Bath Rugby suffer at the hands of Saints

Bath Rugby suffered their first defeat of the Aviva Premiership season as they went down to an impressive Northampton Saints team at Franklin's Gardens, 31-10.
Following victories over Leeds Carnegie and London Irish, Bath were replaced at the top of the table by Saints, who outscored their visitors by four tries to one on a disappointing evening for Bath.
Head coach Steve Meehan was disappointed with his team's performance on the evening and knows they can - and must - improve ahead of home matches against Sale Sharks and Gloucester.

"That was nowhere near the standards we set ourselves, and as a result it was a wake-up call very early in the season for us," said Meehan. "We had a good warm-up and everyone felt good. So to go out and lose the physical battle - particularly at the breakdown - was disappointing.

"We have the next two weeks now where we have to turn it around. We talk about player empowerment and responsibility, and this is when they need to take it."

Phil Dowson, Chris Ashton (two) and Joe Ansbro scored the tries that gave Northampton their bonus point win, while Bath mustered a late consolation try when replacement Ben Williams went over for his first Premiership score.

Bath trailed 11-3 at half-time after being competitive for lengthy periods of the opening half, but failing to take their scoring chances.

Matt Carraro was denied after racing ahead in the first minute, before Olly Barkley failed with a long-range penalty attempt with the score level at 0-0.

Saints began to get on top and punished Bath's indiscipline when Shane Geraghty slotted over an 18th-minute penalty, with the same player making it 6-0 a few minutes later, after referee Chris White spotted a Bath infringement on their own line-out.

With their tails up, Northampton took a grip on the contest and soon conjured the first try off a powerful and incisive line-out move. They swept their way to the brink of the Bath line through a combination of slick passing and forward strength - and when Soane Tonga'uiha and Geraghty were stopped just short, Dowson arrived to dive over.

Having been level at 0-0 on 18 minutes, Bath found themselves 11-0 down after 25, and in need of quick points.

Barkley hit the bar with a long-range penalty attempt on 29 minutes, before Bath started to find a way back into the contest.

David Wilson charged into the Saints 22 to spark a move which led to Shontayne Hape going close on the right wing and then Tom Biggs doing the same on the left - and when the pressure died, it was clearly a chance missed.

Bath came close again on the right wing, although the referee had spotted a forward pass in the build-up, but they got on the scoreboard through a Barkley penalty on the stroke of half-time.

The opening period had, at times, provided encouragement - but the second half was one Bath would rather forget, as Northampton turned the screw.

They scored their second try of the match within 30 seconds of the restart after returning Bath's kick with interest, with Dowson breaking off the back of a rolling maul, throwing a dummy and releasing Ashton to run the ball in from 40 metres.

Another Geraghty penalty made it 19-3 to the hosts - and Bath's task became even more difficult when Wilson was sin-binned for deliberately obstructing Northampton after straying into their attacking line.

Bath's scrum came under immense pressure without their starting tighthead - and referee White was playing advantage for a scrummaging offence against the visitors when the ball was again worked wide to Ashton, who scored from close range.

More dynamic work from Northampton in the Bath 22 led to Ansbro racing over to secure the bonus point on 68 minutes, before Bath hit back in the closing stages to score a well-worked try when Biggs set up Williams.

The 21-year-old centre, one of several young Bath replacements to provide a glimmer of positivity on a difficult evening, saw his try converted by Sam Vesty to provide some consolation to the visitors.

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