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Bath Rugby succumb to late Saints penalty

Bath Rugby narrowly lost 11-13 this afternoon to Northampton Saints in a tight encounter in front of a record 13,506 strong crowd.

The first half started tentatively with both teams coming into this game having only won two of their opening five fixtures, and it was clear from the start neither team wanted to lose.

The only points to come in this half were from the boot of Saints fly-half JJ Hanrahan after he converted one of several penalties Bath were to give away in the first act. It was a scrappy first half, with both teams making errors, the scrum count was mounting and frustratingly for the home supporters it was Bath giving away the lion’s share.

An exaggerated amount of scrums were causing the game to slow down and lose much-needed momentum before it had a chance to gather.

There were some glimmers of hope with the return from injury of England centre Jonathon Joseph, who linked well with Anthony Watson and Matt Banahan. Semesa Rokoduguni stood out for his hard running – and equally hard tackling.

Bath tighthead Henry Thomas saw yellow at a collapsed scrum with five minutes of the first half remaining. Saints pressure grew but the Bath back line held strong and the score stayed 0-3 when as the half time whistle blew.

Half time: Bath Rugby 0-3 Northampton Saints

Bath came out for the second half rejuvenated and looking strong. Northampton prop Ethan Waller was lucky to escape any punishment after a high tackle on scrum-half Chris Cook which drew boos and jeers from the home faithful.

Two minutes in, George Ford drew Bath level with a penalty after some good pressure forced a Northampton mistake, and the atmosphere around the ground began to grow. However, the hope was short-lived: Ford, caught in no-man’s land in his 22 by a Northampton blitz and unable to clear, opted for a looping pass that Saints centre Luther Burrell read and intercepted to run in under the posts. Hanrahan converted and gave Saints a 3-10 lead.

Ford added another penalty to make it 6-10 soon thereafter, and Bath then managed to take the lead with less than 20 minutes remaining. The forwards worked hard and patiently through numerous phases to get the ball to Joseph who found Watson, who in turn found Rokoduguni, the winger gathering a head of steam to run through the gain line and give a stiff hand-off to the oncoming Saints defender. Rokoduguni then sprinted over to touch down and give the home crowd something to cheer about. Ford missed the touchline conversion but Bath held a slender 11-10 lead.

With eight minutes remaining in the match, Bath gave away another penalty at the scrum and, seizing the opportunity, Hanrahan went for the posts and gave saints a two-point lead. 11-13.

Despite a resilient attempt to swing the momentum back in their favour, Bath were unable to capitalize on any more (admittedly dazzling) play and the Saints turned the ball over to allow replacement fly-half Stephen Myler to kick to touch and in the process bring the curtain down on a frustrating afternoon for the home side.

Final Score: Bath Rugby 11 – 13 Northampton Saints

Report by Samual Sims

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