Josh Bayliss of Bath breaks clear to score their match-winning try in the final seconds
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
- Bath 30 Northampton Saints 24
They had not had fans at The Recreation Ground for 468 days, but the 3,019 who turned up for the last game of the season were kept on the edge of their seats in an eight-try thriller.
The mathematics were simple for the home side after London Irish had their game called off due to Covid-19, and were given two points. To reach the promised land of the top eight and clinch a ticket into the Heineken Champions Cup, Bath had to secure one point.
They huffed, the puffed and, at times, almost blew Northampton Saints over. But just as it seemed they were going to bag the four tries that would see them clinch that point, the TMO interfered. Four times they had tries ruled out and it was not until the final minute that the fans were able to rest easy.
“It was never in doubt,” Bath’s relieved director of rugby, Stuart Hooper, quipped. “It was an emotional day with the fans back. It felt like the city had got its heartbeat back.”
Having threatened to overrun Saints in the opening quarter, Bath only had a penalty from the departing Rhys Priestland to show for their efforts. But they let their guard down to allow Taqele Naiyaravoro in for the first of his two tries. James Grayson added the extras before two tries in as many minutes from Sam Underhill and Taulupe Faletau edged Bath 15-7 ahead.
But Saints turned the game again with a solo effort from Rory Hutchinson and Naiyaravoro’s second to take a 19-15 interval lead. The lead changed three more times with Jacques du Toit adding Bath’s third try.
With a one-point advantage, Bath launched an attack that ended with Josh Bayliss racing in from halfway to bring a strange season to a memorable end.
Scores: 3-0 Priestland pen, 3-5 Naiyaravoro try, 2-7 Grayson con, 8-7 Underhill try, 13-7 Faletau try, 15-7 Priestland con, 15-12 Hutchinson try, 15-14 Grayson con, 15-19 Naiyaravoro try, 20-19 Du Toit try, 22-19 Priestland con, 22-24 Grayson try, 25-24 Priestland pen, 30-24 Bayliss try
Bath: T de Glanville (O Bailey 78); A Watson, J Joseph, M Ojomoh, J Cokanasiga; R Priestland, B Spencer; B Obano (J Schoeman 51), J du Toit (T Doughty 60), C Judge (H Thomas 46-72), J McNally, C Ewels (W Spencer 72), M Reid, S Underhill (Z Mercer 51), T Faletau (J Bayliss 60)
Northampton Saints: T Freeman; T Collins, F Dingwall, R Hutchinson (T Litchfield 55), T Naiyaravoro; J Grayson, A Mitchell (C Tupai 55); N Auterac (A Waller 56), M Haywood (J Fish 56), P Hill (E Painter 56), A Coles, A Moon (A Ratuniyarawa 54), C Lawes, L Ludlam (O Newman 71), T Wood (P Hill 73-78)
Referee: Ian Tempest (Wirral)