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Late Alex Mitchell try seals Premiership title for Northampton

By PA
Northampton's Alex Mitchell pounces for the crucial score (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Northampton were crowned Gallagher Premiership champions at Twickenham after a late try by Alex Mitchell secured a 25-21 victory that ended Bath’s defiant response to Beno Obano’s red card.

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Obano was sent off with almost an hour of the final left to play for a high tackle on Juarno Augustus which referee Christophe Ridley said presented a high level of danger with no mitigation.

Bath sacrificed Alfie Barbeary to bring on replacement prop Juan Schoeman, stripping them of a second key ball carrier and in theory the ability to play anything more ambitious than a spoiling game, yet they rallied courageously.

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Tries by Tommy Freeman and Ollie Sleightholme inflicted some initial wounds, but they recovered to hit back through touch downs from Thomas du Toit and Will Muir and the boot of Finn Russell to lead 21-18 with 13 minutes left.

Northampton have been the Premiership’s standout team this season, operating with multiple strings to their bow but primarily a cutting edge in attack, yet they went into their shells as Bath took control.

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Avg. Points Scored
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It took the tackle-busting ability of 21-year-old replacement wing George Hendy and support work of Mitchell to eventually break their opponents, who saw Sam Underhill lead a remarkable defensive effort.

Hendy was named man of the match as Northampton said a triumphant farewell to Courtney Lawes, Alex Waller, Lewis Ludlam and Alex Moon, but Bath’s side was also full of worthy performances including half-backs Ben Spencer and Russell.

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Russell’s first significant act was to send an ugly penalty kick wide of the left upright, drawing a frown from the Scotland playmaker, but he was more successful with his second attempt.

George Furbank was clattered in contact as a nervy set-piece battle gave way to tentative outbreaks of attack, but Northampton were unable to find any space in the the well drilled Bath defence.

As the second quarter approached Saints patiently advanced deep into opposition territory, allowing Fin Smith to land a drop-goal, before the match tilted against Bath with Obano’s exit.

The impact was almost instant as Northampton plundered their first try, Lawes threading a pass out of contact to Furbank and the England full-back worked his magic, gliding into space and sending Freeman over.

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Furbank provided the assist for Sleightholme to score in the left corner, but Bath hit back when du Toit squeezed over from short range in a major victory for their pack.

A Russell penalty early in the second-half reduced the deficit to two points and Northampton then knocked on as they looked to capitalise on a precious position close the whitewash.

Russell and Underhill double tackled Burger Odendaal, forcing the South African to limp off, and having absorbed a Smith penalty Bath struck next when Muir touched down Spencer’s crossfield kick.

Even Furbank produced a handling error as Saints’ foundations began to shake, a pinpoint 50-22 from Russell adding to the pressure.

Russell sent over his third penalty and Bath’s resilience then shone through as they soaked up waves of Northampton attacks before winning a scrum penalty close to their own 22.

Saints lost Smith to injury in another hammer blow, but his half-back partner Mitchell came to the rescue as Hendy used his strength to bust through multiple tackles before finding England’s scrum-half in support for the decisive score.

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Mzilikazi 2 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

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S
Shaylen 4 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

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FEATURE Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’? Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?
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