Sarries, Saints in league of their own
Bath head coach Mike Ford believes Northampton Saints and Saracens are in a league of their own after watching his side blitzed by the former.
Bath head coach Mike Ford believes Northampton Saints and Saracens are in a league of their own after watching his side blitzed by the former at Franklin's Gardens.
Bath arrived at the Gardens on the back of 11 unbeaten matches in all competitions and with designs on cracking into the top two with a handsome victory over Saints.
Things were going swimmingly when Kyle Eastmond's early try and five points from George Ford put Bath 13-0 to the good after 15 minutes.
But with Paul James in the sin bin, Saints cranked up the pressure and ran in three tries before half-time through Christian Day, George Pisi and Jamie Elliott.
Day helped himself to a second soon after the break with Bath floundering before Rob Webber pulled one back and Samu Manoa and Leroy Houston traded tries.
Houston's 66th-minute effort brought Bath within eight, but Stephen Myler's 75th-minute penalty - his sixth kick out of seven - put daylight between the sides before George North put the icing on the cake with Saints' sixth of the afternoon.
With Saracens also romping to a bonus point victory at Worcester Warriors, they and Saints are well clear at the top of the table and with a trip to Leicester Tigers up next for Bath, Ford admits it'll be tough for anyone to catch them.
"There were bits and pieces where we played well," he said.
"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. Fair play to them, they are direct and come around the corner, and in George North they have a real asset there.
"Saints and Saracens, they both got bonus-point wins, and they are probably up above anyone else in the league at the moment.
"The last time we lost was October 4, we went to Sale and lost away from home.
"We put a lot of things right that Monday, prepared well and got a result at Bordeaux the next weekend.
"So the challenge for us now is to do the same again, at Welford Road. Hopefully we can learn as a team and go on another run.
"To challenge those sides you have to go on a run, which can be done. It certainly can be done, there's a lot of rugby to be played.
"They're outstanding at the moment but I wouldn't say it's done and dusted yet."
Bath have won plenty of admirers so far this season with some exciting talent out wide and some muscle in the pack but Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder revealed his side used that to their advantage.
He added: "The players did well, we did what we wanted to do. We talked about being aggressive, running at their midfield and looking at the short side.
"They've got some big players, good in the set-piece, but sometimes that creates opportunities. We took advantage of that.
"It was a very good game of rugby. We know Bath are a good side and they had gone 11 games unbeaten.
"They are a quality side and they have improved as a team.
"They've got a big, heavy pack and some very exciting backs but we played well today.
"We were shocked to go 13-0 down but we showed good composure and we played with a lot of accuracy, particularly in attack.
"Our attacking game was good and it caused us to score six tries, which is fantastic."