Bath 38-8 Northampton, Aviva Premiership, February 19
Banahan triple sinks Saints
February 19, 2011
Banahan triple sinks Saints
Bath condemned Northampton to their fourth consecutive Aviva Premiership defeat with a 38-8 victory over the Saints at the Rec on Saturday.
England wing Matt Banahan scored a hat-trick of tries as the visitors were swept away on a current of attacking rugby, leaving Northampton clinging on to their top four status.
Australian centre Matt Carraro and replacement Sam Vesty bagged the home side's other tries and while Greig Tonks bagged a consolation score for the Saints there was little to crow about for Jim Mallinder's men, who are still looking for their first domestic success of the year.
England skipper Lewis Moody played 22 minutes off the bench for Bath prior to next weekend's Six Nations clash with France, although there is an injury worry for Scotland boss Andy Robinson as Saints centre Joe Ansbro was carried from the field with a head injury.
The Saints were denied an early try to lock Christian Day by the TMO, with the second-row correctly adjudged to have handled the ball in a ruck, and Bath were put on the front-foot as Butch James twice took the ball to the line and fired passes outside, the second sending Nick Abendanon haring into space.
The fullback's kick ahead was snaffled and the danger cleared, but Bath's early fluency drew appreciative noises from a packed house and the opening points to Barkley after a penalty on 12 minutes.
Saints fly-half Stephen Myler's recent kicking woes returned three minutes later as he missed a simple shot at goal and Bath took full advantage with the opening score to Banahan. Ben Skirving did the hard work with a strong surge through the middle and from there the home side's silky handling did the rest as James, Tom Biggs and Carraro rattled through some quick offloads to put Banahan over untouched.
Barkley added the extras for a 10-point lead on 18 minutes and after a scrappy spell of play things turned from bad to worse for the visitors as Tonks saw yellow for a high shot on Biggs. Bath almost made immediate inroads with a Barkley cross-field kick to Banahan but a strong hit on the supporting Abendanon kept the Saints' line intact.
Matt Banahan scored a hat-trick in a big win for Bath © Getty Images
The relief did not last long as a rampaging Banahan turned provider for Carraro to score Bath's second try. The England wing flattened Saints openside Phil Dowson to open a hole in midfield and as the visiting cover converged, his flick out of the back-door sent Carraro crashing over.
Again Barkley added the conversion and while Myler hit back with a penalty there was no further respite for Northampton as the fly-half missed another shot on the stroke of half-time, his kick striking an upright.
Bath wasted no time in getting back on the offensive after the break with more strong handling setting Banahan away along the wing and the Jersey-born giant waited only moments for his second try. The score was served up on a plate by scrum-half Michael Claassens, whose superb reverse pass was snapped up by his onrushing wing, who breezed past a reticent Tonks to leave Barkley with an easy kick.
The Saints threw the kitchen sink at the hosts in hope of an immediate response but found a blue and black wall blocking their path, with Ansbro taking a heavy knock in a clash with James and receiving a lengthy period of treatment on the field.
Bath were not put off by the lull in proceedings and Banahan wrapped up his hat-trick and the bonus-point with another powerful surge, where Tonks was again swatted aside with ease. The winger flirted with the dead-ball line before touching down but got away with it, Barkley converting.
Tonks dusted himself off and hit back immediately with a well-taken try, quick hands by Jon Clarke and replacement fly-half Shane Geraghty doing the damage before the fullback fended off the last defender to crash over. Bruce Reihana took over the kicking duties but the conversion was a familiar tale of a missed opportunity.
Bath closed out the win with their fifth try just before the end, with another Banahan charge at the heart of their effort. Vesty popped up to seal the score from close range and Barkley converted, expunging memories of an early season hammering at Franklin's Gardens.
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