Tommy Freeman scored a hattrick of tries as Northampton Saints overcame a 23-point deficit to win a thrilling Premiership Rugby Cup clash with Bath.
The visitors to cinch Stadium at Frankin’s Gardens took a 35-19 lead in at the break with Tom Dunn, Ted Hill, Max Ojomoh, Tom de Glanville and Sam Underhill crossing the line – but Saints remained in the fight with tries of their own through Freeman, Trevor Davison and Ethan Waller.
The frenetic nature of the game didn’t change in the second half as De Glanville bagged his second but Saints finished the tie sublimely with Freeman adding two more tries, along with scores from Curtis Langdon and Tom Seabrook plus some key Fin Smith kicks to win a thrilling contest by the slenderest of margins.
It was Bath who struck first, building pressure through a string of early penalties before sending Dunn over the line at the back of a rolling maul.
And Saints suffered another blow just after as they lost Emmanuel Iyogun to injury just before the away side put themselves two tries up, pushing from close range off the back of an attacking lineout before Hill stretched over the whitewash.
A pair of Spencer conversions put Bath 14-0 up and they stretched that lead to 21 points after a quarter of an hour – as Ojomoh dived over after sustained pressure in Saints’ 22 again.
Smith added the extras and Saints remained on the front foot, pushing into Bath’s 22 where a shot on Robbie Smith gained attention from the Gardens crowd, though was ultimately judged to be legal.
Bath hit straight back to send De Glanville over out wide for the bonus point but a string of penalties gave Saints an attacking lineout and it was from there that they built the phases on Bath’s line before Waller stretched over to score.
Smith’s conversion put the score at 14-28 in Bath’s favour but with Saints’ attack in full flow and another string of infringements putting the men in Black, Green and Gold back in Bath’s 22, it was only a matter of time before Saints rumbled over – with Davison the one to dot the ball down from close range to reduce the deficit to nine.
But it was Bath who got the last shot of the half in, pushing a rolling maul close before Underhill reached over with the half’s final play – with Spencer adding the conversion to make the scoreline 19-35 at the break.
Bath got the scoring started in the second half too, despite a spirited first effort from Saints on the restart; but it was De Glanville again who got over after Spencer chipped over the top and the bouncing ball landed for the winger to gather and score.
But Saints hit straight back, with Robbie Smith peeling off the back of a lineout and popping the ball inside to Freeman for the score.
Smith added the extras from out wide and Saints were back on the scoresheet just eight minutes later, as Langdon went over for his first try in Black, Green and Gold at the back of a driving maul.
And the deficit became just six points on the hour mark as Saints patiently built the phases on Bath’s line before whipping the ball left to right to send Seabrook over for his third try in as many appearances.
Freeman’s hattrick score came in the 70th minute after a huge hit from Fraser Dingwall left the winger free to scoop up the loose ball, dance through Bath’s line and gather his own hack through to score.
Smith’s conversion put Saints ahead by a single point as the game entered the last ten minutes and the momentum was all with Northampton. Waller and Langdon held former Saint Piers Francis up brilliantly for a scrum before Saints won the aerial battle as the sides exchanged kicks.
With two minutes remaining, Saints powered their way to a scrum penalty that was kicked to the corner, where lineout ball was secured and possession maintained allowing Fin Smith to end the high-scoring encounter with a final kick to touch.
SAINTS: 15 Furbank, 14 Ramm, 13 Dingwall, 12 Hutchinson, 11 Freeman, 10 F Smith, 9 James; 1 Iyogun, 2 R Smith, 3 Davison, 4 Coles, 5 Munga, 6 Pearson, 7 Pollock, 8 Scott-Young.
Replacements: 16 Langdon, 17 E Waller, 18 P Hill, 19 Moon, 20 Lockett, 21 McParland, 22 Thame, 23 Seabrook.
BATH: 15 Gallagher, 14 Cokanasiga, 13 Ojomoh, 12 Butt, 11 De Glanville, 10 Bailey, 9 Spencer; 1 Obano, 2 Dunn, 3 Du Toit, 4 Roux, 5 Ewels, 6 T Hill, 7 Underhill, 8 Reid.
Replacements: 16 Annett, 17 Schoeman, 18 Jonker, 19 Van Velze, 20 Cloete, 21 Schreuder, 22 Francis, 23 Akenzua Al-Kareem.