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Northampton remain on course for play-offs after unplugging Bath lead

Will Muir (r) of Bath looks dejected after his sides defeat alongside Ben Spencer (#9) and Joe Simpson (2l) during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints at The Recreation Ground on April 23, 2022 in Bath, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

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Northampton stayed on course for the Gallagher Premiership play-offs after staging a remarkable second-half fightback to beat Bath 36-31.


Saints, who trailed 31-12 with 20 minutes to go, moved into fourth place as they somehow conjured a bonus-point win at the Recreation Ground without their suspended Wales captain Dan Biggar and injured England skipper Courtney Lawes.

Tries from Alex Mitchell and Tommy Freeman, plus a 76th-minute penalty try, hauled them level before substitute hooker Mike Haywood touched down in the final act of a gripping game.

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Bath finished the game down to 12 men after all the replacements had been used, as Josh Bayliss went off injured and Jaco Coetzee, then Semesa Rokoduguni were yellow-carded during the closing seconds.

Scrum-half Ben Spencer’s try double, plus touchdowns from centre Max Clark and wing Will Muir, looked to have been enough to send Saints packing, while Spencer and his half-back partner Danny Cipriani each kicked two conversions, and Cipriani added a penalty.

But Northampton, who saw substitute back-row forward Brandon Nanson carried off following a lengthy second-half stoppage, ultimately moved fourth above Exeter and Gloucester.

Centre Matt Proctor and number eight Juarno Augustus scored earlier Northampton tries as they claimed a first Premiership away win against Bath since 2015, ending a run of six successive defeats.


There were a few anxious moments for Bath as Saints rallied late in the game, and then Northampton upped the pressure and their hosts could not respond.


Bath showed four changes from the side knocked out of European Challenge Cup contention by Edinburgh last weekend, with Cipriani, Muir, lock Mike Williams and flanker Miles Reid all returning.

Biggar’s suspension, meanwhile, meant that George Furbank moved to fly-half for Saints, with Freeman at full-back and Ollie Sleightholme on the wing. Teimana Harrison replaced Lawes, and lock Alex Coles also started.


Bath made the early running, and it took some frantic Northampton defending to deny Clark a try following his midfield partner Jonathan Joseph’s well-placed kick.

Saints, though, responded by setting up camp inside Bath’s 22, and they took the lead following a number of close-range charges that Bath managed to repel.

But there was no stopping the visitors when they worked possession wide, and scrum-half Mitchell’s pass sent Proctor over for a 17th-minute try that Furbank converted.

Bath then hit back early in the second quarter, and this time the Joseph-Clark combination conjured a try as Clark gathered possession following his midfield partner’s kick and crossed unopposed.

Cipriani converted to put Bath level, and after Furbank missed a straightforward penalty chance, Bath struck again.

Saints completed some outstanding last-ditch tackles, but they ran out of defensive numbers, and Cipriani’s short pass gave Muir a simple run-in, with the fly-half’s conversion making it 14-7.

Northampton were their own worst enemies at times, kicking poorly or guilty of wrong options, and Cipriani opened up a 10-point interval advantage when he kicked a 20-metre penalty.

Saints needed a response, and it arrived just five minutes into the second period when Augustus crashed over from close range, but Furbank was unable to convert.


And it proved short-lived hope for the visitors as Bath stung with them with two quickfire tries both scored by Spencer.

He darted around the blindside of a lineout for his first, the finished off following an opportunist break, and he brilliantly converted both tries in the face of a gusting breeze as Bath moved past 30 points.

Mitchell gave Saints a glimmer of hope when he darted over for a try 15 minutes from time, then Freeman crossed shortly afterwards to set up a rousing finish, and Northampton squeezed over the finishing line amid dramatic scenes.


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