Cameron Redpath helps Bath get off the mark in victory over Northampton

All of a sudden things are looking up for Bath. A week in which they cleared a significant hurdle in proceeding with redeveloping their stadium ended with a first Premiership win of the season and first under Johann van Graan. It was not particularly pretty and will not live long in the memory but tries from Miles Reid, Tom Dunn and Cameron Redpath were enough to prevail against a Northampton side who, not for the first time, are left to rue missed opportunities.

It has been coming for Bath, who have looked good in patches this season, if short on confidence. They built a first-half lead, weathered Northampton’s fightback, enjoyed the rub of the green from the referee, Anthony Woodthorpe, and clinched the win.

It was one of those victories where it does not really matter how it arrives; more significant is the boost it is likely to give them. “I’m satisfied with the performance, very glad for the staff and players and everybody involved,” said Van Graan. “There’s a blueprint now for 80 minutes because we’ve had some good 40-minute performances and 60-minute performances.”

Bath’s biggest problem this season has been that, while they have finished matches strongly, sluggish starts have left them with too much to do. It was a promising sign, then, that they took a 14-0 lead into half-time – a lead they deserved in no small part due to their resolute defence and ability to take their chances. Northampton, on the other hand, were wasteful, failing to take advantage of Bath’s indiscipline and unable to capitalise on a number of lineouts in the home side’s 22.

Bath must take some credit for that. Van Graan is evidently succeeding in instilling a togetherness that was absent last season while Ollie Lawrence continues to prove an inspired signing. It was he who first had the Bath crowd on their feet with a powerful counter-ruck after a scrappy opening five minutes.

James Grayson then missed a relatively straightforward kick at goal for Northampton before Bath were first on the scoreboard when Reid ran clear to the line after a delightful show and go from Redpath. The 21-year-old fly-half George Worboys, making his Premiership debut, added the conversion.

Northampton kept plugging away, the lively Alex Mitchell linking well with his outside backs, but every time the visitors threatened, Bath held firm. In a sign of the confidence growing in the Bath ranks, they opted to run on one occasion when turning the ball over near their line and Joe Cokanasiga took them up to half way. Bath were awarded a penalty, kicked deep into the Northampton 22 and from there Dunn went over at the back of a lineout drive for the home side’s second try and the hooker’s fifth of the season.

The second half began in similar fashion for Saints. Again they found themselves a few metres short of Bath’s line but again Woodthorpe awarded a penalty to the home side. Northampton came again with George Furbank beginning a fine move with a deft offload and, though he cropped up again later in the passage of play to pass the ball straight into touch, Dunn overthrew the lineout and from there Saints were able to strike with Tom Collins going over in the left-hand corner.

Northampton’s cause was not helped when Lewis Ludlam hobbled off with a hip injury that may rule him out of England’s training camp in Jersey next week and a penalty from Worboys, who had missed one earlier in the half, pushed Bath’s lead out to 10.

Redpath’s interception try soon after, picking off Fraser Dingwall’s pass and scampering to the line, ensured Bath could enjoy the final 10 minutes safe in the knowledge that victory was theirs. The replacement Sam Graham did register Northampton’s second try but another Worboys penalty kept the visitors at bay.

“The last couple of weeks have been frustrating because we feel like we’re creating opportunities and not converting,” said Northampton’s director of rugby, Phil Dowson. “It’s as simple as that really, the number of times we’re five yards out and we don’t come away with the points is costing us.”