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Newcastle 14:00 Northampton

Easter gift for Saints

By Lee Walker.   Last Updated: 08/04/06 4:55pm

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Replacement Mark Easter scored a late try as Northampton kept their play-off hopes alive with a 24-21 victory over Bath at Franklin's Gardens.

The Academy product touched down with five minutes remaining to deny the West Country outfit who had overcome a nine-point half-time deficit after Olly Barkley's switch from centre to fly-half.

The England man was instrumental in the West Country outfit's improved second-half performance and booted 11 points.

But former Academy number eight Easter scored his second try of the season, taking the ball on the blindside and swatting away Alex Crockett to touch down in the corner, to deny Bath.

The visitors had taken the lead midway through the first-half thanks to Tongan left-wing Salesi Finau but Bruce Reihana and Ben Cohen replied with scores, both converted by the Kiwi full-back to give the hosts a 14-5 lead at the interval.

The Bath pack struggled in the first-half but improved greatly after the break and Barkley, who had moved to outside half in place of Chris Malone, kicked a penalty from under the posts just four minutes into the second stanza.

His conversion gave the visitors the lead following Joe Maddock's 47th minute try. A quick tap penalty from Andy Williams catching Saints unawares and after his 30m break, the full-back scored on the overlap in the right-hand corner.

However the lead changed hands once more four minutes later after Reihana's eighth try of the season.

Northampton retained possesion well with a great break from Daniel Browne followed by a pinpoint pass from Carlos Spencer that allowed his compatriot to score in the right hand corner.

However Reihana missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty and that appeared to be costly as Barkley made full use of the breeze to boot two three-pointers.

But there was a late twist in the tale as Easter popped up to score Northampton's fourth try and seal not only the victory but a bonus point in the process.

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