Bath v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Bath v Northampton Saints

Friday, 11th June 2021, 12:07 pm
Updated Friday, 11th June 2021, 12:08 pm
Tom James scored for Saints against Bath back in February

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 22)

Venue: The Recreation Ground, Bath

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, June 12, 2021

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Weather: 21c, mostly sunny

Live television coverage: BT Sport 1 Extra

Referee: Ian Tempest

Bath: De, Glanville, Watson, Joseph, Ojomoh, Cokanasiga; Priestland, B Spencer; Obano, du Toit, Judge; McNally, Ewels (c); Reid, Underhill, Faletau.

Replacements: Doughty, Schoeman, Thomas, W Spencer, Mercer, Bayliss, Chudley, Bailey.

Saints: Freeman; Collins, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Mitchell; Auterac, Haywood, Hill; Coles, Moon; Lawes, Ludlam (c), Wood.

Replacements: Fish, Waller, Painter, Ratuniyarawa, Newman, Tupai, Proctor, Gillespie.

Outs: Saints: Owen Franks (foot), George Furbank (calf), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Teimana Harrison (calf), Nick Isiekwe (pectoral), Ollie Sleightholme (concussion), David Ribbans (suspended).

Most recent meeting: Sunday, February 28, 2021: Saints 22 Bath 23 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: So here we are, the end of the line. One final stop for Saints on their 2020/21 journey.

It has been quite a ride, which started slowly, gathered some serious pace in the early part of 2021, fell away and then sparked into life again during the past two matches.

Saints would have hoped to be heading to The Rec this weekend with a real chance of making the play-offs.

And the fact that was even a possibility at one point owes much to their character, as they bounced back from a torrid end to 2020 to propel themselves into contention at the start of May.

But hugely disappointing defeats to Gloucester and Newcastle Falcons derailed the bid, leaving Saints with less to play for than they had once dreamed.

Sale Sharks and Harlequins just kept winning, stretching the distance between themselves and Chris Boyd's men.

And as a result, the destination of the four play-off places have been known for some time now.

Still, Saints have shown against Wasps and Exeter that they won't just drift quietly into the summer.

They have delivered big displays against both of those sides, winning one and narrowly losing the other.

They scrapped so hard with 14 men against the Chiefs, and that performance won't have allowed Bath to sleep easy this week.

Stuart Hooper's side need to win on Saturday to make sure they will be playing Champions Cup rugby next season as they are currently clinging on to eighth spot.

And the fact Saints don't have to worry about such things on the final day shows just what has been achieved this season.

They have undoubtedly turned things around since last year, and there have been plenty of signs for a bright future with the emergence of players such as Tommy Freeman and Ollie Sleightholme.

Saints will need a big summer of preparation to ensure they can secure some much-needed consistency, the lack of which has proved so costly to their chances of a title tilt this time round.

But there is no doubt that whatever happens against Bath this weekend, Saints have reasons to smile.

The same couldn't be said at the conclusion of the last campaign, so that is a result in itself.

That being said, if recent weeks are anything to go by, Saints will want to go out with a bang.

And with Bath harbouring similar aspirations, playing in front of their fans for the first time in 2021, this should be a fitting way to bring the curtain down on an eventful campaign.

Tom's prediction: Saints showed against Exeter that they don't need any extra incentive to turn in a good display so I'm expecting the same again here. That being said, they never have an easy time at Bath, and the hosts know they must win to keep their Champions Cup fate in their own hands. Consequently, I think Bath might just edge this. Bath 32 Saints 28.