Northampton 14-18 Bath: Ford leads Bath to victory
Last Updated: 03/09/16 6:54pm
A late fightback from Northampton could not deny Bath an opening-day victory at a drenched Franklin's Gardens.
George Ford kicked all Bath's points as the visitors controlled a dreary game with no try-scoring chances until, with the game almost over, replacement Saints scrum-half Nic Groom scored two tries in four minutes.
Bath held on for the final two minutes to record a victory that gives new director of rugby Todd Blackadder a winning start as they look to redeem themselves for last season's poor showing.
Northampton gave a first start to new signing Louis Picamoles, the French international joining from Toulouse in the summer, while director of rugby Jim Mallinder decided to put son Harry at fly-half, leaving regular number 10 Stephen Myler on the bench.
Bath had a new No 8 of their own in British Lion Taulupe Faletau, but the Welsh international lasted just 12 minutes, limping off on the same leg that had a thigh already heavily strapped.
The early pressure from the home side brought two penalties, with both kicked to the corner, but both times England captain Dylan Hartley failed to find his jumper, with David Denton proving a nuisance on behalf of Bath.
Mallinder missed the first shot at the posts on 23 minutes and instead Ford put the visitors 3-0 in front seven minutes before half-time. Five minutes later the England fly-half added a drop goal right in front after Saints lost another lineout deep inside their own half.
Mallinder then sliced a penalty right in front of the posts to leave the home side 6-0 down at the break.
Mallinder started the second half with a bad pass that saw Ahsee Tuala knock-on; Bath won a penalty at the scrum and Ford made it 9-0.
Suddenly Bath were playing full of confidence, Saints were missing tackles and Semesa Rokoduguni was about to touch down after beating Tuala with a sidestep, but the winger was brought back for a forward pass.
As the game entered the last quarter Myler came on at fly-half with Mallinder moving to inside centre position, but the errors still handed Bath chances and another Ford drop-goal made it 12-0.
The Saints scrum was also in trouble, shoved off their own ball to give Ford an easy three points from 20 metres out.
The TMO decided on another penalty as Courtney Lawes was judged to have not used his arms in a tackle, and Ford made it 18-0 with 11 minutes remaining.
After Chris Cook was sin-binned with six minutes to go Groom scurried over for a try and four minutes later the home crowd suddenly came alive as he juggled the ball to touch down from close range again. But it was all too late and Bath ended their 16-year hoodoo at Northampton with a win to open their Premiership campaign.