The Saints’ winning streak over Bath continued at the Recreation Ground, JJ Hanrahan’s late penalty securing the four Aviva Premiership points over the 2015 Grand Finalists.
Although the visitors had been playing with the strong and swirling wind behind them in the second half, opportunities had been at a premium with Bath having had all the momentum and dominating possession.
But the Irishman stepped up when it mattered to slot the three points to nudge his side in front for the final few exchanges, and with some handy clock management from Lee Dickson and strong defence in midfield the Saints headed home with their first away Aviva Premiership win under their belt.
The visitors had also grabbed the game’s first try early in the second half, Luther Burrell grabbing a poorly timed and placed pass from a pressured George Ford to score unopposed between the uprights, but in between times the hosts steadily built up a head of steam in front of a record crowd in the centre of Bath, scoring through Semesa Rokoduguni.
It was a stark contrast to the patience and power shown by the visitors in the first half. As throughout November the scrum was the go-to machine for penalties and field position as Ethan Waller, Mikey Haywood and Kieran Brookes got the better of their highly-rated opponents that included England internationals Rob Webber and Henry Thomas.
Yet despite getting themselves into promising positions Saints could not make the most of their dominance, coming up against a determined Bath rearguard action across the park.
The best chance came in the dying minutes of the opening 40. With Thomas in the sin bin for conceding one-too-many penalties at the scrum Saints put the pedal to the floor with some scintillating attacking play.
A George Pisi run up the left touchline that showcased his power, pace and balance was one highlight, as was Sam Dickinson’s offload to Hanrahan which kept a sweeping move going. Haywood, Burrell, Michael Paterson and man of the match Jamie Gibson were also strong ball carriers in the first half, but when it mattered Pisi’s hands failed him as he crashed into the post pad while trying to score.
So Harrahan’s 23rd-minute penalty was all that separated the teams going into the break, a score Ford rubbed out two minutes after play resumed. The three points belied what had been a game full of promise, but it really caught fire as the hour approached, Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph having an increasing influence on the action with some gliding runs and dancing feet to take them into space.
However Watson was not the only England international full back who was catching the eye with ball in hand. Ben Foden - who led the team out as captain for the first time - made several excellent runs from deep, one of which could have brought a try but for a Jamie Elliott fumble of the final pass.
The hosts had got away with it there, and they also got the rub of the green with the final pass for Rokoduguni’s try which replays had suggested had gone forward. Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys waved Foden’s protests away, and by then he was seeing Saints get on the wrong side of the law where they had been winning penalties in the first half.
Nevertheless, when it really mattered, when the tide was against them and the crowd turning up the volume, the Saints eight delivered once more.
BATH Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Devoto, Banahan; Ford, Cook; Auterac, Webber, Thomas, Ewels, Ellis, Garvey, Louw (capt), Houston
Reps - Dunn, Lahiff, Wilson, Denton, Mercer, Matawalu, Priestland, Homer
SAINTS Foden (capt); Elliott, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Hanrahan, Fotuali’i; E Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Paterson, Day, Gibson, Harrison, Dickinson
Reps - Marshall, A Waller, Hill, Matfield, Craig, Dickson, Myler, K Pisi
23mins SAINTS Pen Hanrahan 0-3
34mins BATH Yellow card Thomas
HALF-TIME BATH 0 SAINTS 3
43mins BATH Pen Ford 3-3
47mins SAINTS Try Burrell Con Hanrahan 3-10
51mins BATH Pen Ford 6-10
53mins BATH Miss pen Ford
62mins BATH Try Rokoduguni 11-10
72mins SAINTS Pen Hanrahan 11-13
FULL-TIME BATH 11 SAINTS 13