A late penalty and drop goal were decisive at Franklin’s Gardens as Northampton defeated Bristol 32-26
Tries from Louis Picamoles and Mike Haywood gave Saints a narrow 14-13 lead at the break
Late kicks from Stephen Myler and Harry Mallinder secured the much-needed victory
Northampton Saints earned a third Premiership victory in a row as they had to battle to overcome a resurgent Bristol at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Saints outscored their opponents by four tries to two but an impressive all round performance from fly-half Jason Woodward – who scored 21 of his side’s points – helped the visitors to what could be a crucial losing bonus-point.
80″ – Time is up and that’s a valuable losing point! #NORvBRI
— Bristol Rugby (@Bristol_RFC) January 7, 2017
Off the back of some powerful scrumaging, Saints opened the scoring when Louise Picamoles slid over from close-range. Stephen Myler added the extras for the hosts to give them an early 7-0 advantage.
Bristol responded with Jason Woodward knocking over their first points from the tee before soon after Mitch Eadie showed great strength to muscle over for the visitors opening try. Woodward kept his composure to add the extras, 7-10.
Nevertheless, Northampton restored their lead before the break when hooker Mike Haywood went over from close range. Myler added the extras to give the hosts a narrow 14-13 lead at halftime.
After the restart, Saints put themselves into a healthy lead as Picamoles picked out flanker Tom Wood, who went over with ease.
Myler slotted over the two points, but a Woodward penalty for the visitors put the game right back in the balance with plenty of time left on the clock, 21-16.
Bristol then took the lead briefly with a converted Woodward try. The fly-half touched down from short range after a good pass from Tom Varndell, but the hosts were soon back on top with a bonus point try from the restart.
JJ Hanrahan blocked a Bristol kick before going over the line, but Woodward levelled the scores once again with a penalty, 26-26.
Nevertheless, in the final 10 minutes, another Myler penalty and Harry Mallinder drop goal handed Northampton the win while Bristol had to settle with a losing bonus point.