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Josh Bayliss gallops 70 metres to score and become Bath's clock-at-zero hero

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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A sun-kissed Recreation Ground welcomed nearly 3,000 supporters to witness Bath secure a place in Europe’s elite club competition next season thanks to a 30-24 Gallagher Premiership victory over Northampton. They managed it in the most nerve-jangling fashion, hanging on to a one-point lead at the death until replacement flanker Josh Bayliss galloped 70 metres for the clinching try with the clock at zero.


For much of the second half, they had been straining for a try bonus point, which would have been enough on most calculations. In the closing seconds, conceding a converted try and scraping a losing bonus point might have sufficed but it would have been a demeaning end to the season.

Saints, already confirmed as fifth-place finishers in the Premiership, looked off the pace in the first quarter. The visitors, who were without suspended lock Dave Ribbans, saw their reorganised line-out malfunction, badly handing Bath easy possession.

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But apart from a Rhys Priestland penalty after four minutes, and for all the threat posed by Anthony Watson, Joe Cokanasiga and Tom de Glanville from deep, the home side just could not get points on the board.

Northampton needed all of Tommy Freeman’s pace to snuff out the danger when Priestland hacked-on into the in-goal area and a Ben Spencer touchdown was ruled out for a fumbled offload in the build-up. Instead, the first try came after 20 minutes at the other end of the field as Taqele Naiyaravoro strode in unopposed, with James Grayson converting from the touchline.



Bath’s riposte came immediately with Sam Underhill’s charge-down try from Alex Mitchell’s box-kick from the restart and the home side quickly added another from Taulupe Faletau, thanks to Watson’s quicksilver break. Priestland’s conversion put them 15-7 ahead but they paid dearly for Watson’s fumbled attempt at a simple touchdown seven minutes before half-time. A superb finish by centre Rory Hutchinson – converted by Grayson – and another stroll-in try by Naiyaravoro, both in that vulnerable corner, left Bath trailing 15-19 at the break.

Spencer, whose fine tactical kicking had been a reassuring feature of Bath’s game, had another ‘try’ disallowed at the start of the second half, but the pack soon fashioned a catch-and-drive score for hooker Jacques Du Toit before Priestland’s kick edged the home side back in front.

But the unstructured see-saw nature of the second half did not faze Saints who looked dangerous attacking from any point on the field. Grayson finished off a sustained attack to earn a try bonus point on the hour – albeit unconverted – before Priestland snatched back the lead with a penalty.

What Bath really needed to secure a place in the Champions Cup was a bonus try themselves, but Northampton were not ready to oblige, although the TMO had to step in again to deny replacement hooker Tom Doughty, after spotting a block off the ball by Bayliss. The last few minutes were a rearguard action, trying to stave off wave after wave of Saints attacks until Bayliss broke clear to seal the win.



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