A last minute try snatched a 27-26 victory for Northampton Saints over Bath Rugby, in a hard-fought contest at Franklin’s Gardens.
The hosts came out firing in the first five minutes of the game but all attempts were met and quashed by the Bath defence. Saints looked like they crossed the whitewash early on however referee Ian Tempest used the TMO to reveal a Bath Rugby hand stopped the grounding.
Whilst the game started with gusto it took 16 minutes before the first points were found. A penalty awarded at the scrum allowed Northampton an opportunity to kick for goal. Positioned over 40 meters out and on the wing, fly-half James Grayson sent the ball through the posts to give his side the three point lead. [3-0]
Bath secured the first try of the half, 30 minutes into the game following some exceptional offloading from Dave Attwood and Jonathan Joseph (who were celebrating 150 and 100 appearances for their club respectively). Fly-half Rhys Priestland made good ground before sending Ruaridh McConnochie clear. The winger charged up the left flank, leaving defenders in his wake, dotting the ball firmly down in the corner. Priestland added the extras. [3-7]
Half-Time – Northampton Saints 3-7 Bath Rugby
It didn’t take long in the second half for the first points to be scored, Bath extended their lead three minutes in. A penalty at the scrum gave Priestland the opportunity to further his sides lead, he slotted the ball through the uprights to give Bath a seven point buffer. [3-10]
Northampton responded immediately with their first try of the game coming just three minutes later. The hosts made an impressive break down the right flank, bringing play to just meters out from the try line. As Bath’s defence attempted to regather, the ball was spread out wide to Rory Hutchinson who went over in the right corner. Grayson’s kick from out wide was good and the scores were level. [10-10]
In a game of cat and mouse, Bath responded two minutes later. Powerful carries from Attwood and Nathan Catt took play deep inside Saints half, Mercer received the ball at pace on the Northampton 22, the number eight showed his versatility, slicing through Northampton’s defence, and showing his turn of pace to run in to score. Priestland made no mistake with the extras. [10-17].
Saints won a penalty at the set piece and Grayson kept his 100% kicking record clean and added another three for his team with 56 minutes on the clock. [13-17]
The next points of the game came three minutes later as Bath were awarded a penalty after Jackson Willison was taken without the ball. Priestland continued his clean record from the tee to take Bath to seven in front. [13-20]
The home side did well from the restart, Northampton Saints were patient in the build-up, good carries from the forwards and moments of magic from the hosts back-line brought play to 15 metres out. Alex Mitchell dummied a pass from the base of the ruck and sneaked through a gap in Bath’s defensive line to score. The conversion was good, and the scores were level again. [20-20]
Joseph showed his class following the set piece, breaking through the Northampton defensive line, taking play to just five metres out. Referee Ian Tempest awarded Bath a penalty at the resulting breakdown and Priestland sent the ball through the uprights to give Bath a narrow lead with 10 minutes remaining. [20-23]
The lead was doubled three minutes later, Priestland sending another penalty over after another breakdown penalty, the fly-half clearly had his kicking boots on. [20-26]
It was Northampton who had the last say however, spending the final five minutes of the game camped just out from the Bath try-line, the hosts picked up a penalty advantage. Lock David took the penalty quickly, catching the Bath defenders unaware and crashing over to score under the posts. The kick from in front sailed over, Saints snatching it at the death. [27-26]
Full-time – Northampton Saints 27-26 Bath Rugby
23 February 2019
Referee: Ian Tempest
Half Time score: 3-7
- Tries: Hutchinson (44), Mitchell (64), Ribbans (81)
- Conversions: Grayson (45, 64, 82)
- Penalties: Grayson (16, 55)
- Tries: McConnochie (29), Mercer (48)
- Conversions: Priestland (30, 49)
- Penalties: Priestland (43, 61, 70, 73)