Northampton Saints win Amlin Challenge Cup

Northampton Saints won the Amlin Challenge Cup when they beat Aviva Premieship rivals Bath 30-16 in the final at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday.

It was a tale of two fly-halves as Northampton came from behind to beat English their rivals Bath.

Northampton No 10 Stephen Myler scored 20 points through six penalties and a conversion as they recovered from 13-6 down at half-time after a try by Bath wing Anthony Watson.

By contrast Bath’s George Ford, ahead of Myler in the England pecking order, missed three of his seven goal-kicks.

Ford started after his father Mike, the Bath coach, confirmed he would miss the upcoming England tour of New Zealand to undergo shoulder surgery.

Victory saw Northampton stay on course for a ‘double’ ahead of next weekend’s English Premiership final with European Cup finalists Saracens.

The match to decide the destiny of European rugby’s second-tier prize was in doubt until Northampton scored two tries inside the final 10 minutes.

First replacement Phil Dowson was driven over from a line-out nine minutes from time.

Then man-of-the-match Myler’s interception led to the Saints’ second try.

He didn’t quite have the pace to go all the way but good support from George Pisi and Luther Burrell kept the move going.

Bath full-back Nick Abendanon’s tap tackle briefly floored England centre Burrell, who got up only to be held up over the line.

However, the quick-thinking England full-back Ben Foden ripped the ball from Burrell to touch down, although it needed the replay official to confirm the try.

Myler, in his only mistake of the match, missed the conversion but it hardly mattered.

After a day of severe rain in the Welsh capital, the teams ran out in late evening sunshine on to the Arms Park’s artificial pitch.

England coach Stuart Lancaster looked on from the stands, doubtless hoping several players set to be included in his squad for three-Test series with the world champion All Blacks came through unscathed.

Lancaster was already resigned to being without players from Northampton and Saracens for the first Test in Auckland on June 7 because the two sides are contesting the English Premiership final at Twickenham on May 31.

Northampton were without injured England hooker Dylan Hartley and prop Silesi Ma’afu, who was handed a one-week ban for punching Leicester hooker Tom Youngs in the Saints’ Premiership semi-final victory.

Ford and Myler exchanged penalties to leave the match all square at 6-6.

Bath though scored the opening try in the 27th minute.

Jonathan Joseph, the Bath centre, stopped Northampton wing Ken Pisi in his tracks and Joseph was first to the loose ball, running in 55 metres for an unopposed score.

Ford added the easy conversion and Bath led 13-6.

But on the stroke of half-time, Ford missed a penalty from the left touchline.

Northampton were a man down early in the second half when fit-again England and British and Irish Lions prop Alex Corbisiero was sin-binned for a late tackle.

But Ford sliced the resulting penalty and it was 14-man Northampton who scored the game’s next points through another Myler penalty.

Ford then made it three missed penalties in a row while Myler, after excellent breakdown work by the Saints’ forwards, reduced Bath’s lead to a point.

Ford’s match got worse as Saints pressure forced him to spill possession, and with Abendanon offside, Myler kicked a routine penalty.

Having been behind for most of he match, Northampton now led 15-13 heading into the final quarter.

Then a Ford knock-on led to a Northampton scrum on the edge of Bath’s 22.

Bath’s pack buckled and Myler from wide out right on the 22 kicked Northampton ahead into an 18-13 lead.

Ford cut Northampton’s lead to two points before the Saints hit back in style.

Final Score Bath (13) 16 Northampton Sai

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