Rugby Union: Bath too stylish for sorry Saints

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The Independent Online
Northampton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

Bath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32

THE contrast could hardly have been greater. On the one hand, Bath revelled in demonstrating champion qualities to make it two straight victories at the start of their League campaign. On the other, Northampton looked much as you might expect after shipping punishment for a second successive week. Right now, the Saints will be praying for a change in fortune.

Looking on the bright side, Northampton have until January for the reverse fixtures against Leicester and Bath and, apart from an away trip to Wasps at the end of next month, there is scope in between for kick-starting their season into life. A visit to Sale at the weekend must look like a doddle.

Which it is in comparison to what the Saints have had to endure, first at Welford Road and then at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday. Here, Bath were superb, falling behind to an early try from Paul Grayson, but then calmly hauling themselves back into a vibrant match, which they finally dominated.

This they did with style that stems from inner confidence and a horses-for-courses approach that saw them increase their options against a line-out force such as Martin Bayfield by including Steve Ojomoh for Andy Robinson. 'Our line- out was a lot better, a big improvement on last week against Bristol's,' Gareth Chilcott, the former England prop who now helps with the coaching at the Recreation Ground, said. There was much more besides, too.

Bath have great strength in depth, which in the depths of winter seems certain to have quite a bearing on the final outcome. 'We're fortunate,' Chilcott said. 'We've got good cover in every position, so that if our England men want to take a breather, it shouldn't affect us too much.'

As for the way they perform, there are some interesting variations taking place. 'We've tried to change our style a little by keeping the ball in our hands,' Chilcott said. 'It's all-action stuff. A: it puts bums on seats. B: it might help England a bit as well.' Well, that is good of him to think of spectators and the national cause all in one breath, but then there is no curbing Chilcott's enthusiasm.

Just as there was no curbing Bath in this one. After Jonathan Callard had landed three penalties for the lead, the champions pulled into the break on a comfortable cushion of tries from Adedayo Adebayo and Tony Swift.

It is a scandal the last of Swift's seven England caps came against South Africa in 1984. Here, Ian Hunter could only blush as the old master left him for dead to squeeze in at the corner and he finished Northampton off with a second try seven minutes from time. 'Swift is the best striking wing from 20 yards out in the country,' Brian Ashton, Bath's senior coach, said. No one would disagree with him.

Northampton: Try: Grayson; Conversion: Grayson; Penalties: Grayson (3). Bath: Tries: Adebayo, Swift (2); Conversion: Callard; Penalties: Callard (5).

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, T Beddow, 39).

Referee: S Lander (Wirral).