Hanrahan holds nerve to seal Saints win

JJ Hanrahan won it for Saints at The Rec (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
JJ Hanrahan won it for Saints at The Rec (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

JJ Hanrahan’s superb long-range penalty ensured Saints continued their unbeaten streak against Bath with a 13-11 win at The Rec.

Jim Mallinder’s men had not lost to the west country outfit in the Premiership since February 2011, and Hanrahan’s effort ensured that run would continue.

Luther Burrell’s second-half score, which was an intercept from a shocking George Ford pass, also proved crucial as Saints secured their fourth successive win in all competitions.

Bath had gone into the break 3-0 down and fought back after Burrell’s try, with Semesa Rokoduguni putting them ahead for the first time.

But they couldn’t hold on as Saints continued to breath fresh life into their bid to make the play-offs for a seventh successive season.

Mallinder’s men had gone into the game on the back of three important victories, which were built on their forward prowess.

And their scrum functioned superbly in the formative stages at The Rec, with Kieran Brookes, who saw off Gloucester loosehead Paddy McAllister inside 23 minutes eight days earlier, bossing Bath’s Nick Auterac.

However, Saints couldn’t make the most of a string of set-piece penalties, squandering their good work with an inability to build up any concerted pressure.

The men in grey did finally get some points on the board when Hanrahan landed a penalty, and they got a let-off soon after as Bath wasted a lineout five metres out.

While they were far from slick with ball in hand, Saints were irresistable at the scrum, forcing Bath into continual infringements.

And eventually Henry Thomas paid the price, with the tighthead prop being sent to the sin bin six minutes before the break.

Saints almost scored soon after as Sam Dickinson drove for the line, but the move came to an end due to a knock on.

Bath then won a penalty at the final scrum before the break to relieve the pressure, to the relief of everyone in blue and white.

And they were even happier when Ford levelled the scores two minutes into the second half after Saints gave away a penalty in front of the posts.

Both teams were really struggling to string passages of play together, with Saints twice failing to make the most of good breaks from Ben Foden.

Bath were glad to be level as they were restored to a full complement, but they were soon behind again, thanks to their fly-half, Ford.

It was a moment of madness from the England man as he threw the ball straight into the hands of the onrushing Burrell, who dived gleefully over the line.

Hanrahan easily converted to give his team a seven-point advantage, but Ford reduced arrears moments later with another penalty.

Saints were starting to fall foul of referee Craig Maxwell-Keys and conceded a scrum penalty on halfway, giving Ford another chance for three points.

His ambitious kick was well short, but Bath were upping the ante, and they came agonisingly close to a try as Charlie Ewels knocked on at the last.

They didn’t have to wait too much longer though as Rokoduguni showed great strength to shrug off the attentions of Foden to score.

There looked to have been a forward pass in the build-up, but it wasn’t spotted and Saints were behind for the first time in the game.

Ford missed the conversion, but Saints’ handling was not standing up to the test, meaning they were struggling to get back in the game.

A big scrum did present a penalty chance from distance for Hanrahan, who kept kicking duties ahead of Stephen Myler, on for George Pisi, and the Irishman made it superbly.

And that excellent effort was to prove the difference between the sides as Saints shut the door to ensure their brilliant unbeaten run against Bath would continue.

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Devoto (Priestland 75), Banahan; Ford, Cook (Matawalu 59); Auterac (Lahiff 64), Webber (Dunn 64), Thomas (Wilson 56); Garvey, Ewels, Ellis (Mercer 70); Garvey, Louw (c), Houston.

Saints: Foden (c), Elliott, G Pisi (Myler 66), Burrell, North; Hanrahan, Fotuali’i (Dickson 59); E Waller (A Waller 50), Haywood, Brookes (Hill 65); Paterson, Day (Matfield 59); Gibson, Harrison (Craig 75), Dickinson.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Attendance: 13,506