Bath Rugby put on a five try thriller in front of a sold out Recreation Ground to go unbeaten in the Premiership this year as they delighted the home crowd with a show stopping win over Northampton Saints. Final Score 38-8.
With Bath having won two of their last three Aviva Premiership games on the road, the home side were looking to show they can do just as well on home turf with a sold out Recreation Ground welcoming Northampton Saints.
As the previous night's rain clouds were starting to clear and the sun was filling the pitch, the atmosphere was building in anticipation of an epic showdown, with each side having a lot to play for.
An adventurous kick-off enabled winger Matt Banahan to win the kick-off and give Bath the first chance to attack the Saints try line. A spilt ball prevented the home side capitalising on their early possession and let the visitors take their turn.
Showing their dangerous capabilities, the Saints flooded towards the Bath line. Powerhouse saints prop Soane Tonga'uiha powered towards the line and looked as if he had scored but the great defence of hooker Lee Mears saved the home side.
Bath showed early on their intention to use the width of the pitch with a team effort spinning the ball from one side of the pitch to another. With holes opening up in the defence, the Saints crumpled under pressure and were penalised, providing Olly Barkley the opportunity to take Bath ahead. 3-0.
However, moments later the tables had turned and Northampton were presented with a penalty opportunity after Bath were penalised not rolling away in the tackle. Fly-half Stephen Myler's usual accuracy failed him with a missed penalty attempt.
It was only a matter of time until Bath really capitalised on their dominant possession. With the ball being thrown around by all positions in the team, Ben Skirving powered through a hole breaking up the Saints defence. The quick recycling of scrum half Michael Claassens allowed the backs to shovel the ball quickly along the line to find Matt Banahan to score the first try of the game. Barkley added the extras. 10-0.
Bath demonstrated their defensive cohesiveness when an excellent turnover and counter attack let winger Tom Biggs loose down the wing. A high tackle prevented him from continuing his break with referee Wayne Barnes reaching to his pocket to send Greig Tonks to the bin.
The set piece was working perfectly for Bath as a lineout and back move let Banahan come in from the short, blast his opposing wing out the way and charge towards the line. Matt Carraro received the flick from the back of Banahan's hand and scored Bath's second try. Barkley added his own two making the score 17-0 with under five minutes left in the first half.
Northampton recovered three points just after the restart, as Bath gave away a penalty in the contact, enabling Myler to get the Saints' first points on the board. With ten seconds left on the clock Bath's discipline let them down again and gave Myler another opportunity, but the ball bounced off the posts.
Half time: 17-3
Bath piled the pressure on the visitors immediately from the second half kick-off, when a superbly performed backs move reached Banahan who chipped and chased, forcing the scrambling Saints defence to take the ball over their line for an attacking Bath scrum. Unable to use the ball as they did in the first half, a solid defence turned over the ball and cleared their line.
With the clearance kick not finding touch, full back Nick Abendanon weaved his way towards the Saints players. Using the ball wisely and drawing in the defence, a fantastic step and switch back pass from Claassens fed Banahan who stormed to the try line to score under the posts with a cheering crowd roaring him on. Barkley again converted. 24-3.
Banahan's hat trick and the bonus point try showed Bath's dominance of the game. More fluid hands in the backs as a result of the forwards physicality in the contact, saw Matt Banahan stretch his legs and smash through a flat defence and touch down just shy of the upright. Barkley kept up his 100 % record adding the extras. 31-3.
Northampton were not a side to give up until the final whistle and responded to Bath quickly with a try of their own, with full-back Tonks scoring with twenty minutes left. Winger Bruce Reihana missed the conversion. 31-8.
There wasn't a single position on the Bath side that hadn't outplayed their opposite number, with Bath bombarding Northampton with endless waves of attack with still seven minutes remaining. A penalty and kick to the corner showed Bath's confidence and dominance of the game and despite a scrappy lineout, the Blue, Black and Whites recovered the ball after the Saints knocked on in their counter.
A set piece from the back of the scrum provided the crowd with more to cheer about. Desperate defence prevented a number of Bath players from nearly scoring but Bath patience and composure prevailed. With the defence in tatters, a nifty offload in the tackle to replacement Sam Vesty gave the fifth and final try to seal a game which Bath deserved to win and a result that took them nearer towards the play off positions.
Full Time. 38-8.
Today's Match Day Sponsor was Gardline Marine Sciences, and the Match Ball Sponsor was James Latham