Bath Rugby fell to their first defeat in seven games at Franklin's Gardens this afternoon, but managed to secure an important losing bonus point as the game finished 25-23.
Bath started the game well, and took advantage when Saints fumbled an early lineout in the 22. A series of phases inched the visitors closer to the line, and the pressure finally told with Saints infringing. Tom Heathcote knocked over the resulting penalty, but it was cancelled out moments later by Stephen Myler for the home side. 3-3.
However, despite the early endeavours from the visitors, it was Saints who took the lead on 22 minutes with a try from winger Jamie Elliott. The home side applied pressure, spread the ball wide and Myler threw a looping pass out to Elliott on the wing. He gathered the ball and darted over in the corner despite the last-ditch efforts of mNick Abendanon. 8-3.
Bath started clawing back from the re-start, with Horacio Agulla nearly breaking free for a try of his own. The resulting scrum saw Bath win the penalty, and despite slipping on making contact with the ball, Heathcote's kick was good. 8-6.
Myler added another three, before a huge scrum from Bath against the head drove the Saints pack back over their own line. The visitors couldn't ground the ball, but were awarded the penalty, and Heathcote kept them within two points going in at half-time.
Half-time score – Northampton Saints 11 – Bath Rugby 9
Saints maintained their slight dominance for the opening minutes of the second-half, with Myler edging them further ahead on the score-board with three consecutive penalties. 20-9.
However, despite the score-line, Bath were certainly not out of the game, and the next two scores went to the visitors.
First, more great pressure from the Bath pack saw referee Luke Pearce award a penalty try. Heathcote again converted, taking the score back to a four point game.
Next, a fantastic piece of play from Semesa Rokoduguni saw the centre, called into the starting line-up as a late replacement from Matt Banahan, intercept a pass inside his own half and sprint away from the covering Saints defence to score between the posts. Heathcote was again on song with the conversion, giving Bath the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game. 20-23.
Both sides kept fighting as the clock ran down, and when Saints went on the attack again, they pulled the defence too far and Elliott again slipped through in the corner to give the home side the winning score. Bath tried to work something in the dying minutes, but it wasn't to be, and the visitors had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Final Score - Northampton Saints 25 - Bath Rugby 23.