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Piers Francis kicked three penalties for Saints (Getty Images)

Bath Rugby 32 Saints 9: Saints downed at the Rec

Friday, February 9, 2018

Northampton Saints could not take their Cup form back into league action as they were beaten 32-9 by Bath Rugby at the Rec.

The visitors certainly had the best of the opening exchanges, Piers Francis kicking them into an early 6-0 lead, but they could not convert their pressure into tries and ill-discipline allowed Bath back into the game.

And when a loose pass on the stroke of half-time led to the first try of the night for Matt Banahan, the hosts had the wind in their sails at the start of the second period and crossed twice more through Nick Auterac and Ross Batty.

Bath enjoyed lots of phases early on but made little ground, and when Saints got the ball in hand they forced an early pen for a high tackle which Francis sent deep.

The hosts were the penalized at the resulting lineout maul and Francis took the first chance at points of the evening, his sixth-minute kick sliding inside the right post.

Saints continued to pile on the pressure in Bath territory, and a brilliant burst from Tom Wood after a well-worked lineout earned Saints another shot at goal with Bath not releasing.

Francis did the honours from in front of the posts to make it 6-0 on 18 minutes, but Bath pegged back the visitors seven minutes later as a side entry from Wood saw him pinged bang in front and Burns reduced the deficit to three.

The game looked as though it might become an arm-wrestle as both sides made steady progress before strong defence forced the errors, but Jamie Gibson went off his feet and Burns levelled the scores.

Saints discipline was now letting them down slightly and two quick penalties – the second for taking the man in the air from a lineout – allowed Burns another shot at goal and he made it three from three from the tee.

And while it looked as though the score would remain 9-6 until the interval, as Saints pressed forward a wayward pass in the Saints midfield saw Ben Tapuai latch onto the loose ball, and he offloaded for Banahan to run a good inside-out line into the corner.

A well-struck conversion from Burns made it 16-6 to the hosts and the Saints had work to do.

They rode more Bath pressure well in the first ten minutes of the second period, with Bath only coming away with another Burns penalty after coming within inches of the line.

Saints responded straight away with Francis striking over a penalty of his own to give his side a lifeline heading into the final 25 minutes.

But a high tackle from Kieran Brookes meant Burns’ fifth pen of the night sailed through the uprights, and the visitors now rolled the dice with half-backs Mallinder and Groom coming into the fray.

However it was Bath who struck the killer blow with just over ten minutes remaining, showing patience to go through the phases and with Saints’ defence stretched, Burns threw the ball wide for replacement Auterac to slide over in the left corner.

Burns’ conversion slipped wide of the mark but Bath still had time for one more score as Batty crossed the whitewash in the same place, leaving Saints with plenty to work on ahead of London Irish’s visit to Franklin’s Gardens next week.

Bath Rugby: Wilson; Banahan, Hurrell, Tapuai, Brew; Burns, Fotuali’I; Noguera, Dunn, Lahiff; Stooke, Ewels; Garvey (capt), Grant, Phillips
Replacements: Batty, Auterac, Thomas, Charteris, Bayliss, Cook, Lewis, Atkins

Saints: Tuala; Pisi, Horne, Stephenson, Foden; Francis, Reinach; Ma’afu, Haywood, Brookes; Ratuniyarawa, Day (capt); Wood, Gibson, Harrison
Replacements: Marshall, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Ribbans, Nutley, Groom, Mallinder, Tuitavake

TIMELINE
6’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 0-3
18’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 0-6
25’ BATH Penalty Burns 3-6
32’ BATH Penalty Burns 6-6
40’ BATH Try Banahan Conversion Burns 16-6
HALF-TIME Bath Rugby 16 – 6 Saints
50’ BATH Penalty Burns 19-6
54’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 19-9
58’ BATH Penalty Burns 22-9
68’ BATH Try Auterac 27-9
77’ BATH Try Batty 32-9
FULL-TIME: Bath Rugby 32 – 9 Saints

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