Bath Rugby secured Heineken Champions Cup for next season with a bonus-point 30-24 win against Northampton Saints in front of fans at the Rec.
With the crowd’s roar behind them for the first time in over a year, Bath piled the pressure on Saints earning a penalty with just four minutes on the clock. It was the start of what became a hugely entertaining game full of big moments and unwavering passion.
A Ben Spencer turnover and Beno Obano carry combination saw Rhys Priestland get his boot on the ball to deliver a superb high kick. Joe Cokanasiga received, hitting it back to Jonathon Joseph. The centre kicked in behind and Captain, Charlie Ewels brought down the covering Saints player. Relentless pressure followed, and the Blue, Black, and White won a penalty.
Skipper Charlie Ewels opted for Priestland to kick from the tee. The fly-half, who today ran out for the last time for the club, nailed his effort securing his side three points. [3-0]
The Blue, Black, and White remained a resilient force unsettling Northampton for a solid 15 minutes.
The visitors got their first points of the game at the 20-minute mark via Taqele Naiyaravoro. A well-worked move saw the wing sprint over in the corner for the score. The home crowd thought they’d seen a forward pass as they shouted in unison. However, referee Ian Tempest called the try, and James Grayson neatly converted, taking Saints into the lead. [3-7]
Stuart Hooper’s side immediately hit back as Sam Underhill charged down a box kick in the Saints 22. The flanker, who returns to Eddie Jones’ England camp next week, remained composed and finished off his spectacular defensive work with a try in the corner. [8-7]
Just moments later, Bath’s two Lions combined, showing their class. Anthony Watson evaded three defenders to race into the backfield. The wing drew the Saints player in and sent the ball to Taulupe Faletau, who dived over under the sticks. Priestland added the extras. [15-7]
The two sides were entertaining the crowd, who had not been at the Rec for over 15 months. The energy was high, and 36 minutes into the first half, Saints went over in the corner.
Naiyaravoro punched a hole up the middle and offloaded to the onrushing Rory Hutchinson.
Bath’s powerful wing, Joe Cokanasiga, delivered his best efforts to bring him down. Still, he managed to ground the ball out wide. Grayson converted from the touchline, taking the scores to within one point. [15-14]
Just as the half was about to close, and despite several massive hits from a relentless Bath pack, Northampton managed to edge their way over the line through Naiyaravoro. The visitors remained patient and scored on the stroke of half-time. [15-19]
The second half got underway, and within three minutes, Ben Spencer was over the line. However, Tempest went to TMO looking at a potential knock-on. The onfield decision was a knock-on, and there was insufficient evidence to prove otherwise. A no-try was ruled to the crowds’ dislike.
United and buoyed by the decision, the Blue, Black, and White faithful got behind their team and fuelled their fire. Within moments Bath’s were over again. Du Toit threw in, expertly, getting his hands on the ball at the back of the maul. He was marched to the line by the rest of the pack and several joining backs! Priestland converted, giving Bath the lead. [22-19]
To the roar of the crowd, Zach Mercer made his way onto the pitch for his 100th appearance in the Blue, Black, and White as he replaced Sam Underhill on the 56th-minute mark. It looked like he would score within minutes as if written in the stars, but he was taken down just short of the line by Saints.
From that moment, the visitors piled on the pressure and eventually won the field, going over on the stretch. It was Grayson with the score, but the fly-half missed the conversion. [22-24]
Five minutes later, Saints were pinged for offside from a kick, and Bath moved way up-field to the 22. Priestland slotted the penalty and put his side back into the lead! [25-24]
The game kept twisting and turning when Tom Doughty got over for what would have been his first score in club colours, but the TMO ruled a no-try. The crowd brought the energy lifting their team. To their delight, the young hooker broke away from the back of the maul, crossing again within moments. But, again and to the home crowd’s horror, it was ruled as another no-try. Tempest awarded a yellow to Saints Ehren Painter for his actions close to the line taking them to 14 men for the rest of the game. [25-24]
A nail-biting final ten minutes saw Bath Rugby hold out a rampant saints with discipline and belief to secure the win. Josh Bayliss finished the job with an inspiring 50 metre run to dive over the line as the clock went dead. His teammate, Priestland, converted with his last ever kick in Blue, Black, and White, securing Champions Cup rugby next season and a massive sense of pride.
15. Tom de Glanville, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Max Ojomoh, 11. Joe Cokanasiga, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Beno Obano, 2. Jacques du Toit, 3. Christian Judge, 4. Josh McNally, 5. Charlie Ewels ©, 6. Miles Reid, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: 16. Tom Doughty, 17. Juan Schoeman, 18. Henry Thomas, 19. Will Spencer, 20. Zach Mercer, 21. Josh Bayliss, 22. Will Chudley, 23. Orlando Bailey
15. Tommy Freeman, 14. Tom Collins, 13. Fraser Dingwall, 12. Rory Hutchinson, 11. Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10. James Grayson, 9. Alex Mitchell; 1. Alex Waller, 2. Mike Haywood, 3. Paul Hill, 4. Alex Coles, 5. Alex Moon, 6. Courtney Lawes, 7. Lewis Ludlam ©, 8. Tom Wood
Replacements: 16. James Fish, 17. Francois Van Wyk, 18. Ehren Painter, 19. Api Ratuniyarawa, 20. Ollie Newman, 21. Connor Tupai, 22. Tom Lichfield, 23. Josh Gillespie
12 June 2021
Referee: Ian Tempest
Half Time score: 15-19
- Tries: Underhill (21), Faletau (24), du Toit (44), Bayliss (80)
- Conversions: Priestland (25, 46)
- Penalties: Priestland (3, 61)
- Tries: Naiyaravoro (19, 39), Hutchinson (35), Grayson (58)
- Conversions: Grayson (20, 36)