Ribbans shows Eddie he could make grade
SAINTS lock David Ribbans chose the right night to demonstrate his England potential with a barnstorming display in front of Eddie Jones and his fellow Red Rose coaches.
Ribbans, a South African who qualifies for England through a grandfather raised in Enfield, must go some to force his way past the squadron of second rows pushing for Test places.
However, his forceful running and bone-jarring tackles proved too much for Bath and the 22-year-old showed an eye for the line as well, with his try-double either side of half-time helping Northampton to a bonus-point victory that rockets them towards the top four.
After Courtney Lawes – who produced a massive display himself – had set Saints on their way in the fourth minute with an excellent finish out wide following an incisive dart and offload from Tom Collins, Ribbans helped himself before George North secured the bonus.
Former Western Province man Ribbans declined to discuss his England prospects: “I’m just happy with the bonuspoint win. We didn’t get it against Leicester last week when we put in such a great performance so to get one now is massive.
“Not conceding a try will do our confidence a lot of good, but the important thing now is to do the same away from home.”
While Ribbans took the plaudits, Lawes set the tone. Captain for the night in the absence of Dylan Hartley – who Saints boss Jim Mallinder predicts will be “raring to go” this week after a hand injury – Lawes was immense at No.6, smashing anything that came his way, carrying hard, and proving an excellent link man in attack.
Northampton started strongly, culminating in the Lawes try, but Bath, for whom 23-tackle debutant Sam Underhill was Trojanlike, fought back before two quick-fire Rhys Priestland penalties put them ahead.
That was the signal for Northampton to up their game, and when Harry Mallinder sent a penalty to the corner, Mikey Haywood went close from the lineout drive before Ribbans finished things off.
Mallinder converted for a 12-6 half-time lead and Northampton dominated the opening exchanges of the second-half against Bath, who had been unlucky to lose influential performers Kahn Fotuali’i (head) and Matt Garvey (calf) before the break.
Lawes’ crucial lineout steel set up the third try, enabling Luther Burrell and Michael Paterson to crash through before Nic Groom located Ribbans on the charge. He did the rest, driving irresistibly through the melee.
Bath’s woes increased on 67 minutes when, having used all their subs, Underhill was knocked out and unable to be replaced – a protocol their rugby director Todd Blackadder later claimed “defied logic”.
Saints went on to administer the knock-out blow when Mallinder’s grubber was carried into touch by Max Clark.
From the lineout Burrell offloaded to Mallinder, who found North to dot down.
Forceful: David Ribbans charges upfield as Paul Grant and Jonathan Joseph, right, attempt to tackle
Bonus time: George North scores the fourth try