George North scored try number six for Northampton Saints against Bath Rugby
28 December 2013, 05:17 pm ::
By Gerard Meagher
Northampton Saints 43 Bath Rugby 25.
Northampton Saints roared back to assert their Aviva Premiership title credentials with a crushing six-try victory over Bath Rugby at Franklin's Gardens.
Christian Day (2), George Pisi, Jamie Elliott, Samu Manoa and George North all got in on the act as Saints made it six Premiership wins on the spin, comfortably prevailing in this second versus third clash.
Bath arrived at the Gardens on a run of 11 matches unbeaten and romped into a 13-0 lead, but Saints cranked up the heat thereafter and their visitors simply couldn't live with them.
All the while Stephen Myler enhanced his claims to feature in Stuart Lancaster's forthcoming England squad with a consummate display at fly-half, kicking five conversions and a timely 75th-minute penalty.
Bath rallied late and Leroy Houston's 66th-minute score brought them to within eight points but Myler's three-pointer and North's try extinguished any hopes of a comeback.
With the match just a few minutes old there was a lengthy break in play as referee Luke Pearce was inadvertently clobbered by a Bath forward and forced off the field, bringing Martin Fox into the fray as the man in the middle.
His first act was to award a penalty - duly converted by George Ford - and Bath raced into a 10-0 lead on five minutes when Kyle Eastmond made the most of a break to dot down.
Ford added the extras before bisecting the posts with another penalty to give Bath a handsome lead, but things fell apart for the visitors when Paul James was sent to the sin bin on 18 minutes.
Day had his first score just two minutes later after hooker Dylan Hartley had sent the ball wide and Geroge Pisi, restored to the line-up after his ban, rounded off a nice build up on 28 minutes.
With Myler converting both Saints had edged in front and the hosts were rampant - Elliott the next to cross after a smart pass from Ken Pisi to send Northampton in 21-13 up at the break.
Day had his second on 42 minutes in another power-packed move but back came Bath with a muscular try of their own, finished off by Rob Webber.
Ford couldn't convert however and Manoa appeared to make the game safe with Saints' fifth try, another imperious display of forward strength, but Bath still weren't finished and reduced the arrears to 33-25 when Houston picked up from the base of the scrum and forced his way over.
Bath pressed for at least a bonus point but Myler's penalty gave Saints a cushion and North rounded off an excellent performance with try number six at the death.