Bath edge Saints in Premiership thriller
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Bath delivered a resilient display to record a 23-22 win against an in-form Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday.
Saints started strong with two tries from their No.9, Tom James, who gave them a 12-0 lead after 23 minutes.
Rhys Priestland earned three points with a penalty. However, soon after Saints extended their lead with Tommy Freeman’s try.
Bath’s attitude did not falter, and like last week’s victory over Gloucester, the men in Blue, Black and White refused to panic. As a result, they scored with the last play of the half, seeing Zach Mercer burrow over and at the same time providing Rhys Priestland with the opportunity to create history.
The flyhalf slotted the conversion which meant he overtook Mark van Gisergen and Jonny Wilkinson for landing the most consecutive kicks at goal in the Premiership.
Five minutes into the second half, it looked like Saints had grabbed the bonus point, but the TMO overturned the referees’ decision as Tom Wood lost the ball over the line.
Ruaridh McConnochie then returned after injury, and he ignited the Bath attack alongside Will Muir.
The England Sevens duo continually caused Saints defence problems out wide, resulting in two more Priestland penalties.
In trademark fashion, Saints looked like they had scored when Taqele Naiyaravoro burst down the flank only to be stopped by an incredible last-ditch tackle from Ben Spencer.
Bath attacked again, and Zach Mercer went in for his second of the game after an intelligent kick over Saints blitz defence.
Priestland’s added the extras to put Bath in front for the first time in the match with just over 10 minutes left.
The action kept on flowing; firstly Bath were denied a third try by the TMO following a knock-on, then another last-ditch tackle from Spencer held Saints up over the line.
Finally, Bath won a penalty at the resulting Saints scrum to earn the incredibly important win.
The 80 minutes saw a resolute display from the Blue, Black, and White with every single player putting their body on the line to secure their fifth Premiership win of the season.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: James 2, Freeman
Cons: Francis 2
Tries: Mercer 2
Cons: Priestland 2
Pens: Priestland 3
Northampton Saints: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 George Furbank, 9 Tom James, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Ollie Sleightholme.
Bath: 15 Tian Schoeman, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Will Muir, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Miles Reid, 6 Josh Bayliss (captain), 5 Elliott Stoke, 4 Tom Ellis, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Ewan Richards, 20 Ethan Staddon, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Max Clark, 23 Ruaridh McConnochie.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Paul Dix & Jonathan Healy
TMO: Craig Maxwell-Keys