Northampton Saints 24 Bath 18: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

If someone had said that a team rocked up at the Gardens on Saturday and delivered a dominant set-piece display, prevailing despite having just 37 per cent of the territory, you may have asked how much Bath won by.
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But it was not Johann van Graan's men who were celebrating at the final whistle as the black, green and gold produced a second successive backs-to-the-wall win in the Gallagher Premiership.

Six days earlier, Saints had stood tall late on amid a Newcastle Falcons storm, with Tom James sealing a nerve-shredding two-point success with a timely late breakdown penalty.

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This time it was Fireman Sam who poured cold water on the flames as Sam Graham came off the bench and got over the ball to thwart Bath's ominous last-gasp surge towards the home line.

Saints celebrated a crucial win against Bath (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Saints celebrated a crucial win against Bath (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Saints celebrated a crucial win against Bath (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saints had been under huge pressure during a second period in which they simply could not get any momentum after moving into a nine-point lead.

But they turned to their set piece, yes, their set piece, and their defence, yes, their defence, to get the job done.

Phil Dowson's men finished in the Gallagher Premiership top four last season despite the fact that they had to rely heavily so on their attacking swagger.

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So far this season though, they have showed, aside from during the disappointing loss to Bristol and in moments during the opening-day defeat to Sale Sharks, that they can finally lay the key foundations of the game.

And they have displayed a penchant for coming up big in massive moments in the past two weeks, keeping their composure and demonstrating a breakdown threat that hadn't previously been as evident as they would have liked.

They won several penalties from Bath in key areas, notably at scrum time, notably five metres from their own line.

It delighted everyone of a black, green and gold persuasion to see that, for a second week running, this team can roll up its sleeves and win ugly.

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We know they have the pretty side of their game in their locker, and that was on show in the first half when Tom James delivered two eye-catching try assists.

And it was in evidence in the second period, when a lovely lineout move caught Bath out to give Saints some breathing space.

But what everyone has been calling for is to see Saints become consistent in the other areas of the game that left them well short of a top-two finish last season.

And the signs are there that they are making progress.

Of course, Bath rested several key men here, and Newcastle are not a regular Premiership play-off contender, but you can only overcome what's in front of you.

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Saints haven't yet been dominant, but they have got the job done.

And with several key men missing, that is all that matters as they try to lay the platform for a big season.

They will be tested to their limit by a free-flowing Exeter Chiefs side on Sunday in what will be another huge examination of their credentials.

But if they can maintain such defensive desire and deliver some more set-piece dominance, they will know their own attacking ability can come to the fore.

How they rated…

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GEORGE FURBANK - always a steadying presence for his side, ensuring that Bath's kicking tactics often failed to come to fruition... 7

TOMMY FREEMAN - didn't get enough of the ball to be able to replicate his try-scoring heroics against Bath in the cup, but did what he needed to... 7

FRASER DINGWALL - a typically gritty display against a Bath team who were keen to test Saints at times but who found it hard to break through for the most part... 7

RORY HUTCHINSON - this was a really good defensive display, summing up the improvement in that area from Saints as he showed huge determination not to be beaten... 7

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GEORGE HENDY - etched his name on the scoresheet once again and looked solid overall as he helped to deliver the victory for his team... 7

FIN SMITH - slotted his kicks when needed, including a long-range penalty to get Saints up and running, and didn't shy away from the defensive side of the game... 7

TOM JAMES - CHRON STAR MAN - kicked the ball away at the end and it nearly cost Saints but prior to that he had enjoyed a dazzling first half, setting up two tries in fine fashion, and his kick ahead in the second half caused Tom de Glanville to spill the ball into touch, setting up a lineout move from which George Hendy scored, meaning James was involved in all three Saints tries on an eventful afternoon for the scrum-half... 8

ALEX WALLER - a huge showing from the prop, who came off in the second half and then came back on when brother Ethan was forced off with an injury. Helped to deliver a dominant scrummaging display... 8

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CURTIS LANGDON - the all-action hooker was at it again here, flying around the park and making an impact whenever he got the ball... 8

ELLIOT MILLAR MILLS - looks a very shrewd signing for Saints as he more than holds his own in the scrum and also provides some force in the carry... 7.5

ALEX MOON - always gets through a mountain of work, and this was another big shift from the second row... 7.5

ALEX COLES - popped up to grab himself a try during the first half and tried to carry Saints forward when he got the chance... 7.5

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ANGUS SCOTT-YOUNG - his desire to stay on his feet and get a pass away helped James to unlock the door for Coles' try, and the flanker got through plenty of work here... 7.5

TOM PEARSON - ran a lovely line to link up with James for another try, and Saints fans will be reassured that something special can always happen with this man in the team... 8

LEWIS LUDLAM - looked hungry as every for action as he made his return from World Cup duty, and one trademark carry down the left summed up his desire... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

PAUL HILL (for Millar Mills 53) - what an impact from the prop, who hadn't been selected in the opening three Premiership matches but who issued a reminder of his ability here... 7.5

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