Bath Rugby Centurions Club match reporter, Ben Da Costa (aged 14) reviews the Aviva Premiership match between Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints.
Bath Rugby hosted the Northampton Saints at a sold out Rec, with the prospect of a top six finish certainly still an achievable and realistic target with four games left.
Northampton, who saw their top four spot threatened earlier in the afternoon as a result of yet another home win for the Exeter Chiefs, were in determined mood to see off the challenge of the boys in blue, black and white and reclaim the final four playoff spot from the Chiefs.
Bath had made significant changes from the disappointing performance the previous week against Harlequins at the Stoop. In came David Flatman and Pieter Dixon, Matt Banahan returned to the back line, along with a fit again Dan Hipkiss. Centurion's Club favourite Tom Heathcote, was sidelined as a result of an injury sustained in the last match, however Stephen Donald made a timely return to partner the teams captain of the day Michael Claassens, who was deputising for the injured Stuart Hooper and Francois Louw.
In glorious spring weather, the late afternoon kick off resulted in the Saints taking complete control of possession for the first 10 minutes of the game. The Bath defence stood up magnificently but could not quite match the physicality and determination of the well drilled Northampton forwards. This was never better illustrated than in the 10th minute, after five attempts at a successful scrum, with two re-sets and two penalties against Bath, referee Martin Fox had no alternative but to award a penalty try. A simple conversion from the impressive Lamb, whose kicking accuracy was a feature of the game, gave The Saints a deserved 7-0 lead.
The boys could hardly get out of their own half but with just an additional penalty from Lamb all that Northampton had to show for their superiority, it was with great relief that Stephen Donald kicked two subsequent penalties, despite missing out on others, and managed to reduce the score to just 10 - 6 with minutes to half time. However a Lamb drop goal and penalty on the half time whistle, making the half time score 6-16 to the Saints
The second half saw Northampton take full control of the game. Bath had one opportunity for a try in front of the club but Chris Ashton managed to paw the ball into touch to deny the boys a rare scoring opportunity to drag themselves back into this fixture. The rest of the second half was a master class from Mallinder's troops, in how forwards and backs can combine in controlling every phase of play and in particular ball control. The Saints were rewarded in the 64th minute, when ex Bath player Long, used his strength as well as the muscle and team work of his pack, to grind the ball over for a try. The conversion by Myler was as emphatic as the previous accurate kicking from Lamb.
Saints scrum half Lee Dickson was always busy around the base of the scrum and was the main inspiration for the continued fast momentum in unleashing the Saints back line. In this form Northampton will make the final four play off and even with an inevitable away draw, will be formidable opposition that Harlequins and or Saracens, may just want to avoid.
With three games left, Bath Rugby have an opportunity to reverse the recent decline in our performances and get back onto a winning platform and restore pride as well as confidence. On April 13th, I will be travelling to Sale, hoping that the Boys will use Saturday's game as a Watershed moment. This season has been a roller coaster and it is not time to get off the seasons ride!