Bath Rugby’s long wait for a win over Northampton Saints goes on after the defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions strengthened their hold on top spot with a hard-fought victory at the Rec.
Olly Woodburn’s score and a Tom Homer penalty had opened up an early ten-point lead for second-placed Bath, who were chasing their first win against the Saints since 2011.
But scores from James Wilson and Mike Haywood turned the game on its head before the break as the visitors went into the changing rooms 12-10 in front.
And the boot of Stephen Myler proved vital in keeping the hosts at bay in the second half, the fly-half slotting three penalties to one from Homer as Saints denied Bath a losing bonus point to move nine points clear on top.
The hosts dominated the early proceedings and Semesa Rokoduguni was only denied the game’s first try in the right corner by a magnificent covering tackle from Jamie Elliott.
But that merely delayed the inevitable as when the ball was spread back left Woodburn collected a loose pass, tip toed down the touchline and over for the game’s first try.
Homer added the conversion before clipping the post with a booming penalty attempt from his own half.
Both sides were showing admirable ambition with ball in hand but it was Bath who stretched their lead, Homer slotting a penalty on his first home start to make it 10-0.
But not for nothing are Saints the defending champions and while Myler dragged a penalty wide they summoned an impressive response around the half hour mark.
Elliott made the initial break from deep and Tom Stephenson put Wilson over in the left despite the attentions of Francois Louw, the try awarded after a lengthy deliberation from the TMO.
Myler missed the conversion while up the other end Woodburn was dragged back inches short of his second try of the game.
But before the interval it was Saints who struck next, hooker Haywood cutting back against Bath’s drift defence to dive over and with Myler’s conversion they were in front.
Saints were clearly buoyed by their late first-half score and after the break they appeared to have resolved their problems at scrum time as well, Myler slotting two penalties to open an eight-point lead.
Bath needed a spark and scrum-half Micky Young provided it with a fine break from deep that eventually earned the hosts a penalty that Homer slotted.
But in the closing stages Saints stood firm and when another scrum penalty went their way Myler made no mistake to re-establish the eight-point lead.
Saints had to see out the last ten minutes of the game a man down after George Pisi saw yellow for taking out Rokoduguni in the air but Homer missed the penalty and Bath ended up out of losing bonus point range.