Saints had suffered a double blow before kick-off, with both Tom Wood (back) and Courtney Lawes (shoulder) both being late withdrawals from the team. However this loss was off-set by the performances of Jon Fisher and James Craig respectively, who both put in good shifts in a strong day from the pack.
“It was disappointing to lose both Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes just before kick off. They trained yesterday in the team run but reacted to that. One of the consolations was how our squad stepped up, and to see someone like Jon Fisher and James Craig play so well was very pleasing.”
The hosts may have been in the mood to play throughout the team, but it quickly became apparent that Foden was going to be the one to watch.
Within the first few minutes one searing break led both to a penalty try and a yellow card for Luke Arscott, and more was to come in both attack and defence, not least with a second half try-saving tackle on Olly Woodburn just as Bath were getting the ascendancy.
“Ben Foden has been under pressure as well from James Wilson, who played outstandingly in the first two games of the season,” Mallinder added. “Fodes seems to be coming back into some form and today was the best I’ve seen him for some time. Counter-attack is where you can score tries, especially with defences being so tight from set piece, and Fodes is one of the best when he’s on form.”
Indeed from loosehead prop to full-back, the hosts were in the mood to play, and some of the approach play in their four tries was superb.
A George Pisi break and Luther Burrell pass put Calum Clark over for try number two, but it was back to Foden to set up the third score, finished by Christian Day in the corner after a nifty dart from the full back.
Pisi rounded off the scoring for his team, finishing off an outstanding counter-attack that saw Kahn Fotuali’i collect a poor George Ford kick and include Burrell, Foden and George North on the way back to the whitewash.
“We played some good rugby,” Mallinder said. “For the first 55 minutes we worked our way into a good lead, and then maybe switched off a bit. We defended as individuals, rather than in a system, and a team like Bath are going to take their opportunities.
“When you score four tries against Bath that’s good going. Where I was disappointed was in how we let them back into the game, and that’s one thing we need to sharpen up on.”
By the end of the game Saints were hanging on, relying on an intervention from man of the match Dylan Hartley to prevent what would have been the tying try.
And while the hosts will be looking at tightening things up ahead of next week’s trip to London Irish, Bath certainly showed why they deserve to be treated seriously as play-off contenders.
David Wilson crossed in the first half, with two tries in the last 15 minutes. Woodburn made the most of some rare space out wide, while Nick Auterac was at the back of an irrepressible rolling maul.
George Ford was on target with three conversions and a penalty, but with Stephen Myler also on song from the tee – missing just one of his six shots at the uprights – the Saints had given the visitors too much to do and held on for the win.
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