Two teams that had endured long waits for a trophy played out a predictably spiky and scrappy affair in the 2014 Amlin Challenge Cup final. Ultimately, it was Northampton Saints who bested Bath Rugby 30-16, per BBC Sport, but it was only after a furious second-half fightback.
|Northampton Saints||Phil Dowson||Stephen Myler 6||Stephen Myler 1|
|Bath Rugby||Anthony Watson||George Ford 1||George Ford 3|
The victory was largely created by Bath's penchant for self-destruction. Head coach Mike Ford's team had been firmly in control prior the break.
Bath's ability to frustrate Northampton in the scrum was a particular key. They routinely won the right to own the second-phase ball from loose scrums.
That ensured Northampton's game rarely had any flow or verve. Without those qualities, the team led by on-pitch talisman Stephen Myler never built any momentum.
Of course, Bath were able to count on their own star performer, flanker Francois Louw. The powerful-running Springbok, who returned from injury for the final, per Telegraph writer Gavin Mairs, led by example.
He routinely flattened Northampton runners, destroying Northampton advances high up the pitch. That meant Bath were often well-placed to counter. Louw and company did so with ruthless efficiency.
One obvious danger man was Bath speedster Anthony Watson. The 20-year-old full-back never missed a chance to dart through an opening with pace Northampton just couldn't nullify.
Daily Mirror writer Alex Spink marvelled at Watson's speed for Bath's first-half try:
TRY Bath. Brilliant turnover by Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson runs it back 65m for score. Bath 13-6 after 28 mins.— Alex Spink (@alexspinkmirror) May 23, 2014
For a long time it looked as if the game would prove to be a fond farewell for long-standing Bath full-back Nick Abendanon. He prepared to walk off into retirement having helped Bath secure their first major prize since 2008. Abendanon must have been confident that would happen after his team built a 13-6 advantage.
But after the interval, everything that could go wrong, promptly did. Truthfully, there was an increase in commitment and ferocity from the Saints, but Bath were largely the makers of their doom.
Slack passing and poor decision-making were rife in the second period. Then it was Northampton winning every second-phase ball.
That allowed Myler to outshine George Ford, who had owned the first half. Key man Myler made four successful penalty goals via his boot to stake Saints into a slender two-point advantage.
That cushion was padded by a late try, courtesy of Phil Dowson, who bundled over from short range. The Amlin Cup was then sealed when Ben Foden, who just about got over the line late on. Myler's missed conversion was the only blip on his exceptional performance.
Still, the victory was a sweet moment for Myler, who told BBC Radio Northampton, cited by BBC Sport, how desperate the club was for a first trophy since 2010.
Ultimately, though, Bath will look back on a final that was theirs for the taking in the first half.