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Bath move into title reckoning

09 Apr 2005
Bath move into title reckoning

The only aspect missing from their performance was the bonus point try, in all other aspects they were dominant.

Northampton looked worth their lowly position, and hardly threatened the Bath line. The Saints, without key injured forwards Tom Smith, Andrew Blowers and Corne Krige, lacked the forward cohesion to trouble a Bath pack that has dominated most Premiership opponents this season.

They were also devoid of inspiration, as star backs Bruce Reihana and Ben Cohen found themselves too far away from the action to make any telling contributions.

Fly-half Shane Drahm kicked three penalties and a drop-goal for Saints, but it said everything about Northampton's limitations that he always looked their most likely source of points.

They did at lest have the best of the opening quarter, and led 6-3 after 20 minutes thanks to Drahm's proficiency from the tee, but when Steve Thompson and Ross Beattie left for blood injury treatment, they lost their momentum.

Bath scored their first try while Thompson was off the field, slick passing from Malone and the impressive Olly Barkley sending Maddock over for a 30th-minute touchdown, and then concerted forward pressure sucked in Saints defenders and Higgins sprinted through a huge gap created by Barkley's superbly-timed pass.

Malone landed both conversions and kicked a penalty during first-half injury time, leaving Northampton trailing 20-6 and with a mountain to climb.

The second period began in similar fashion to the first – Northampton enjoying an abundance of possession, but doing precious little with it – and Bath gradually gained territorial dominance.

Drahm's penalty double in the 61st and 63rd minutes lifted Saints for the closing stages, as Bath became strangely subdued, almost as if they had a collective eye on next week's Twickenham trip.

Skipper Steve Borthwick tried to encourage his players for a rousing finale, and Bath finished strongly – predictably through their forwards – laying siege on Northampton's line.

Saints' former Bath prop Simon Emms was sin-binned for a technical offence, compounding the degree of difficulty for Northampton, and Bath punished them before he could even leave the field.

With Emms still trudging off, the Bath pack drove relentlessly towards Northampton's posts, and Bell claimed his team's third try, improved by Malone to give the home fly-half 15 points.

The scorers:

For Bath:Tries: Maddock, Higgins, BellCons: Malone 3Pens: Malone 2Drop goal: Malone

For Northampton;Pens: Drahm 3Drop goal: Drahm

Bath: 15 Matt Perry, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Andy Higgins, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Brendon Daniel, 10 Chris Malone, 9 Nick Walshe, 8 Zak Feaunati, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Gareth Delve, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Matt Stevens.Replacements: 16 Jonathan Humphreys, 17 David Barnes, 18 Geraint Lewis, 19 Rob Fidler, 20 Frikkie Welsh, 21 Martyn Wood, 22 Ryan Davis.

Northampton Saints: 15 Bruce Reihana, 14 John Rudd, 13 Andy Vilk, 12 Marc Stcherbina, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Shane Drahm, 9 Johnny Howard, 8 Grant Seely, 7 Darren Fox, 6 Ross Beattie, 5 Selborne Boome, 4 Matt Lord, 3 Brett Sturgess, 2 Steve Thompson (c), 1 Simon Emms     Replacements: 16 Dan Richmond, 17 Robbie Morris, 18 Damien Browne, 19 Mark Soden, 20 Ben Jones, 21 Luke Myring, 22 Mark Tucker

Referee: Chris WhiteTouch judges: Peter Huckle, Lloyd JacksonTelevision match official: Geoff Warren

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