Bath United win the Aviva A League title
Neal Hatley hopes the momentum gathered from winning the Aviva A League final will benefit Bath ahead of a vital three weeks in the club’s season.
Hatley’s side were clinical in attack, scoring four tries through Tom Biggs, Gavin Henson, Charlie Beech and Richard Lane, while Tom Heathcote kicked nine points in a 29-20 victory over Northampton Wanderers at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Wanderers, who trailed 17-3 at one point, responded through a Howard Packman score, a penalty try and ten points from the boot of Glenn Dickson, but it was not enough.
Northampton’s Mike Haywood and Bath’s Kane Palma-Newport were both sin-binned in the first half and Hatley believes the defensive display when down to 14 men proved to be the difference.
“We got off to a flying start but credit to Northampton they came back into it,” Hatley said.
“At 17-17 and a man down at the start of the second half we defended like Trojans. It was vital that we didn’t go behind when they had that pressure and it probably won us the game.
“Silverware so early in the season is a real boost and it adds a little bit of momentum going into what is going to be an unbelievable three weeks with games against Quins, Northampton and Leicester.”
Both sides had scored tries for fun on their way to the final and it was no surprise that it took less than five minutes to open the scoring.
A Bath lineout was spread to winger Biggs in midfield who found a gap in the Wanderer’s defence to score under the posts, with Heathcote converting.
The host’s replied through a Dickson penalty but Henson extended Bath’s lead on nine minutes, receiving Nick Abendanon’s pass and going over in the corner.
Heathcote converted before adding a penalty on 24 minutes, when Haywood was sin binned, to leave the score at 17-3.
Despite being reduced to 14 men, the hosts rallied and winger Packman’s converted try reduced the gap to seven points and they were level through a penalty try on the stroke of half-time after Bath were consistently pinged.
Bath’s Palma-Newport was then sin-binned but despite plenty of territory and possession early in the second half, the Wanderers could not take advantage.
The visitors’ defensive effort was rewarded when Beech burrowed over on the hour mark.
Dickson’s penalty on 70 minutes gave Northampton hope but Lane’s try two minutes from time secured victory in Bath’s first Aviva A League final.
Northampton coach Alan Dickens felt the match was a good advert for the competition and agreed the turning point had been the opening minutes of the second half.
“We got seven points while they were a man down and we put a lot of pressure on them,” Dickens said. “We just didn’t get the points the territory deserved.
“The boys are disappointed but from a coaching point of view I am really proud of the boys as I have been all season.
“These games we play in semi-finals and finals are stepping stones. As long as we take lessons from the game it will stand the boys in good stead for the future.”
Every match in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season is crucial, to be there to support your team buy your ticket from premiershiprugby.com/tickets