Sam Burgess struggles to fit the bill as Bath lose at home to Northampton

Saints win 21-13 at the Rec

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Sam Burgess’s friendship with Hollywood A-lister Russell Crowe was due to be reconvened among the spectators at St Helens’ Langtree Park for the rugby league World Club Challenge on Sunday night, but Burgess played some B-movie rugby union in his club Bath’s first home league loss of the season, 21-13 to Northampton at The Rec on Saturday.

It is no unexpected plot twist to see the former Bradford Bull and South Sydney Rabbitoh struggling to tune in to the 15-a-side game. Bath put some of Burgess’s obvious discomfort down to the absence of their fly-half George Ford, who was resting between England matches. “Sam is very positive,” said the Bath head coach, Mike Ford, “but he’s getting to understand that you don’t get many chances and when you do, you’ve got to deliver. He’ll have 20 carries in rugby league, whereas here it’s four or five so there’s more pressure on them.

“We’ve had a plan to get Sam in the game from the set piece and hitting Sam up the No 10 channel, but it has not quite worked. He’s standing around getting cold and it frustrates him a bit. We’ve put no time on it – we are not saying that by April he’s got to be the best centre in the country or anything like that. We’ll play it game by game and the more he plays, the better he’ll get.”

Northampton cracked on with extending their four-year dominance over Bath – a league double this season and eight wins and a draw in the last 10 meetings – and their lead at the top of the Premiership to nine points through first-half tries by James Wilson and Mike Haywood, with the rest of the scoring coming from Steve Myler’s kicks.

Man of the match Jamie Elliott paid tribute to the control exerted by Northampton’s half-backs, Lee Dickson and Myler. “We like to call them the puppet masters,” said Elliott. “Steve keeps pulling the strings, Bath went after him but he is a big lad and he brushed off the knocks.”