Northampton Saints 15 Bath 14: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

Mike Haywood scored the crucial second Saints try (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Mike Haywood scored the crucial second Saints try (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

1
Have your say

The names on Saturday’s scoresheet told the tale of Saints’ season.

Teimana Harrison and Mike Haywood both registered during the second period to carry their team back into the fight.

And some typically nerveless kicking from Stephen Myler, nicknamed ‘The Iceman’, was to finish the job on a fluctuating day at Franklin’s Gardens.

But it was Harrison and Haywood who again hogged the Saints spotlight.

They have been microcosms of not only the energy and character of the crop of young players at their club, but they have also displayed quality by the bucketload, too.

The two main contenders for the player of the year prize again stood tall in a side packed with big names.

And it was they who would have grabbed the attention of watching England boss Eddie Jones.

That is not to say this spirited fightback was all about them.

Tom Wood again produced a teak-tough performance, while Courtney Lawes was an imposing presence.

Myler kept his nerve when it mattered and there was also an extremely useful cameo from Victor Matfield.

Kahn Fotuali'i (centre) was making his final appearance at Franklin's Gardens

Kahn Fotuali'i (centre) was making his final appearance at Franklin's Gardens

But in a campaign severely lacking in consistency, Harrison, Haywood and indefatigable flanker Jamie Gibson have provided some.

And so it was only right that two of those three men propelled their team to a vital victory in the bid to cement a top-six spot.

The thought of a Saints squad as talented as this, with Louis Picamoles to be added during the summer, starting out in the Challenge Cup next season does not sit well.

And there was a roar of relief at the Gardens as Myler tidily kicked the ball out to call time on this absorbing encounter.

Jamie Gibson has been one of the stars of the season for Saints

Jamie Gibson has been one of the stars of the season for Saints

Saints had huffed and puffed from the off, but, as has been the case on a number of occasions this season, they failed to blow the door down.

And their lack of attacking accuracy left them rueful as ruthless Bath took the two opportunities that came their way.

It was a real smash-and-grab first 20 minutes from the away side, but Saints had bossed that period in terms of possession and the game continued in a similar vein.

After their first scoreless first half since the Champions Cup quarter-final at Clermont Auvergne last season, Saints finally found a way though in the second period.

And it was Harrison, who was relentless during his 72 minutes on the field, who got it.

Haywood and Myler completed the comeback and Saints could breathe again.

Luther Burrell tried to put the pressure on Bath

Luther Burrell tried to put the pressure on Bath

And now they will just look to get over the line at Gloucester next Saturday to put an end to a difficult season.

But there is no doubt that this campaign will have been a seminal experience, standing Saints in good stead.

They must have learned they cannot afford off days against struggling sides.

They must have learned that they can’t afford to gift teams tries, like they have done in recent home games against Harlequins, Leicester and now Bath

And though they have fallen from a first-placed finish last season, they can at least take solace from the fact Bath have plummeted from second to ninth.

They will not be playing Champions Cup rugby next season, which will be a shock to the system for a talented squad.

Saints will hope to ensure they do make the top six now and they can go forward with those lessons learned.

They can also go forward with a group of players who possess experience, youth and immense talent.

And Harrison and Haywood are the epitome of that.

How they rated...

HARRY MALLINDER

Came in as a late replacement for Ben Foden and the slip that led the first try aside, he did little wrong... 7

KEN PISI

Not the easiest day for the Samoan, who was forced to chase Williams and watch him score. Did put his body on the line though... 6

GEORGE PISI

Desperately tried to make things happen with offloads and physicality, but Saints found it tough to break Bath down... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

No shortage of appetite from the centre, but he lost the ball in contact a couple of times and one drop proved costly... 6

GEORGE NORTH

Once again he frantically looked for work and he made a couple of good runs, unfortunately seeing a try ruled out... 7

STEPHEN MYLER

Kept his nerve from the tee when it mattered most, vindicating the coaches’ decision to leave him on... 7

LEE DICKSON

Tried to up the tempo but got on the wrong side of referee Wayne Barnes on a couple of occasions... 6

ALEX WALLER

Was left frustrated at a couple of scrum calls but had a decent enough game before being replaced... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

Full of energy and enthusiasm again, the hooker produce a couple of neat offloads and popped up for a crucial try... 8

KIERAN BROOKES

His game was hampered by injury and he cut a dejected figure after being forced off during the second half... 6

COURTNEY LAWES

Some big carries from the big man, who continually tried to put Bath under pressure with his physicality... 8

CHRISTIAN DAY

A steady enough afternoon and no lack of effort for the cause from the influential second row... 7

JAMIE GIBSON

Works so hard and he was always in Bath faces, both in attack and defence as he enjoyed a successful return after three games out... 7

TOM WOOD

Looks like a warrior, plays like a warrior - the flanker may not have got the plaudits Harrison has, but his work should not be underestimated... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON - CHRON STAR MAN

What more can be said about this man? So impressive again, he took the fight to Bath with relentless abandon and scored the try that got Saints back in the game... 9

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

PAUL HILL (for Brookes 44)

Came on for the unfortunate Brookes and Saints didn’t lose anything as he did well, helping out at the breakdown... 7

CAMPESE MA’AFU (for Waller 59)

Wasn’t too heavily involved and did knock on once, but he didn’t do too much wrong... 6

VICTOR MATFIELD (for Day 59)

His experience was so vital late on and he earned his corn with a crucial lineout steal that stopped a late Bath charge... 7

JAMES WILSON (for G Pisi 59)

Always adds something to proceedings and the popular figure kept Bath on their toes with some direct running... 7

James Wilson got a good reception when he came on

James Wilson got a good reception when he came on