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Aviva Premiership: Bath held by Northampton Saints
- Saturday's Premiership preview
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Bath and Northampton played out a 19-19 draw under the Recreation Ground floodlights, a result which leaves several Aviva Premiership play-off issues unresolved.
Second-placed Saints are not absolutely sure of a home semi-final and Bath, in third, can still be denied a play-off place by Harlequins, who they meet next Saturday in the final round of games.
The highlight of an incident-packed game was a stunning individual try by Bath fly-half George Ford, who was responsible for all his side's points. Saints' try was scored by left wing Jamie Elliott with Stephen Myler's boot responsible for the rest of their points.
The game ended in controversy when Courtney Lawes was flagged by touch judge Ashley Rowden for a late hit on Ford, within kicking range. But referee Matthew Carley over-ruled him after checking the TV replay.
Northampton, buoyed by a fifth minute penalty from Myler, spent the first quarter camped in and around the Bath 22. The pressure was unrelenting as the home defence was forced to repulse wave after wave of attacks.
It was one of many do-or-die tackles that ended Rob Webber's match after just 16 minutes, the hooker getting his knee trapped as he felled number eight Sam Dickinson. It was agonisingly bad luck for Webber only just back from a 10-week absence with ankle trouble.
Ross Batty came off the bench and immediately got stuck in to his defensive duties and Bath were relieved to see a drop goal attempt by Myler drift wide.
Although rarely out of their own half, the one ray of hope for Bath was in their scrummaging which earned them a penalty which Ford kicked to the corner. Saints stopped the catch-and-drive but eventually had to confront the Bath scrum again and folded under pressure, allowing Ford to kick an equalising penalty on 29 minutes.
Myler's hanging restart gave rise to another 'tackle in the air' ruling by the TMO but only a penalty rather than a yellow card against Dave Attwood - and Myler's kick was wide anyway. Almost straight away the fly-half was offered a simpler chance to put Northampton 6-3 ahead.
The lead was short-lived however as Bath, winning more ball in the visitors' half and looking more confident as a result, forced Saints to drift offside at a ruck and Ford was on target again. He might have given his side a half-time lead but was wide with a drop goal attempt with the last kick of the half.
Bath came out all guns firing after the break. Ford was wide with a penalty kick but did not let that faze him as he responded with a brilliant individual try on 45 minutes.
Referee Carley was playing advantage to Bath when Ford evaded a lunging tackle by Lawes, slipped between two more Northampton forwards and outpaced Ben Foden to score by the posts, then converted his own try.
The lead lasted only eight minutes though as Northampton forced a succession of penalties to build pressure in the Bath 22 and Myler deftly slipped a pass to Jamie Elliott to finish off in the left corner. Myler drew the sides level with the conversion.
Unfortunately for Bath, Batty joined Webber on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, which left only replacement loosehead Nathan Catt to fill in at hooker - and he was prepared to scrummage too. Bath won the resulting penalty and Ford banged it over from nearly 50 metres.
Northampton then lost Lawes to the sin-bin for needlessly taking out Anthony Watson off the ball as the match entered the last quarter.
They were still dangerous, as George Pisi showed by touching down from a ball by Elliott but the score was disallowed for a forward pass. It was left to Myler again to level the scores at 16-16 with a 67th minute penalty.
With flanker Guy Mercer now tasked with line-out throwing, Bath's set piece was now anything but an advantage. Ford again attempted a drop goal with five minutes remaining but the effort was mis-hit.
With the tireless Carl Fearns continuing to batter away in midfield, Bath forced a priceless penalty at the breakdown and Ford made it 19-16 with two minutes remaining.
The drama did not end there as Anthony Perenise was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Mike Hayward. Myler stepped up and converted the penalty to earn the draw.Aviva Premiership. Click here to bet.
|Friday 13th February|
|19:45||Leicester vs Gloucester|
|19:45||Northampton vs London Irish|
|Saturday 14th February|
|16:30||Exeter vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 15th February|
|13:00||Saracens vs Bath|
|14:00||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Sale|
|Friday 20th February|
|19:45||Newcastle vs Wasps|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:00||Sale vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Exeter|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Bath vs Northampton|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|14:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th February|
|19:45||Leicester vs Sale|
|19:45||Northampton vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||London Welsh vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Newcastle|
|15:15||Exeter vs Bath|
|Sunday 1st March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Gloucester|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:45||Bath vs Sale|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs London Irish|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Saracens|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
|Sunday 4th January|
|London Welsh 13 - 24 Harlequins|
|Wasps 41 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Leicester 17 - 8 Bath|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|Exeter 25 - 26 Gloucester|
|Saracens 22 - 6 London Irish|
|Friday 2nd January|
|Northampton 39 - 31 Newcastle|
|Sunday 28th December|
|Gloucester 23 - 30 Wasps|
|Saturday 27th December|
|Harlequins 25 - 30 Northampton|
|Newcastle 23 - 25 Saracens|
|Bath 31 - 14 Exeter|
|Sale Sharks 30 - 32 Leicester|
|Friday 26th December|
|London Irish 24 - 9 London Welsh|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Wasps 48 - 16 London Irish|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Gloucester 16 - 39 Bath|
|Northampton 23 - 19 Leicester|
|Saracens 78 - 7 London Welsh|
|Harlequins 15 - 7 Newcastle|
|Friday 19th December|
|Sale 18 - 11 Exeter|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com