A gritty second half performance from the Northampton Saints saw the win the Amlin Challenge Cup for the second time in their history.
A 30-16 victory over Bath Rugby saw them pick up the trophy, but up until the last ten minutes of play the game could have gone either way. The first half began with an extremely positive start from Bath. Right from the off they were being aggressive at the breakdown, their swarming defense also causing their opponents problems. Fly-half George Ford in particular caught the eye, despite concerns he would miss the game because of a shoulder injury.
The twenty-one year old was involved in everything positive his side did, with his place kicking and penalty taking near perfection. However Northampton stuck around, and after twenty-five minutes the game was tied at 6-6. That changed instantaneously though, when Bath’s high tempo defending led to a Northampton turnover, with Anthony Watson scooping the ball up in his own half to break away and score what was to be the only try of the half.
The second began poorly for the Saints, who had Alex Corbisiero yellow carded two minutes in. Bath tried to capitalize, however Ford suffered a complete change in fortunes, missing three penalty kicks before converting a fourth late on. From there the defensive effort of Bath meant they began to tire, with Northampton then turning the screw.
Firstly they converted numerous penalties, helping them to edge into an 18-16 lead. Their hard work was finally rewarded however with a Phil Dowson try, having botched several attempts before that. By that point Ireland’s Peter Stringer and former England pin up Gavin Henson had come on for Bath to try and stem the tide, but in truth it was too late.
This was Northampton’s first major trophy having lost the last four competitive finals they have appeared in. Next weekend, they will also play Heineken Cup Finalists Saracens in the Aviva Premiership Final. Saint’s player Ben Foden also picked up the Amlin Cup for the third time, having won the cup before with Northampton and also the Sale Sharks.