Amlin Challenge Cup: Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder hails Stephen Myler
Last Updated: 24/05/14 8:13am
Jim Mallinder said that a "top-drawer" performance by Stephen Myler was one of the keys to Northampton's Amlin Challenge Cup victory.
The England international fly-half kicked 20 points from six penalties and a conversion as the Saints clinched the crown with a 30-16 win over Bath in the final at Cardiff Arms Park.
Phil Dowson and Ben Foden scored tries to see Northampton home but the goal-kicking of Myler proved to be just as crucial.
"You need a performance like that in big games, just somebody who can keep their head to make really good decisions, not just kicking the goals," Mallinder said.
"It was top-drawer by Stephen on a night when all of our leaders stepped up. We had a game-plan that we wanted to move their front-five around the field. They were very physical, but we knew if we kept playing, then the opportunities would come.
"Stephen kicked his goals - you have got to take your points in games like this. Unfortunately for (Bath fly-half) George Ford, he missed a few at a crucial time.
"We know we are improving as a team. We are a better team than what we were last year. We are pleased with the way things are going."
Northampton trailed 13-6 at half-time after Ford kicked two penalties and converted wing Anthony Watson's try, but Northampton recovered superbly despite losing prop Alex Corbisiero.
Myler said: "You are not just going to turn up and get given the trophy. You have got to go out and earn it and the forwards have been outstanding all season for us. They've given us that platform to play from.
"We regrouped at half-time, came up with a plan and I am proud of the lads that we stuck to that plan."
Saints skipper Tom Wood added: "We knew we were going to have to weather a storm. We knew Bath were going to be fully charged up for this game.
"We had to keep working, and hopefully we would get our rewards in the last 20 minutes. It wasn't alarm bells at half-time, but it is always frustrating to be behind. We were confident we had it in the tank to finish the job.
"The message before the game was that it is nine months' work, grafting through pre-season. It all comes down to days like today and to get that win makes it all worthwhile."
Bath head coach Mike Ford accepted that his team had not taken their chances during tight and tense contest.
"We had to take our opportunities when they were on offer, and we missed a couple. Myler picked us off," Ford said.
"Maybe at a crucial time the inner belief you get from winning big games and trophies just wasn't quite there because we have got no recent history of that.
"We are proud of what we have done this season. We are not going to change our philosophy. The pack is one of the best in the league, if not the best, and we have got a massively exciting back-line.
"We don't want anyone to feel sorry for us. We were good enough to get in the top four (in the Aviva Premiership) and we were good enough to win tonight. I think the game slipped away from us.
"We have won more than 75 per cent of our games this season, and we have played some entertaining football. Next season we will come back stronger."