Northampton Saints suffered their second defeat since the Gallagher Premiership’s resumption on Wednesday evening, going down 18-3 to Bath in a physical encounter at Franklin’s Gardens.
Having claimed victory last weekend against London Irish, Saints’ play-off ambitions suffered a setback after an error-strewn display which sees them stay sixth in the table.
Two second-half Bath tries from centre Tom de Glanville and wing Ruaridh McConnochie, on top of a strong defensive display, were enough to overcome a Northampton side who played with plenty of ambition but were let down by their accuracy.
Saints’ Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd, selected an entirely new starting XV from the one that beat London Irish last time out, including a Premiership debut for wing Tommy Freeman and a first start in Black, Green and Gold for loosehead Nick Auterac, while centre Cameron Redpath and wing Semesa Rokoduguni were the only names remaining in Bath's line-up following victory over Leicester Tigers on Sunday.
With England head coach Eddie Jones watching from the stands, it was Saints who dominated a bruising first quarter. However, after the home side lost flanker JJ Tonks for 10 minutes – he was unfortunate to get yellow-carded for lifting in a tackle on Bath No.8 Zach Mercer – it was the visitors who notched the game’s first points through the boot of fly-half Josh Matevesi.
Saints continued to threaten, but Bath’s defence remained watertight soaking up wave after wave of attack and frustrating the home side, and a long-range Dan Biggar penalty fell just short.
Eventually Saints wiped out the deficit through the boot of Biggar with just eight minutes of the half remaining. From here the hosts stayed on the attack, but despite a scintillating break from Ahsee Tuala, they couldn’t find a chink in the Bath defence and the scores remained all square at the break.
Saints continued to pile on the pressure after the restart but failed to capitalise having been camped in the visitors’ 22 for large periods. Then, having shown little sign of troubling Saints’ defence, Bath moved their way down field, shifting the ball through the hands to score in the corner.
It was a brave finish from centre De Glanville who dived in as Freeman and Rory Hutchinson – on for Piers Francis – tried in vain to force him into touch. The England U20 centre and son of former England captain, Phil De Glanville, limped off as a result and took no further part in the game.
From here Boyd’s side had to chase the game, but Bath’s defence would not be breached, and soon after the contest was effectively over when McConnochie latched onto a loose offload in midfield to score under the posts. Rhys Priestland converted the extras, leaving the hosts 15-3 adrift despite having dominated large parts of the game.
There was still time for another Priestland penalty to add to Bath’s tally and rounding off a night to forget for the men in Black, Green and Gold. Next up for Saints is a visit to the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday to take on Paul Gustard’s seventh-placed Harlequins.