Jim Mallinder admits Saints got ‘a bit macho’ against Bath, but hailed his side for holding on to claim a bonus-point 31-24 victory at Franklin’s Gardens.
Mallinder’s men were 31-10 up with 20 minutes to go as a penalty try and efforts from Calum Clark, Christian Day and George Pisi put them in the ascendancy.
But Bath mounted a stirring late fightback, adding two tries to David Wilson’s first-half score and setting up a tense finale.
Saints’ defence refused to crack as they came through to end their opposition’s 100 per cent start to the Aviva Premiership season, and Mallinder was delighted with the five points.
“It’s always about winning and you want to win and play well,” said the Saints boss. “I think we did play well for 55 minutes, we did some really good things.
“Bath are a good side, we’ve seen that and we were going really well, but we just got a little bit macho. We didn’t defend as a team, we got a bit loose.
“I don’t think it was a lack of trying, it was just getting a bit loose and a side like Bath are going to capitalise on that.”
Saints move above Bath into second in the Aviva Premiership standings, but Mike Ford’s men showed they have to steel to compete for the title this season.
And Mallinder admits he would be shocked if they don’t at least reach the play-offs.
He said: “They’re not dissimilar to us in terms of they’ve got a very powerful pack, they like to scrum, they’ve got a very good maul, but once they get on the front foot they can attack and score tries from anywhere.
“They’ve got a young, English, exciting backline, so they’re getting better as a team and I’d be very surprised if they don’t make that top four this year.”