Northampton Saints may not have fired on all cylinders in Aviva Premiership Rugby of late but director of rugby Jim Mallinder believes his side were back to their very best with victory over Bath Rugby.
Olly Woodburn and two Tom Homer penalties set Bath on their way to narrowing the gap between the league’s top two.
However, Saints responded through James Wilson and Mike Haywood prior to half time before three Stephen Myler penalties handed Bath their first home defeat of the season.
Despite a recent loss to Sale Sharks and a narrow victory over London Irish, Northampton have now only lost one of their last eight Aviva Premiership Rugby games.
The win means the gap at the top is now nine points but Mallinder warned his side they need to keep up performances of this ilk.
"It is a nice cushion, but if we lose next week against Harlequins then it negates today's good win,” he said.
"We are very pleased. It is a good position to be in.
"We played well in the first half after a poor start. We had tempo and width and scored two good tries, then in the second half our defence won us the game.
"It is one of our best performances of the season.
"Leicester at home will stand out as a very good one, but to come down here – I know both sides had players out – it is a good win for us.”
Defeat meant it was back-to-back losses for Bath, after losing away to Saracens last weekend, and that the four-year wait for a home victory over Mallinder’s men goes on.
Bath travel to Exeter Chiefs next and head coach Mike Ford admitted they were beaten by the better team on the day.
“They strangled the life out of us,” he said.
“They played well. They’re a very experienced side. I thought their away tactics were very good and they strangled the life out of us, really, in that second half.
“In the second half, some of our basics let us down but their basics were very good, so you’ve got to give credit to them. They know how to play the game in the right areas and when they had the ball, they kept hold of it and frustrated us.
“It showed why they’re the champions and probably why we didn’t get into the top four last year. They’ve been together a long time, got great coaching staff and although both teams were missing players, they seemed a bit more experienced than us, especially in key areas.
“We’ll lick our wounds and look to come back better. I don’t think it’s over but Northampton will take some catching because they’ll have to lose at least two for us to be level with them."
Bath Rugby: Homer, Rokoduguni, Burgess, Eastmond, Woodburn, Devoto, Young (Stringer 59), James (Auterac 52), Webber (Batty 52), Thomas (Palma-Newport 71) Hooper, Day, Garvey (Fa’osiliva 52), Louw, Fearns (Houston 52)
Northampton Saints: Wilson, Pisi K, Pisi G, Stephenson, Elliott, Myler, Dickson (Fotuali’i 60), A Waller (Corbisiero 50), Haywood, Denman (Mercey 68), Craig (Dowson 30), Day, Manoa, Clark, Dickinson
Bath Rugby 13 Northampton Saints 21
Penalties: Homer 2
Tries: Wilson, Haywood
Penalties: Myler 3
Referee: Greg Garner
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