Northampton Saints v Bath: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Northampton Saints v Bath

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 26th February 2021, 12:06 pm
Taqele Naiyaravoro will look to help Saints get past Bath on Sunday
Taqele Naiyaravoro will look to help Saints get past Bath on Sunday

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 11)

Venue: Franklin's Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, February 28, 2021, 1pm

Weather: 9c, mostly cloudy

Live television coverage: BT Sport 2

Referee: Ian Tempest

Saints: Freeman; Proctor, Hutchinson, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Furbank, James; Auterac, Matavesi, Painter; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Isiekwe, Ludlam (c), Wood.

Replacements: Marshall, Waller, Hill, Moon, Coles, Taylor, Mallinder, Sleightholme.

Bath: T Schoeman; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Matavesi, Muir; Priestland, Chudley; J Schoeman, Walker, Judge; Ellis, Stooke; Bayliss (c), Reid, Mercer.

Replacements: Dunn, Bhatti, Thomas, Richards, Staddon, Spencer, Clark, McConnochie.

Outs: Saints: Shaun Adendorff (knee), Teimana Harrison (hand), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Owen Franks (foot), Manny Iyogun (ankle), Kayde Sylvester (Achilles), Courtney Lawes (pectoral), Dan Biggar and Alex Mitchell (both international duty).

Most recent meeting: Wednesday, August 26, 2020: Saints 3 Bath 18 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: It's fair to say that some Bath supporters are far from confident about their team's chances of winning at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday.

Indeed, one fan site predicted their side will face a 'devil of humiliation' at the hands of a reinvigorated Saints outfit this weekend.

The lack of Bath belief is borne from the fact Bath are shorn of so many first-team regulars due to injury, suspension and international duty.

They won't be able to call on the likes of Beno Obano, Sam Underhill, Taulupe Faletau and Anthony Watson to name but a few.

And while Saints have a few players missing themselves, with the likes of Courtney Lawes, Dan Biggar and Teimana Harrison unavailable, their absentee list is not quite as long.

That opens the door for the black, green and gold to make it five wins in a row this weekend.

Now they need to walk through it.

They have to make hay while the sun shines as they look to cement their place in the top four.

Doing that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, when you wondered where the next win was coming from.

But Chris Boyd has masterminded a revival of fortunes that included a superb win at Sandy Park last weekend, Saints' first victory at Exeter Chiefs for more than seven years.

It was a display built on substance, and Saints will need more of the same against a Bath side who have prided themselves on that in recent times.

When they won 18-3 at the Gardens last August, Bath were resilient in defence and ruthless in attack.

They didn't play too much, but they pounced on Saints mistakes during the second period to pouch a crucial win.

Bath boss Stuart Hooper suggested during that game that 'Saints don't want to scrum', and that certainly will have ruffled some feathers.

Saints certainly did want to scrum at Exeter last Saturday, dominating the double winners in that department.

And they will be desperate to deliver more of the same to make Hooper eat his words this weekend.

But it is about more than that for Saints.

They now have genuine play-off hopes, sparked by a win the last time they played at the Gardens, way back on Boxing Day.

Home wasn't a happy place for Saints during most of 2020, with that win against Worcester just after Christmas their only home league success of the calendar year.

It was a sobering record and one that hurt the players, the coaches and the fans.

Now they must start off on the right note at the Gardens in a long-awaited first home game of 2021.

Tom's prediction: Saints really should have enough belief and ability to get the job done this weekend. They showed a superb resilience against Exeter and must not let that slip against Bath. I don't expect them to, and I'm predicting a Sunday success. Saints 31 Bath 18.