Northampton 25-21 Bath: Alex Mitchell’s last-ditch try decides dramatic Premiership finale

Alex Mitchell’s last-ditch try handed The Saints a first Premiership title in 10 years (Getty Images)
Alex Mitchell’s last-ditch try handed The Saints a first Premiership title in 10 years (Getty Images)

Alex Mitchell’s last-ditch try scrambled Northampton’s first Premiership title in 10 years, sealing Courtney Lawes’ perfect Saints send-off in a dramatic 25-21 Twickenham triumph over 14-man Bath.

Bath had to play an hour without England prop Beno Obano, sent off for a head-high tackle on Saints’ Juarno Augustus.

Despite the man disadvantage though, Bath conjured a stunning recovery and almost stole their first Premiership title in 28 years.

Trailing 15-3 on the half-hour, Bath somehow rallied to lead 21-18 with 13 minutes to play.

Northampton were on the brink of the mother of all collapses, only for George Hendy to conjure a stunning break out of nothing – and for Mitchell to pop up and race under the posts.

Bath prop Obano was reduced to tears on the bench after his first-half red card – because he knew what was coming next.

Saints scored twice in the following four minutes, through Tommy Freeman and Ollie Sleightholme.

That should have been enough, but Bath refused to roll over. Thomas Du Toit and Will Muir bagged tries to drag the West Country men right back into the contest.

Saints clung on for dear life and eventually found a way across the line though, leaving England and Lions star Lawes able to sign off in silverware style.

The 35-year-old will head to Brive this summer, after 17 years in Northampton’s first team – and 10 years after spearheading the club’s previous Premiership triumph.

Northampton’s sole blot on a perfect day was a leg injury worry to Fin Smith, who will now be a fitness doubt for England’s tour to Japan and New Zealand. B0ath’s Obano could miss out there too, should he face a ban for his red card.

Bath started with real bite, edging the scrum and flying out of the line in defence. Russell scuffed his first shot at goal as nerves jangled, but the Scotland fly-half slotted the second without issue.

Bath stole the early 3-0 lead, and Saints needed Tommy Freeman to haul down Will Muir who almost galloped clear down the left flank. Saints settled eventually, but Smith fluffed his first effort off the tee too, dragging the ball against the left-hand post.

The England fly-half quickly atoned however, by landing a fine long-range drop-goal to level the game at 3-3 on 20 minutes. Northampton had attacked with the usual purpose, but not the customary accuracy, and at the half’s midway point the game was fully in the balance.

But then Obano levelled Augustus with that high shot, and was rightly dismissed. As the England prop cried quietly on the bench, Saints roared into the ascendancy.

Obano was rightly dismissed for a high-head tackle (Getty Images)
Obano was rightly dismissed for a high-head tackle (Getty Images)

Just two minutes after Obano’s red card, Northampton struck, and with a try of genuine beauty.

Lawes’ stunning inside ball flat to the line and blind to the Bath cover sent Furbank racing through – and he returned the favour for Freeman, who steamed home in style.

Smith’s conversion had Saints 10-3 to the good. And four minutes after that, Saints were in again.

This time, Sleightholme was worked free on the left wing, and he outfoxed the Bath defence with a smart grubber into the corner – that he reached first for the score.

Smith could not add the touchline conversion, but Saints still led 15-3 on the half-hour.

Bath started to harness their feelings of red card fury however, and steadily chipped away at the Northampton lead.

Scrum cornerstone Du Toit shunted in for a patient try, that Russell converted, and Northampton’s half-time lead was cut to 15-10.

Bath started the second-half the stronger, but Russell and Smith traded penalties to preserve the five-point Northampton lead, just at 18-13.

Northampton held on for their first Premiership title in a decade (David Davies/PA Wire)
Northampton held on for their first Premiership title in a decade (David Davies/PA Wire)

The Blue, Black and Whites refused to relent though, and Muir beat George Hendy to Russell’s crossfield before dotting down Bath’s second try. That levelled the match at 18-18, handing Russell a chance to boot Bath into the lead, only for the Scotland star to drag his conversion wide. Russell did eventually hand Bath a 21-18 lead from his third penalty.

Bath led for the first time since the first quarter, and with just 13 minutes to play.

To add injury to the insult of losing the lead, Saints lost key playmaker Smith to a leg problem. Full-back Furbank had to step up to fly-half, Hendy to 15 and replacement Tom James stepped onto the wing.

Just when Bath started to believe in the impossible though, Hendy magicked a break from nowhere before sending Mitchell under the posts.

Furbank converted, and Saints led again, 25-21, with seven on the clock.

Bath threw everything at one more turnaround, but in truth they were already shot, and Saints, just about, held on.