Claassy Bath sink Saints
Meehan's men march back to the top after home victory
Last Updated: 27/12/08 5:38pm
Claassens: Two tries
Two second half tries from Michael Claassens helped Bath climb back on top of the Guinness Premiership as Northampton were beaten 25-14 at the Rec.
In a tightly-contested and scrappy affair, a brace from the South African No.9 proved decisive as Bath leapfrogged both Sale and London Irish to claim top spot.
Saints enjoyed plenty of possession but did not possess a cutting edge sharp enough to open up the home defence until the final minute when lock Juandre Kruger crossed in the corner.
Bath's first try came in the second minute when wing Matt Banahan latched on to Butch James' grubber kick. The South African fly-half's accuracy was wayward with the conversion attempt though and Bath remained 5-0 ahead.
Stephen Myler sent a long-range penalty wide at the other end for the visitors but made amends with a more straightforward effort on 14 minutes, only for James to reply almost immediately.
The lively Northampton pack, which included England international Dylan Hartley, was held just short of the line on 19 minutes but when Bath prop David Flatman was penalised at the resulting scrum, Myler made it 10-6 with his second penalty.
James responded with a penalty after the visitors were offside at a ruck but there was a scare for Bath when the Springbok had a clearance kick charged down at the other end.
It was only Joe Maddock's alertness that denied Myler a try as Saints began to threaten Bath's unforgiving defence.
Full-back Jack Cuthbert, struggling to field Myler's high kicks in the biting wind, fared no better when called up for a long-range kick on the half-time whistle.
Myler pulled the score back to 13-9 soon after the restart with a long-range penalty, but Bath latched on to a fumble by Saints skipper Bruce Reihana to work their way within striking distance of the visitors' line.
Saints conceded two scrums and a free-kick before Claassens dived through a gap and stretched out an arm to score.
James could not convert but Myler was finding it no easier and missed a penalty, to leave his side nine points adrift going into the last 15 minutes.
After Bath introduced Justin Harrison and Daniel Browne off the bench they suddenly had the advantage up front and it was Northampton who were struggling for parity.
It was no surprise then that Claassens claimed his second try on 74 minutes off the back of a scrum, James converting.
The home supporters were urging their side on for the bonus point try, but Saints came back with a consolation for Kruger after he collected Myler's chip.