by Eastmond was narrowly missed by Agulla as George North hacked the ball to safety.
The resulting scrum led to sustained pressure on the Saints 5m line, which eventually resulted in Rob Webber bundling over from close range. Ford was unlucky to nudge a tricky conversion just wide of the mark. 28-18.
The home side were still working hard to find gaps in the Bath defence and after several phases of pressure, Samu Manoa found his way over the try line. Myler's conversion attempt bounced back off the uprights. 33-18.
Neither side was showing any let up in an incredibly physical encounter. An electric break by Jonathan Joseph saw him chip ahead and put him one on one with replacement Tom Collins. The chip ran long, and forced the Saints fullback to touch the ball down over his own line.
With 12 minutes left on the clock, another powerful scrum by the Bath forwards was grounded by replacement Leroy Houston leaving Ford with a straight forward conversion. 33-25.
In the closing stages, a penalty at the breakdown went the way of the home side and Myler was again accurate with the boot to edge his side even further clear. 35-25.
With time up on the clock, Bath had no option but to run a penalty from inside their own half as they went in search of both a losing and try scoring bonus point.
However, the ball was lost allowing George North to run in unopposed to seal the win for his side and deny a courageous Bath effort.
Final score: Northampton Saints 43 - Bath Rugby 25
Referee: Luke Pearce
Half Time score: 21-13
Tries: Day (20,42), Pisi (28), Elliott (33), Manoa (57), North (80)
Cons: Myler (20,30,34,43,81)
Pens: Myler (75)
Tries: Eastmond (5), Webber (52), Houston (66)
Cons: Ford (6,67)
Pens: Ford (3,15)
|28/12/13||Harlequins||22 - 6||Exeter|
|28/12/13||Leicester||30 - 23||Sale|
|28/12/13||Worcester||8 - 26||Saracens|
|FB||Ken Pisi||15||Anthony Watson||FB|
|1||W||Jamie Elliott||14||Horacio Agulla||W|
|1||C||George Pisi||13||Jonathan Joseph||C|
|C||Luther Burrell||12||Kyle Eastmond||C||1|
|1||W||George North||11||Matthew Banahan||W|
|1||5||FH||Stephen Myler||10||George Ford||FH||2||2|
|SH||Kahn Fotuali'I||9||Martin Roberts||SH|
|P||Alex Waller||1||Paul James||P|
|H||Dylan Hartley||2||Robert Webber||H||1|
|P||Salesi Ma'afu||3||Anthony Perenise||P|
|L||Courtney Lawes||4||Stuart Hooper||L|
|2||L||Chris Day||5||Dave Attwood||L|
|FL||Calum Clark||6||Matthew Garvey||FL|
|FL||Tom Wood||7||Francois Louw||FL|
|1||8||Samu Manoa||8||Carl Fearns||8|