Northampton Saints’ Revival Gathers Momentum

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NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Courtney Lawes of Northampton Saints scores a try during the Aviva Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Franklin's Gardens on September 15, 2017 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

If such a thing as respite exists in the Aviva Premiership then both Northampton and Bath can look forward to some next week after completing the most ferocious opening three fixtures either could’ve possibly asked for.Β  Northampton Saints’ revival continued with their second win in three games whilst Bath’s perfect start was brought to an abrupt halt at Franklin’s Gardens as the East-Midlanders secured a bonus point 24-6 victory.

Saints captain for the night Courtney Lawes crossed early on after a junking run from Tom Collins had left the flanker with the line at his mercy. Six points from the boot of Rhys Priestland had briefly put Bath ahead but before the interval came David Ribbans crossed from close range after the Saints driving maul had put them in prime position.

Ribbans crossed again in the second period after the Northampton forwards had peppered the Bath line with drive after drive. The bonus point then came four minutes from the finish when George North crossed. In assault of their fourth try the Saints back line spotted a numbers mismatch out wide and North was a grateful beneficiary.

Resurgence And Reality Check

A week is a long time in sport so two weeks must be a lifetime. Since being humbled at Twickenham by European champions Saracens Northampton have beaten both Leicester and now Bath.

“You read stuff and it hurts” said Mallinder as he remained in defiant mood with his side leading a mild resurgence up the Premiership table.

Whether he or his side admit to taking notice of what criticism came their way following round one, it’s clear from the physicality and the us against the world mentality they portrayed that anger coupled with confidence makes for a formidable combination.

Bath on the other hand were “disappointed” to deliver a performance that lacked so much in attack. They “dug in” according to Mallinder and even with ten minutes remaining were still in touch.

But with the talent in their back line the Northampton defence remained relatively unchallenged throughout the contest as the likes of Priestland, Ben Tapuai and Jonathan Joseph failed to get going.

Given the fixtures handed to them though, both sides would have accepted two wins from three. Even if perspective and expectations do change every week. It’s still very early on but both outfits have shown enough to suggest they are here for the long haul this term.

Roko Anonymous

A Bath hero on the each of the opening two rounds, Semesa Rokoduguni had a quiet Friday night after stealing the headlines against both the Tigers and Sarries.

Those who were at the Rec last week were quick to point out that for 76 minutes the winger was relatively unheard of, the pity for Saracens was that he only needed four minutes to conjure up two tries and win the contest.

Lightening may have struck twice with two length of the field intercept tries but it was not to be third time lucky in the Midlands.

Eddie Jones was in attendance with several England stalwarts and even more promising youngsters in action. Mallinder said his young winger Collins “must definitely be up there and worth a look ” when asked whether his early season form merits England recognition.

Jones is clearly particular on what he wants from his wingers and his apparent refusal to overlook Rokoduguni’s flaws were as evident as they have been since the season began. Content to stay wide and wait for opportunities rather than go seeking them, his quiet night at the office should give Jones a week off at least when justifying his snub of the Bath man.

Stars Of The Future?

Two England hopefuls enjoyed mixed fortunes at Franklin’s Gardens. Sam Underhill, making his debut for Bath thus making him eligible for selection by the England boss, eased his way into Premiership life by racking up 23 tackles and helping Bath gain the upper hand at scrum time.

The last of his tackles however knocked the flanker out cold, leaving Bath with a man down due to a flaw in the laws of the game that prohibits replacements being made if a player is knocked out.Β He was soon up to his feet and after a productive bow in England and will look to build as the season goes on.

Saints 10 Harry Mallinder however endured a night that won’t live long past his short-term memory store with debate continuing as to whether fly-half really possesses a future for him. His decision making at first receiver is in need of polishing, the groans around the Gardens confirmed that as he continued to kick ball away in promising positions.

Nevertheless, Mallinder seems committed to finding a place for the 21-year-old in the Northampton reckoning. With options still to come in the shape of Stephen Myler, Piers Francis and, next year, Dan Biggar, Mallinder may be set for a change in position as the season grows.

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