Ice-cool Myler kicks Saints to cup glory

Pictures by Linda Dawson
Pictures by Linda Dawson
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A kicking masterclass from Stephen Myler helped Saints end their finals curse with a brilliant 30-16 comeback win against Bath in the Amlin Challenge Cup showpiece.

Myler registered 20 points, missing just once, with Phil Dowson and Ben Foden scoring second half tries as their team recovered from 13-6 down at Cardiff Arms Park.

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233203006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233203006

It was a fine riposte from Jim Mallinder’s men, who made sure their run of four final defeats would come to an emphatic end in the Welsh capital.

They now head into next Saturday’s Aviva Premiership grand final showdown with Saracens with some silverware in the trophy cabinet and confidence high.

Bath were in front at the break as Anthony Watson’s breakaway try and six points from George Ford put them in control.

But Ford, having been so impressive early on, was to stutter, missing three consecutive kicks as his team blew their chance of ending their season in style.

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233152006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233152006

Instead, Saints roared back, defying the second-half sin-binning of Alex Corbisiero to show their immense power and belief and lift the trophy.

It hadn’t gone their way in the formative stages of the game as Bath earned a penalty inside two minutes and Ford lashed the ball through the posts from halfway.

But Saints responded quickly, with their power in the scrum telling as they won one against the head and then earned a penalty from their own put in. Myler levelled the scores.

Bath were showing plenty of confidence with ball in hand, though, with a Nick Abendanon break covered well by Myler.

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233134006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233134006

Ford soon had another successful penalty attempt to his name, though, as his team turned up the heat with a lineout drive, forcing Saints to offend.

Bath’s No.10 was oozing confidence and class as he put his team in the right positions, making it hard for Saints to get out of their own half in a tricky first 20 minutes.

When they did, they were getting rewards and after George Pisi earned a scrum five metres out, his team’s forwards did the business, earning another penalty that Myler landed.

Saints were starting to grow into the game, but after a prolonged attacking move went wide to Ken Pisi, Jonathan Joseph burgled the ball and Watson sprinted in for a score.

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233614006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233614006

It was a sucker punch and Ford added the extras to take his team seven points clear with 12 minutes of the first half remaining.

Saints were huffing and puffing, but they were struggling to get into Bath’s 22 with the men in blue and white breaking quickly when they got the ball back.

They could have been 10 points up at the break but Ford blotted an impressive first-half copybook by firing his penalty attempt wide of the posts.

Saints needed a big start to the second half, but what they got was a reduction in numbers as Corbisiero was sent to the sin bin for an off the ball charge on Stuart Hooper.

Ford missed the penalty to give Mallinder’s men a reprive and George Pisi looked determined to make the most of it as he smashed Abendanon in midfield.

Saints earned the penalty and Myler cut the gap to four with a typically assured kick.

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233629006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233629006

Ford had a chance to restore his side’s seven-point advantage, but he was continuing to wobble as an effort from in front of the posts sailed wide.

Corbisiero returned to the field with Saints having won the sin bin period 3-0 and, with more than 25 minutes to go, they knew they needed to make it count.

Bath, with Francois Louw back in their side, had been winning the battle at the breakdown, but Tom Wood issued a response, earning his team a penalty.

Myler struck it superbly to reduce the deficit to a single point and he was soon putting his team ahead as Bath dallied in defence and Ken Pisi pounced to earn the shot at goal.

Bath were all at sea and the Saints fans could sense it, upping the noise levels in a bid to push their team over the line.

A penalty at the scrum soon gave Myler another shot at goal, and he continued his 100 per cent record with a fine effort from to the right of the posts.

Bath won a quick penalty from the restart and, this time, Ford defied his nerves to breathe new life into his team’s trophy bid.

But Saints weren’t panicking, returning to the other end of the pitch and swarming all over their tiring opponents.

Alex Waller missed a chance to score as he dropped Gareth Denman’s pass at the last, but Bath were cracking and after prop Anthony Perenise was sent to the bin, Dowson used an inexorable driving maul to score.

Myler added the extras with aplomb and Bath were a man down and, crucially, nine points behind with less than eight minutes to go.

Ford booted a penalty to the corner, but Myler stole a Peter Stringer pass and sprinted upfield before Ken Pisi and Luther Burrell combined to give Foden the crucial score.

Myler showed he was human by finally missing a kick, but it mattered not as the Saints fans celebrated a first trophy since 2010.

Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi (Stephenson 77), Burrell (Stephenson 77), North; Myler, L Dickson (Fotuali’i 56); Corbisiero (Waller 59), Haywood (McMillan 74), Mercey (Denman 59); Manoa (C Day 65), Lawes; Clark (Dowson 59), Wood (c), Dickinson.

Bath: Abendanon; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Devoto (Henson 65), Watson; Ford, Young (Stringer 63); James (Catt 56), Dunn (Guinazu 60), Wilson (Perenise 56); Hooper (c) (Day 72), Attwood; Fearns, Louw, Houston (Mercer 54).

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233603006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233603006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233553006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140523-233553006