Rib­bans shows Ed­die he could make grade

The Rugby Paper - - Aviva Premiership - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

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.

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

Force­ful: David Rib­bans charges up­field as Paul Grant and Jonathan Joseph, right, at­tempt to tackle

Bonus time: Ge­orge North scores the fourth try

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