Mitchell Strikes Late As Northampton Saints Win Classic Final

Mitchell Strikes Late As Northampton Saints Win Classic Final

Alex Mitchell’s late try broke Bath Rugby’s brave resistance as Northampton Saints were crowned Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions for the first time in 10 years in a pulsating 25-21 win.

Beno Obano’s 21st-minute red card threatened to make this a one-sided match but Bath clawed their way into an improbable 18-15 lead and were on course for their first league success in 28 years.

However, Mitchell went over for the match-winning score just seven minutes from time after a sensational run from George Hendy stretched Bath’s defence to breaking point.

Bath then almost snatched the trophy with the last phase, as they had a penalty inside Saints’ 22, but some desperate defence knocked the ball loose and ended a dramatic game.

It was a far tougher second half than Saints might have expected after Obano’s red card for a high tackle and subsequent tries from Tommy Freeman and Ollie Sleightholme put them 15-3 up.

But tries from Thomas du Toit and will Muir either side of half-time, and Finn Russell’s boot flipped the game on its head before Mitchell’s late score.


With Saints playing their first Final in a decade, and Bath’s first in nine years, it is no surprise this was a fastest sell-out ever for the Twickenham showpiece. And the 81,699 there were almost treated to one of the fastest ever final tries.

In a frantic start, a Saints knock-on was booted ahead by Bath full-back Matt Gallagher in to open space, and with no Saints player ahead, he was seemingly destined for a try inside the first minute. But just five metres out, he was hauled down by a chasing George Furbank, who prevented Gallagher from gathering the ball.

That set the tone for a first 20 minutes where Bath’s physicality in defence shook Saints. The league’s top side scored 555 points in 18 rounds but found it difficult to cut through a Bath defence led brilliantly by flanker Sam Underhill.

It was a nervous start all round, as both fly-halves, Finn Russell and Fin Smith, missed early attempts at goal that they would otherwise make comfortably.

Russell successfully made his second penalty to put Bath ahead, while Smith soon responded with a brilliant drop-goal to level it at 3-3.

But then came the game’s key moment. From the resulting kick-off, Juarno Augustus caught the ball and was quickly tackled by a charging Obano that drew gasps from the crowd. A TMO review two minutes later confirmed the worst, and Obano was sent off for a high tackle without mitigation.


Down to 14, Bath’s aggressive defensive plan soon fell to pieces as Saints exploited the extra space.

Courtney Lawes, in his final Saints game, helped to set up the first try almost straight from the re-start, with an off-load that helped set Furbank free. The full-back burst through a gap passed outside to Freeman to run in unopposed.

That seemed to settle Saints’ nerves but Bath so nearly hit back straight away. Just inside Saints’ half, Ben Spencer spotted space to the left and kicked in behind the Saints defence for Will Muir to chase. It appeared to be perfect but an unfortunate bounce of the ball denied the winger a simple walk-in.

To then rub salt into the wound, Saints struck at the other end. Furbank found Sleightholme on the left wing just inside the 22, and with space behind his opposing winger, the No.11 shaped a kick down the line for Alex Mitchell. However, it curved back towards Sleightholme and away from the covering defencer, allowing him to dot down.

Smith missed the conversion but at 15-3, there was a sense the final was almost over as a contest – but how wrong that sentiment proved to be.

Bath, showing incredible resolve, hit back with a try of their own, using the immense power of their forwards to get over the line. A five-metre line-out was executed perfectly, and after a promising maul, Du Toit burrowed his way over the line and Russell kicked a brilliant conversion to make it 15-10 at the break.


Despite it being an action-packed first half, Russell barely had the chance to get his hands on the ball but it did not take him long to remind Saints of his permanent threat.

The Scotland international delayed a pass and ghosted through a gap in the Northampton line, before finding Cokanasiga, who came in off his right wing. The big winger was dragged down but Bath picked up a penalty and Russell kicked it through to cut the Saints’ to two points.

Smith eased Northampton’s nerves with a penalty of his own but the longer Bath stayed in touching distance, the more mistakes Saints made – and in the 50th minute, the complexion of the game changed again.

A quick tap-and-go from Ben Spencer helped carry Bath deep into Saints territory and, after an advantage was awarded, the scrum-half took a chance by sending a high Crossfield kick for Muir to attack on the left wing.

The big No.11 was marginally beaten in the air by Hendy, but the he could only palm it backwards and Muir got to it first, dotting down to level it at 18-18.

Russell missed a tough conversion but the momentum was squarely with Bath, and Saints looked rattled. A fabulous 50:22 from Russell teed up another chance, while Du Toit won a penalty soon after that drew roars of delight from their travelling fans.

Russell made the bold call to kick for a line-out instead of at goal, but Saints survived – with a forward pass spotted by Christophe Ridley, just as Bath were building a head of steam with ball in hand.

Underhill was then replaced just after the hour-mark, and rightly received a standing ovation from Bath supporters, but that did little to curb the flow of the game. Saints were penalised for holding off in midfield and then conceded another penalty just outside the 22 shortly after, which Russell lined up and booted through the posts. Incredibly, in the 66th minute, Bath Rugby led the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final.

Unfortunately for those Bath supporters starting to believe, their lead was relatively short-lived as Saints scored a try fit to win any final. Hendy burst through a gap and shrugged off several tacklers, before offloading to Mitchell, who cut back inside the covering Cokanasiga and ran in under the posts for the decisive moment.

It was still an uncomfortable seven minutes for Saints as Bath threw all they had at their defence, but they just about held on.

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