As shattered as Bath must be after being thoroughly outplayed for three quarters of this their second defeat of the season, there was some optimism in the aftermath concerning their captain Danny Grewcock.
The England lock is to have his appeal against a five-week ban for reckless use of the boot against the Saracens scrum-half Kyran Bracken heard on Thursday and Grewcock's case has been strengthened with the news that his victim, who needed stitches to a gash in his jaw, is to speak up on his behalf at the hearing.
"We are very confident that the evidence that is going to be given will strongly support what the two players have said," explained Michael Foley, the Bath team director.
"Kyran Bracken has offered to come along to the appeal and we feel having him there is crucially important."
Bath could certainly do with Grewcock's leadership and ability. Their raw young pups were torn apart by the speed and ruthless finishing of an exciting Northampton side. There was pace out wide through their excellent fullback, Nick Beal, Oriol Ripol the Spanish wing and England's Ben Cohen and speed closer to the heart of the matter with the magnificent prop Tom Smith to the fore.
Saints were not perfect, though. They created scoring opportunities galore, but finished just four of them, the last in the 79th minute when Cohen maintained his record of scoring in every Premiership match thus far this season. Wayne Smith, the Northampton director of coaching, professed himself disappointed with a flabby second-half performance that saw Bath press hard for the third quarter without reward.
Overall, however, Saints showed far more potential as championship challengers than Bath. Northampton were dynamic and superbly marshalled by their halfbacks, Paul Grayson and Matt Dawson. The latter was singled out for special mention by Smith, not so much for what he did as for what he did not do. "Dawson is playing with a lot of composure," Smith said. "He is not flapping his arms around and talking to the referee. Rather he is establishing a good rapport with refs."
In the past Dawson has had something of a reputation for rabbiting at the match official. Apparently Dawson is a changed man, not that he was that willing to admit it straightaway. "I still talk to the referee," said the England scrum-half. "Everyone thinks I talk at the referee, whereas I am talking with him."
In this match the official was David McHugh, making his first appearance since being assaulted by an angry South African fan and suffering a dislocated shoulder during a Tri-Nations match, and there was precious little for anyone to complain about so well did the Irishman control affairs.
Perhaps McHugh's own reputation (a good one) helped persuade Dawson to button it, whatever the Saints livewire eventually admitted: "Maybe in the last couple of years I have allowed myself to be distracted. You tend not to realise things like that until you step away and have a look back in at yourself, and I had time to do that in the summer and reassess." Just as well.
Northampton: Tries Ripol, Jorgensen 2, Cohen. Conversions Grayson 2. Bath: Penalty Barkley.
Northampton: N Beal; O Ripol, P Jorgensen, J Leslie (capt), B Cohen; P Grayson, M Dawson; T Smith, S Thompson (D Richmond, 66), M Stewart (R Morris, 56), J Phillips (R Hunter, 34-40+2), M Connors, A Blowers (R Hunter, 76), G Seely (M Soden, 60), Stewart for Soden, 74), B Pountney.
Bath: O Barkley; S Danielli, A Crockett, M Tindall (R Thirlby, 77), T Voyce; C Malone, G Cooper (R Blake, 54); S Emms (D Barnes, h-t), J Humphreys (L Mears, 63), A Galasso (J Mallett, 60), A Beattie (A Lloyd, 66), D Grewcock (capt), G Thomas (J Scaysbrook, 51), N Thomas, D Lyle.
Referee: D McHugh (Limerick).
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