|Bath (15) 30|
|Tries: Underhill, Faletau, Du Toit, Bayliss Cons: Preistland 2 Pens: Preistland 2|
|Northampton (19) 24|
|Tries: Naiyaravoro 2, Hutchinson, Grayson Cons: Grayson 2|
Bath recorded a bonus-point victory over Northampton to seal a Champions Cup spot in a tense match at The Rec.
The hosts needed a point from the game for a top-eight finish but that was in the balance for large parts as a much-changed Saints gave a battling display.
Taqele Naiyaravoro scored two tries and set up a third to give the visitors a 19-15 half-time advantage.
Bath had four tries ruled out but were patient and a late breakaway score from Josh Bayliss secured a five-point win.
Stuart Hooper’s team knew before kick-off what they had to do to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition as London Irish’s game against Premiership leaders Bristol was cancelled because of Covid-19 cases in the Exiles camp – with the two points received by Irish moving them above Bath.
They were cheered on by a vocal returning crowd but winger Naiyaravoro stole the first-half show for Saints, going over from Courtney Lawes’ pass, releasing Rory Hutchinson to score and then pouncing on the right after a patient move.
Quickfire tries had put Bath 15-7 up as Sam Underhill charged down an attempted box kick to score and Taulupe Faletau crossed after a fine sidestep from Anthony Watson.
A line-out drive and maul, finished off by Jacques du Toit, put the home side ahead after the break but Northampton retook the lead after losing Naiyaravoro to the sin-bin – James Grayson’s dummy getting him over the try-line.
A Rhys Preistland penalty on his farewell appearance had Bath 25-24 up but they struggled to kill the game, with Tom Doughty’s score scrubbed off for an off-the-ball infringement.
But the pressure kept coming, with Saints again reduced to 14 men when Ehren Painter was yellow-carded, and Bayliss broke clear for a definitive fourth try after the ball went loose.
It saw Bath finish seventh, above Wasps, while Northampton stayed fifth.
Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper told BBC Radio Bristol:
“There’s definitely going to be moments in that game where we can look back and say what we could’ve done differently and better but let’s enjoy it for what it is.
“It’s five points at home, European qualification and a magnificent way to say goodbye to some great servants to the club in front of our supporters.
“We were pretty dominant for about 30 minutes but I thought our heads dropped a bit and they got back in the game – I thought we should’ve been a bit stronger on each other at that moment.
“After that I thought the way we fought back into the game was outstanding.”
Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd told BBC Radio Northampton:
“Average games of rugby come down to critical moments and I thought we were on the wrong end of a couple of critical decisions that in the end might have made a difference.
“We knew exactly what we needed to do – I thought they were out on their feet at half-time.
“We’ve got some lessons to learn to be more consistent but we’re on a journey.
“That second half we just couldn’t hold the ball for long enough periods of time to exert a physical dominance – we made a few too many mistakes and gave up a few too many penalties to allow them to slow the game down to their level.”
Bath: De Glanville; Watson, Joseph, Ojomoh, Cokanasiga; Priestland, B Spencer; Obano, Du Toit, Judge, McNally, Ewels (capt), Reid, Underhill, Faletau.
Replacements: Doughty, Schoeman, Thomas, W Spencer, Mercer, Bayliss, Chudley, Bailey.
Northampton: Freeman; Collins, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Mitchell; Waller, Haywood, Hill, Coles, Moon, Lawes, Ludlam (capt), Wood.
Replacements: Fish, Painter, Ratuniyarawa, Newman, Tupai, Litchfield, Gillespie, Van Wyk.