Premiership: Northampton Saints 43-25 Bath
Northampton (21) 43
- Day 2, G Pisi, Elliott, Manoa, North
- Myler 5
Bath (13) 25
- Eastmond, Webber, Houston
- Ford 2
- Ford 2
Northampton came from behind to beat Bath and bring to an end their five-match winning run in the Premiership.
Kyle Eastmond's try helped the visitors towards an early 13-point lead, but Christian Day, George Pisi and Jamie Elliott all touched down to give Saints a 21-13 advantage at the break.
Day went over again shortly after the interval to secure a bonus point.
Tries by Rob Webber and Leroy Houston kept Bath in touch, but Samu Manoa and George North sealed Northampton's win.
The third-placed visitors went into the match having won each of their last 11 matches in all competitions, but the class of Jim Mallinder's side, who remain second, hot on the heels of leaders Saracens, told over the 80 minutes and raised questions over the seriousness of Bath's title challenge.
The major talking point of the opening exchanges centred around referee Luke Pearce, who picked up an early injury after colliding with visiting forward Webber and, having halted the game for five minutes to receive treatment, had to be replaced by Martin Fox.
George Ford's penalty following an infringement at the scrum soon after put Bath ahead, before Anthony Watson combined brilliantly with Eastmond to send the centre over beneath the posts.
Having converted the try, Ford kicked a second penalty to extend the lead further, but the visitors were then reduced to 14 men when Paul James was shown a yellow card.
Saints made their numerical advantage count almost immediately, with Day crashing over in the corner after a good spell of pressure, and Stephen Myler converting from a tight angle to reduce the deficit to six points.
Northampton were now well on top and despite a last-ditch challenge denying North a try, Pisi touched down following a clever kick by Myler, and Elliott went over after a sweeping move across the pitch to complete the first-half turnaround.
Saints wrapped up the bonus point within two minutes of the restart when Day scored his second try of the match after a well-worked line-out, and Myler continued his 100% record with the boot.
Webber forced his way over under a pile of bodies following a driving maul to drag the visitors back to within 10 points, but Manoa responded with a score of his own to keep Northampton still well in control.
Bath continued to battle and Houston touched down after a successful scrum to give the visitors hope of snatching a losing bonus point.
However, Myler's penalty and North's last-minute try put paid to that and added further gloss to the scoreline for Northampton.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder on the impact of George North:
"George was outstanding. After that first 10 to 15 minutes he got us going, he got us on the front foot with his carrying, he got us on the front foot with his high balls.
"And just to see his defensive work in the 80th minute to cut them out there, that was excellent too.
"It's taken him a little bit of time, but he showed why he's a world-class player.
"That fine is a one-off, it is a fine and we've accepted that. We'll pay the fine, but we know where we are for the next two-and-a-half years of his contract."
Bath head coach Mike Ford:
"Saints and Saracens, they both got bonus-point wins today, and they are probably up above anyone else in the league at the moment.
"Even with the man in the sin bin I expected us to defend better, and we didn't. They scored three tries more or less on the bounce in that first half.
"To challenge those sides you have to go on a run, which can be done."
Northampton Saints: K. Pisi, Elliott, G. Pisi, Burrell, North, Myler, Fotuali'i, A. Waller, Hartley, Ma'afu, Lawes, C. Day, Clark, Wood, Manoa.
Replacements: Collins for K. Pisi (47), S. Dickinson for Fotuali'i (62), E. Waller for A. Waller (62), Haywood for Hartley (69), Mercey for Ma'afu (53), Dowson for Clark (63). Not Used: G. Dickson, L. Dickson.
Bath: Watson, Agulla, Joseph, Eastmond, Banahan, Ford, Roberts, James, Webber, Perenise, Hooper, Attwood, Garvey, Louw, Fearns.
Replacements: Abendanon for Agulla (58), Stringer for Roberts (46), Guinazu for Webber (63), Orlandi for Perenise (53), Day for Hooper (53), Catt for Fearns (24). Not Used: Houston, Heathcote.
Sin Bin: James (18).
Ref: Luke Pearce (RFU).