Banahan hat-trick sinks Saints
Outstanding Bath overpower Northampton
By Simon Dilger. Last Updated: 19/02/11 6:21pm
Matt Banahan claimed a classy hat-trick as Bath stormed to a five-try, 38-8 Aviva Premiership victory over Northampton at the Rec on Saturday.
The hosts put on a fabulous display of free-flowing, expansive rugby for their home fans, in what could only be described as an outstanding team effort by the West Country men.
After exploding out of the blocks at the start of the season Northampton remain without a Premiership win so far in 2011.
And their inability to end their barren streak must be an increasing concern for boss Jim Mallinder as the business end of the season fast approaches.
Bath looked the sharper from the outset, despite a bright start from both sides, as the hosts continuously looked to spread the ball wide and run at their opposition.
That early pressure bore fruit in the 13th minute, when Saints were pinged inside their own 22 and Olly Barkley slotted an easy penalty from almost in front.
Northampton fly half Stephen Myler had a straightforward opportunity to level the scores moments later but the Saints stand-off fired his kick wide.
Bath's high-tempo tactics paid off with their first try three minutes later - a superb team effort, with almost every player having a hand in the score.
The move ended with flanker Ben Skirving making a great break up the middle to drag in the Northampton defence before firing the ball wide.
Banahan latched onto the final pass out on the right and raced into the gap to score. Barkley added the extras to make it 10-0.
Northampton lost Greig Tonks on the 28 minute mark after the full back was sin-binned for a high tackle.
And Bath almost made their guests pay immediately, Banahan and Abendanon launching a dangerous attack down the right that took them close to the Saints line.
They were stopped by some frantic tackling by the visitors and after they won a scrum Myler was able to clear his lines.
Bath were soon back inside Saints territory however, putting the Saints defence under fierce pressure as they sought to push home their advantage.
The second try came with seven minutes to go to the break, Banahan blasting his way up the middle and swatting flanker Steve Dowson aside before releasing Matt Carraro with a slick backhanded offload.
The outside centre skipped in under the posts from close range and Barkley struck the conversion to make it 17-3.
Myler saw another simple penalty attempt bounce off the right post with the last kick of the half to leave Bath with a 13-point lead at the interval.
Bath nearly had their third within two minutes of the restart, a great break from an attacking midflield lineout and some slick handling from the backs almost sending Banahan over on the left.
The Bath crowd were back on their feet a minute later though when Claassens' sideways run opened up a hole alongside the breakdown.
The scrum half released Banahan into the gap with an exquisite reverse pass and the big winger galloped in under the posts. Barkley made it four from four to take the score to 24-3.
Bath continued to push hard and in the 56th minute, Banahan completed his hat-trick, latching onto an offload ten yards out and bludgeoning his way through two tackles on his way to the line. Barkley added the extras to make it 31-3.
Northampton's try came just three minutes later when Tonks received the ball out wide inside the Bath 22 and neatly sidestepped his tackler before jinking his way to the line.
Myler's abysmal day with the boot continued however, and he could still not find the target with the conversion, leaving the score on 31-8.
Then, with just three minutes to go, Sam Vesty crossed after more pressure in the Saints 22 to put the icing on the cake for his side.
Barkley converted to make it five from five and round off a hugely impressive display by Steve Meehan's men.