Northampton ran four tries past Bath on Friday, winning 31-10 in a fine display to take a clear lead in the Aviva Premiership standings.
Northampton ran four tries past Bath on Friday, winning 31-10 in a stunning display to take a clear lead in the Aviva Premiership standings.
Northampton are now the only unbeaten team in the Premiership after an emphatic bonus-point win over their previously undefeated visitors at Franklin's Gardens.
Bath had proved a match for the Saints in the first half but they trailed 11-3 at half-time after the outstanding Phil Dowson barged over for the hosts and Shane Geraghty kicked six points, Olly Barkley scoring Bath's points with his only successful penalty from three attempts.
But they were blown away in the second half as two tries from England wing Chris Ashton and a further score from Joe Ansbro sealed the bonus point for the hosts, Ben Williams getting a late consolation for Bath.
The visitors had started positively as a clever pass from Lewis Moody put Matt Carraro away on a 40-metre run but the wing's inside pass went astray.
The Saints gave away a number of penalties in the opening exchanges and from one of these Olly Barkley had a good chance to give his side the lead but his kick from 40 metres went wide.
The opening 15 minutes was hard fought but with neither side able to dominate proceedings, scoring opportunities were few and far between. However, when Bath offended at a ruck 35 metres out Geraghty stepped up to kick the goal to give the Saints a 3-0 lead.
Andy Beattie, the Bath flanker, was then penalised at a line-out and again Geraghty was successful, this time with a more difficult kick from an angled 45 metres.
Bath's worries were heightened after 25 minutes when the Saints scored the first try of the game. After a period of pressure the ever probing Geraghty was hauled down metres from the visitors' line and Dowson was on hand to pick up and score. Geraghty's conversion attempt hit the post.
Barkley hit the crossbar for Bath with a long-range penalty before they produced their best attacking movement of the first half.
Hooker Pieter Dixon began it with a smart break away from a ruck on halfway; Shontayne Hape was then brought down inches from the home line but the Saints' scramble defence held firm.
Bath were awarded another penalty and this time chose an attacking scrum but the choice proved a disastrous one as Northampton produced a monumental shove to wreck the opposition scrum and gain a penalty.
With the last kick of the half Barkley was given another penalty chance and this time was he landed it to make it 11-3 to the Saints at the interval.
Within 30 seconds of the restart Northampton were further ahead. Dowson broke away from a maul on halfway and sent Ashton racing away for a simple score.
Geraghty missed a simple conversion but made amends with a penalty soon aftarwards.
The Saints dominated the opening period of the half and after Bath prop David Wilson was sin-binned they took full advantage with a further try from Ashton, although there was another conversion miss from Geraghty.
Wilson returned for Bath to shore up/the visitors' under-pressure scrum that was in danger of totally falling apart, but Northampton still extended their lead with a try from replacement Joe Ansbro which replacement Stephen Myler converted.
With six minutes to go Bath collected a consolation try from replacement Ben Williams which Sam Vesty converted.
Tries: Dowson, Ashton 2, Ansbro
Pens: Geraghty 3
Yellow card: Wilson (Bath – 50th min)
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Bruce Reihana, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Regardt Dreyer, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Calum Clark, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Ryan Powell, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Joe Ansbro.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Shontayne Hape, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Sam Vesty, 9 Mark McMillan, 8 Luke Watson (capt), 7 Lewis Moody, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 David Wilson, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 David Barnes.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Ben Skirving, 20 Josh Ovens, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Ben Williams, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Referee: Chris White