The Saints comeback was just a little too late as they suffered an 18-14 defeat to Bath in Round 1 of the Aviva Premiership on a rainy afternoon at Franklin’s Gardens.
The opening minutes saw the Saints slowly gain territory in the Bath half with a clever kick to touch from Harry Mallinder. A George Pisi kick through then led to a Tom Homer knock-on on the 22 to give Saints the first attacking opportunity of the afternoon.
Bath subsequently had a defensive scrum in their own 22, but an early engagement from the visitors allowed the Saints to move towards the try line before Mallinder’s chip through was touched down by the Bath defence.
Bath were eventually able to clear their lines through a penalty but a poor kick to touch out on the full meant that the Saints still had possession just inside Bath’s territory.
The Somerset side were able to make ground, however, thanks to Homer’s long kick into the Saints’ 22 but their progression up the park was contrasted with the departure of their big-name signing Taulupe Faletau after just 12 minutes of play.
With possession swinging between the two sides an excellent kick from full back Ben Foden meant Bath were under pressure just metres from the try line but a 22 drop out fended off the Saints attack.
It was the 23rd minute before Mallinder then had the first opportunity for points to be scored in the match but his attempt was just wide of the mark to keep the scores level at 0-0.
With first half entering the final 10 minutes, George Ford was successful with a penalty to give the visitors a 3-0 lead after the Saints were penalised. Ford was then on the score board in the 38th minute with a drop goal to double his side’s lead to six points.
The Saints then lost Foden before Mallinder missed his second penalty of the afternoon as Bath headed into the tunnel with a 6-0 half-time lead.
With the second half underway, Bath were the first on the scoreboard, thanks once again to fly half Ford with his second penalty of the match from in front of the posts to give the visitors a nine-point cushion.
Semesa Rokoduguni was then on the receiving end of a pass out wide that would have put him over for the first try of the match had it not been ruled forward by referee JP Doyle.
A penalty for the Saints allowed them to move to just outside the Bath 22 but still they couldn’t come away with any points.
With the final quarter approaching Ford extended Bath’s lead with a second drop goal to give his side a 12-point lead after 61 minutes before adding another penalty five minutes later.
Ford’s fourth penalty of the match made the score 18-0 to the visitors with 10 minutes left on the clock before their scrum half Chris Cook was sent to the sin bin for the remainder of the match.
Following Bath’s yellow card, new Saints scrum half Nic Groom bundled his way over the line to score a try on his debut, and put Saints on the score board. Replacement Stephen Myler added the extras to make the score 18-7 after 74 minutes.
The Saints then capitalised when Bath conceded penalties to move deep inside the Bath 22, making the most of their one-man advantage. Groom once again crossed the whitewash on an impressive debut to seal a losing bonus point. Myler’s successful conversion closed the gap to just four points to ensure a tense finish at the Gardens.
The Saints’ come back was not to be however, as Bath held on to begin their Aviva Premiership campaign with an 18-14 victory, but the Saints did come away with a losing bonus point.
SAINTS Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Tuala; Mallinder, Dickson; A Waller, Hartley, Brookes, Lawes, Paterson, Wood (capt), Gibson, Picamoles
Subs – Clare, Ma’afu, Hill, Dickinson, Harrison, Groom, Myler, North
BATH Homer; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Clark, Banahan; Ford, Fotuali’I; Catt, Batty, Thomas, Ewels, Attwood, Garvey (capt), Denton, Faletau
Subs – Dunn, Auterac, Palma-Newport, Sisi, Cook, Rhys Priestland, Williams
23mins SAINTS Miss Pen Mallinder 0-0
33mins BATH Pen Ford 0-3
36mins BATH Drop Goal Ford 0-6
38mins BATH Miss Pen Mallinder 0-6
44mins BATH Pen Ford 0-9
61mins BATH Drop Goal Ford 0-12
66mins BATH Pen Ford 0-15
70mins BATH Pen Ford 0-18
73mins BATH Yellow Card Chris Cook
74mins SAINTS Try Groom Con Myler 7-18
78mins SAINTS Try Groom Con Myler 14-18