Rugby Union: Saints put in trouble by bubbly Barnes

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Northampton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Bath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30

THIS time Jack Rowell was smiling. Seven days earlier, the coach had been snarling and when he snarls watch out. Bath did and look what happened to Northampton. They curled up and died, their league campaign in tatters and a sixth defeat in seven matches left them uncomfortably close to the relegation zone.

Things have never been the same for the Saints since the retirement of Wayne Shelford, and the departure of Barrie Corless, whose skills as an organiser are now benefiting Gloucester. In contrast, Bath can bounce back from the berating that followed a show of indifference against Bristol to tighten their grip on the title.

'The attitude was right,' Rowell said, 'a big improvement on last week. The handling was outstanding in the conditions.' Which it was, particularly during the early stages in which the champions' charge was irresistible. Inside half an hour and Northampton, who had been hit with three tries, were looking at damage limitation.

Stuart Barnes was the man of the match. Back to full fitness, he bubbled before a audience that included the England selector, John Elliott. There are still many who would like to see him displace Rob Andrew at stand-off and this performance should reopen the old debate. When a Barnes miss-pass put Jonathan Callard in space in the seventh minute, the full-back made 40 yards going left. Bath won the line-out and spun the ball right for Callard to send in Tony Swift.

Bath poured through the gaps with such a relish that one tap from Martin Bayfield led to Matthew Dawson's departure for hospital with an injury that later saw him sporting a protective neck collar.

Meanwhile, the Saints front row were rumbled as Bath went for a pushover and were awarded a penalty try. A miserable opening period was completed by Phil de Glanville's blind-side try off a ruck. The rest, which included a second try for Swift, was pretty painless.

Northampton: Penalties Steele 3. Bath: Tries Swift 2; penalty try, de Glanville; Conversions Callard 2; Penalties Callard 2.

Northampton: I Hunter; K Morgan, J Fletcher, M Fielden, N Beal; J Steele (capt), M Dawson (B Taylor, 63); G Baldwin, A Clarke, G Pearce, J Phillips, M Bayfield, P Walton, M Steffert, C Millhouse.

Bath: J Callard; T Swift, M Catt, P de Glanville (I Sanders, 40-42), A Adebayo; S Barnes, R Hill; C Clark, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, A Reed, S Ojomoh, B Clarke (C Atkins, 8-14), J Hall (capt).

Referee: D Matthews (St Helens).