An unrelenting nine-try attacking contest tips Northampton's way
Tom Collins scored two tries as Northampton won their third Gallagher Premiership match in a row by defeating Bristol 39-22 in what was a typically entertaining clash between the sides. The result kept Saints’ play-off hopes very much alive as they remained four points behind fourth-placed Exeter in the table.
The action was pretty unrelenting at Franklin’s Gardens, as two teams who like to throw the ball about went toe-to-toe, and it was the hosts who ultimately had the greater firepower, scoring five tries to the Bears’ four.
Bristol, who issued a statement on Friday regarding damaging reports regarding their salarty cap for 2022/23, broke through after seven minutes when Chris Vui’s pass put Harry Thacker into space and the hooker timed his ball inside to put Semi Radradra in the clear, with Callum Sheedy miscuing his conversion wide.
Dan Biggar then put Northampton on the board with a simple penalty, but the fly-half was fortunate not to see a card for a dangerous tackle on Radradra minutes later. Saints had seen two tries ruled out – through captain Lewis Ludlam and Tommy Freeman – by the time they managed to make one of their chances count after 25 minutes.
A slick first-phase move off a line-out led to Alex Mitchell putting Rory Hutchinson through a gap and the centre bided his time before putting Collins in the clear to score near the posts. Three minutes later, the hosts were over again, as quick hands by Mitchell and Courtney Lawes led to Hutchinson going in under the posts with the visitors not even close to laying a hand on him.
Bristol soon hit back as Sheedy squeezed over in the corner, but Northampton had their third try when Ludlam made the most of some flimsy tackling to force his way over after collecting George Furbank’s offload. A breathless first half still had one more score left in it, as Bristol loosehead prop Yann Thomas plunged over, with Sheedy’s conversion taking the score to 24-17 at the break.
Biggar extended Northampton’s lead to 10 points with a penalty from in front of the posts before Freeman secured their bonus point by going in under the posts after neat play by Fraser Dingwall and Hutchinson. To make matters worse for Bristol, Radradra was sent to the sin bin for a no-arms tackle on Biggar in the build-up and he was soon joined there by Fitz Harding, following his high hit on Dingwall.
The 13-man Bears were soon breached, as Collins was given an easy finish down the left by Freeman’s pass to score his second try. Saints’ Paul Hill was then shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on and Bristol bagged a try bonus point of their own when Alapati Leiua went over in the corner for a consolation score.
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