Northampton beat Bath in epic Gallagher Premiership final after red card drama

Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam of Northampton Saints lift the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Trophy
-Credit: (Image: 2024 Getty Images)

Northampton emerged as the Gallagher Premiership champions at Twickenham, following a late try by Alex Mitchell that secured a 25-21 victory, effectively ending Bath's defiant response to Beno Obano's red card.

Obano was dismissed with almost an hour of the final remaining for a high tackle on Juarno Augustus. Referee Christophe Ridley deemed the tackle presented a high level of danger with no mitigation.

Bath had to sacrifice Alfie Barbeary to bring on replacement prop Juan Schoeman, which stripped them of a second key ball carrier and theoretically the ability to play anything more ambitious than a spoiling game. However, they rallied courageously.

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Initial wounds were inflicted by tries from Tommy Freeman and Ollie Sleightholme, but Bath recovered to hit back through touch downs from Thomas du Toit and Will Muir and the boot of Finn Russell to lead 21-18 with 13 minutes left.

Northampton have been the standout team in the Premiership this season, operating with multiple strings to their bow but primarily a cutting edge in attack. Yet, they retreated into their shells as Bath took control.

It was the tackle-busting ability of 21 year old replacement wing George Hendy and support work of Mitchell that eventually broke their opponents, who saw Sam Underhill lead a remarkable defensive effort.

Hendy was named man of the match as Northampton bid a triumphant farewell to Courtney Lawes, Alex Waller, Lewis Ludlam and Alex Moon. However, Bath's side also put in worthy performances, including half-backs Ben Spencer and Russell.

Russell's first significant move was to miss a penalty kick, which veered wide of the left upright, causing a grimace from the Scotland playmaker. However, he found success with his second attempt.

George Furbank took a heavy hit in contact as a tense set-piece battle gave way to cautious attacks. Despite this, Northampton struggled to find any gaps in Bath's well-organised defence.

As the second quarter approached, Saints patiently advanced deep into opposition territory, allowing Fin Smith to score a drop-goal. The match then swung in Northampton's favour following Obano's departure.

The impact was immediate as Northampton scored their first try. Lawes passed out of contact to Furbank and the England full-back showcased his skills, gliding into space and assisting Freeman in scoring.

Furbank also assisted Sleightholme in scoring in the left corner. However, Bath retaliated when du Toit managed to squeeze over from short range, marking a significant victory for their pack.

A Russell penalty early in the second half reduced the deficit to two points. Northampton then fumbled as they attempted to capitalise on a valuable position near the try line.

Russell and Underhill double tackled Burger Odendaal, forcing the South African to limp off. After weathering a Smith penalty, Bath struck next when Muir scored from Spencer's crossfield kick.

Even Furbank made a handling error as Saints' foundations began to shake, with a precise 50-22 from Russell adding to the pressure.

Russell successfully kicked his third penalty, and Bath demonstrated their tenacity by withstanding a series of Northampton attacks before securing a scrum penalty near their own 22.

Northampton suffered another setback when Smith was injured, but Mitchell, his half-back partner, stepped up. Hendy used his power to break through several tackles before passing to England's scrum-half for the crucial score.