Mallinder happy with Saints lead

Published: Saturday 21st February 2015 by The News Editor

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Northampton boss Jim Mallinder admitted his team had “a nice cushion” at the Aviva Premiership summit after they saw off their closest title rivals Bath 21-13.

Saints’ Recreation Ground triumph opened up a nine-point gap on second-placed Bath with just seven games left.

First-half tries by full-back James Wilson and hooker Mike Haywood sent Saints on their way, while fly-half Stephen Myler kicked three penalties and a conversion.

Bath flattered to deceive following an early Olly Woodburn try – full-back Tom Homer converted and booted two penalties – as Northampton shaded every key battle, especially up-front.

“It is a nice cushion, but if we lose next week against Harlequins then it negates today’s good win,” Saints rugby director Mallinder said.

“We are very pleased. It is a good position to be in.

“We played well in the first half after a poor start. We had tempo and width and scored two good tries, then in the second half our defence won us the game.

“It is one of our best performances of the season.

“Leicester at home will stand out as a very good one, but to come down here – I know both sides had players out – it is a good win for us.”

Bath were left to reflect on successive Premiership defeats for the first time this term after losing against Saracens last weekend, and it is now four years since they beat Saints in league combat.

And life is not about to get any easier with play-off contenders Exeter awaiting them at Sandy Park next Saturday, and the Chiefs currently enjoying a spell of prime form.

England quartet Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, George Ford and Dave Attwood were all absent for Bath, while Northampton arrived in the west country without players like Dylan Hartley, Luther Burrell, George North and Tom Wood, but their superior strength in depth shone through.

Bath head coach Mike Ford said: “They are a very experienced side, and their tactics were very good. They strangled the life out of us in the second half.

“In the second half, the basics let us down, but their basics were very good.

“I think it showed today why they are the champions and why we probably didn’t get into the top four last season. They have been together a long time and they have a great coaching staff.

“Although both teams were missing players, they seemed a bit more experienced than us, especially in key areas.

“We had our chances, but any time we got good ball in good areas in the second half, we squandered it.

“We are disappointed. We have lost to Saracens and Northampton now and got no points in either game, but we are still second. It’s still in our hands a little bit.

“We have got seven Premiership games left. We will lick our wounds and look to get better.

“I don’t think it is over but Northampton will take some catching. They will have to lose at least two games, so they are cemented in a top-two spot, if not top.”

Published: Saturday 21st February 2015 by The News Editor

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