Fourth-placed Northampton Saints welcome Bath Rugby this weekend at Franklin’s Gardens, and we’ve crunched the numbers ahead of what is set to be an enthralling Gallagher Premiership encounter...
Saints’ scrum has received much praise recently – and rightly so after powerful displays at Exeter and Wasps – but coach Matt Ferguson has been quick to highlight there are still improvements to be made.
In fact, his pack’s success rate on their own put-in has actually fallen in 2020/21, from a league high 93% last season to 86% this term. The Saints eight, however, has made up for this by winning significantly more penalties per game (2.9 vs 1.7), and conceding marginally fewer (2.1 vs 2.2) across the opening 10 rounds.
This might well have been dictated by the choice of whether to play away or leave the ball in, but plenty have remarked on the additional punch Saints seem to be packing so far.
They’ll hope to find a middle-ground on Sunday afternoon against a pack which powered Bath into last season’s Gallagher Premiership semi-finals and looks to have continued its solid form.
Stuart Hooper’s side currently enjoy a 92% success rate when feeding the scrum, up 2% on 2019/20, though in a role-reversal of their hosts, are winning fewer penalties (2.0 vs 2.5). That said, fewer decisions have gone against the West Country outfit (1.4 vs 2.2).
The statistics would suggest plenty of running rugby at the Gardens. In 2020/21 Bath (11.6) and Saints (10.6) have allowed the most line breaks, with the visiting side on Sunday afternoon also conceding the most tries per game (3.9).
Saints have faired the better so far on the flipside of the coin, racking up 335 metres a match from 7.7 clean breaks, compared with 288 metres from 6.8 for Bath.
While the away side have beaten fewer defenders per match (Bath 16.4, Saints 18.7), they do boast two of the league’s top attacking weapons in Zach Mercer (30) and Tom de Glanville (27). Chris Boyd’s side on the other hand seemingly spread the load wider, with Matt Proctor (19) and Taqele Naiyaravoro (14) leading the way for defenders beat.
However Saints’ work on the other side of the ball has not gone unnoticed in recent weeks, with the side more than halving their average number of points and tries conceded, allowing only 16.25 points and 1.75 tries per game during this current four-match winning run.
Last season’s encounter in Northampton was a tense game of few chances, so it remains to be seen whether any openness in defence will make for a more entertaining match-up this time around.
With red cards coming into the spotlight on the weekend of Round 10, as always discipline will play a pivotal role.
Bath (12.8) and Saints (12.7) sit close to the top of the ill-discipline chart so far this season, with only Sale (12.9) giving away more penalties each match.
Crucially, it’s where and how those penalties are given away. For Bath, it has equated to losing a man to the sin bin once every 80 minutes, compared to once every 140 minutes for Saints.
Additionally, teams playing against Hooper’s men see yellow every 240 minutes – meaning that Bath have played an average of 6m and 30s a man down.
For the hosts, this average is 0m, with four cards either way.