Stephen Myler’s late penalty sealed a thrilling 19-19 draw for Northampton Saints against Bath Rugby at the Rec as neither side could collect the win that would seal their Aviva Premiership play-offs fate.
Saints edged ever closer to securing a home semi-final while Bath will now nervously look out for Leicester Tigers’ and Harlequins’ results across the weekend.
George Ford had appeared to seal victory for Bath win a 78th-minute penalty but Myler struck just before the clock went red.
There was still time for a frantic finish but there was to be no further scoring, ensuring the honours ended even and both sides had to make do with two points.
Northampton took an early lead on five minutes through a Myler penalty after Bath infringed at the scrum and the visitors continued on the front foot in the opening exchanges.
Indeed Saints dominated the early stages with their powerful approach but they found Bath in no mood to roll over and, digging into the trenches, the hosts refused to buckle.
On 17 minutes however, they lost Rob Webber to a nasty looking knee injury on what was just the hooker’s third game back from an ankle injury.
Bath’s defence continued to impress however and after Saints went through 15 phases, they resorted to a drop goal attempt – pushed wide by Myler – such was their inability to find a way through.
Saints were in complete control of possession and territory but just before the half hour mark, in a rare foray upfield, Bath were level thanks to a Ford penalty.
Myler’s difficult night continued and he saw a penalty drift wide but on 33 minutes he was on target after excellent work from Courtney Lawes at the breakdown.
Bath continued to use what little territory they enjoyed to impressive effect however and they went into the break level at 6-6 after Ford notched his second penalty of the match.
Ford had another kick at goal soon after the break but failed to miss the target – but he more than made up for it on 44 minutes.
With referee Matthew Carley playing advantage, Ford seized his chance, stepped back inside Lawes and danced his way through the Saints line and over the tryline for a superb score.
He dusted himself down to convert for a 13-6 lead but that stirred Northampton into life and it wasn’t long before the scores were level again.
Myler responded to his England rival Ford’s heroics and a sumptuous offload put Jamie Elliott into the left-hand corner before nailing a superb conversion to make it 13-13.
Bath then lost their second hooker of the night when Ross Batty limped off, ensuring Nathan Catt, a prop by trade, filled the void.
In the first scrum since his arrival however, Bath were awarded a penalty and Ford made no mistake for a three-point lead.
Saints then lost Lawes to the sin bin after he took out Anthony Watson without the ball but Northampton were able to exert influence at the scrum and Myler levelled with a penalty on 68 minutes.
That was how it stayed until two minutes from time when Ford showed nerves of steel to kick his side ahead but Myler responded.
There was still time for the restart and Bath thought they had another penalty but the referee ruled that Lawes did not infringe and blew the final whistle.
It means that Saints will finish in the top two if Leicester Tigers fail to beat Sale Sharks on Saturday, or if they win their final match of the season, at home to Wasps, next week.
Bath meanwhile, will slip to third should the Tigers prevail and if Harlequins beat Exeter Chiefs on Sunday, Mike Ford’s men face a tantalising trip to the Stoop on the final day of the season.