Rugby Union: Bath hit the right notes

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Northampton. .16

Bath. . . . . 32

THE band gave a final brave rendition of the Saints' signature tune, but it was Bath who hit all the right notes at Franklin Gardens yesterday. Their second League win was never in doubt as they arrived at the break, while Northampton's search for the killer instinct never materialised. Tamed by the Tigers, tonked by the champions, the Saints have really got a good deal of catching up to do.

So much for overdoing a good thing. Matt Dawson - the England A scrum-half - trained like a lunatic during the summer break. When he went to Bath, though, for a recent national squad get together, the poor fellow pulled a hamstring and, having missed the Leicester match, was left on the sidelines again for yesterday's encounter.

Not only that, the Saints were also missing the centre Nick Beal - another England A man - with a dead leg. All of which hardly augured well, particularly as Bath had notched up 30 points a time in last season's two meetings. Still, having absorbed Bath's drive from the kick-off, Northampton came back well and were not short of creating scoring opportunities for themselves.

First, John Hall was penalised on the ground and then argued the toss. The kick stood though, but the trouble was that Paul Grayson fluffed the attempt from right in front of the posts. Against Bath, that sort of thing simply will not do and, perhaps unsettled, Grayson then pushed a somewhat more difficult shot wide in the 13th minute.

A relieved Grayson made amends, however, and not with the boot for once. When the Saints drove off a close-range line-out, the outside-half nipped around a static Ben Clarke for a try that he converted. Clarke's reply was a surging run deep in Northampton territory, Ian Hunter bringing the No 8 down before Jonathan Callard was bundled into touch just short of the line.

Frustrated in one sense, Callard however went on to show that there is nothing much wrong with his goal-kicking, as he landed three penalties in the space of a mere half-dozen minutes - one of them from well inside his own half. The third of these put Bath ahead, which was to prove all the incentive that they needed to really begin winding things up.

Adedayo Adebayo sliced through the midfield for the opening try and though Grayson replied with a penalty, Tony Swift showed Hunter the outside and took it to reach the line. This show of the the old master's skills was embarrassing for Hunter and also showed that Bath had the perfect answer to an injury to Hall, who had just gone off with a popped rib cartilege.

Meanwhile, any gloom and despondency was the exclusive property of the Saints, who began the second half by giving away penalties. This revealed that the pressure was really beginning to bite and Callard made the most of it by collecting another six points. Grayson matched that feat, but it was too late for any salvation - and in any case, Swift went in for his second try.

Northampton: I Hunter; C Moir, F Packman, R MacNaughton, H Thorneycroft; P Grayson, B Taylor; M Volland, P Roworth, C Allen, M Bayfield, N Edwards, P Walton, T Rodber (capt), A Pountney.

Bath: J Callard; T Swift, P de Glanville, A Lumsden, A Adebayo; M Catt, I Sanders; D Hilton, G Dawe, J Mallett, N Redman, A Reed, S Ojomoh, B Clarke, J Hall (capt).

Referee: S Lander (Wirral).