Toby Booth hails Bath Rugby character after narrow defeat to Northampton Saints
First-team coach Toby Booth believes Bath Rugby passed "a great test of character" at Franklin's Gardens yesterday, despite seeing their winning run end with a narrow 25-23 defeat to Northampton Saints.
The visitors were trailing 20-9 with 20 minutes but battled back brilliantly to lead 23-20, only for Jamie Elliott to snatch victory from their grasp with his second try of the day.
"We were 20-9 down but rolled our sleeves up at a really difficult place and showed a massive amount of character," said Booth.
“That is going to serve us well because we are on a longer journey and that sort of desire to play for your team-mates is going to serve us well going forward.”
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Bath - going into the game on the back of six successive victories - started the game well and took an early lead through a Tom Heathcote penalty.
However, Stephen Myler replied in kind soon after and then released Elliott with a looping pass to dart over in the corner, despite the best efforts of Nick Abendanon, and score the first try after 22 minutes.
Myler kicked another penalty but that was sandwiched by two successful Heathcote efforts as Bath went into the break 11-9 down, although they could have been leading had Abendanon not knocked on with the line in sight.
The game seemed to slip away from the visitors in the early stages of the second period as Myler slotted over three penalties in eight minutes to open up an 11-point lead.
But Bath were then given a lifeline by a moment of controversy. A scrum collapsed seven metres from the line but, despite it being the first time Northampton were penalised for the offence, referee Luke Pearce awarded a penalty try.
The home crowd were stunned by the decision and looked on in disbelief again seven minutes later when Semesa Rokoduguni - a late replacement for Matt Banahan, who had a back injury - intercepted a pass and raced 55m to touch down.
Heathcote converted both tries to give Bath an unlikely 23-20 lead but, with a first victory at Franklin's Gardens since 2000 within reach, Elliott was able to slip through again for the winning score.
Bath at least had the consolation of picking up a losing bonus point and they will be looking to get straight back to winning ways when they entertain West Country rivals Gloucester on Friday (8pm).
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: Foden, Wilson, Pisi, May (Waldouck 22), Elliott, Myler, Dickson, Tonga’uiha (Waller 63), Haywood (McMillan 39), Mercey (Doran Jones 55), Manoa, Sorenson (Craig 78), Dowson, Nutley, van Velze. Replacements not used: Oakley, Roberts, Lamb.
BATH RUGBY: Abendanon (Cuthbert 64), Agulla, Rokoduguni, Eastmond (Vesty 75), Biggs, Heathcote, Stringer (Claassens 75), Beech (Catt 47), Webber (c) (Batty 68), Perenise (Palma-Newport 68), Day (Spencer 63), Attwood, Fearns, Gilbert (Koster 63), Skirving.
REFEREE: Luke Pearce.