Northampton Saints ended Bath Rugby’s unbeaten start to the season with a 24-6 victory at Franklin’s Gardens.
It was a dominant performance from Jim Mallinder’s side and their attacking promise was rewarded early on, when Courtney Lawes crossed the whitewash after just three minutes. After a well-worked line-out, the ball was swept left, with Tom Collins offloading in the tackle to find Lawes, who made a stretch for the line to score, despite the best efforts of Kahn Fotuali’i. 5-0
Bath were quick to respond through two penalties from the ever-reliable boot of Rhys Priestland, which took the visitors into a 5-6 lead with half an hour gone on the clock. However, with the half-time whistle little more than a minute away, Saints made their long spells of first half pressure pay off with a second try of the evening. The home side used the catch and drive from the line-out to good effect, with Bath unable to stop the momentum of the rolling maul. It was left to David Ribbans, who found himself at the bottom of the pile to take his side into the interval with a six-point advantage.
Half-time score – Northampton Saints 12-6 Bath Rugby
Northampton kicked on from where they left off after half-time, and it was Ribbans again, who notched his second try under the Friday night lights at Franklin’s Gardens. After Charlie Ewels was penalised for a high tackle, Harry Mallinder sent the ball deep into the Bath 22, giving his side further attacking momentum. The set-piece, which was strong throughout the 80 minutes, worked to the home side’s advantage once again and it was left to South African Ribbans to drive over the line from close range to put Saints firmly in control of the game. 17-6
Despite going through a number of phases in the midfield in the second-half, Bath were unable to find the killer instinct, which saw them beat Saracens last weekend at the Recreation Ground. After losing Matt Garvey and Kahn Fotuali’i in the first half, Bath’s task was made even more difficult when the impressive Sam Underhill was forced to leave the field with the 13 minutes left to play.
Down to 14 men for the rest of the game, Northampton continued to pile on the pressure on the Bath defence. Despite the brave efforts to hold the home side out, they fought their way over the line to claim a bonus point, with a fourth try of the evening. Centre Luther Burrell and Mallinder used their quick hands to put George North through on the overlap to make it a night to remember for Saints.
Final score – Northampton Saints 24-6 Bath Rugby