sport

Mallinder sings Myler's praises

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder hailed Stephen Myler's goalkicking performance in Saints' Amlin Challenge Cup final victory over Bath.

The England international fly-half kicked 20 points from six penalties and a conversion, while Phil Dowson and Ben Foden scored tries to see Northampton home 30-16 at Cardiff Arms Park.

"You need a performance like that in big games, just somebody who can keep their head to make really good decisions, not just kicking the goals," Mallinder said.

"It was top-drawer by Stephen on a night when all of our leaders stepped up.

"We had a game-plan that we wanted to move their front-five around the field. They were very physical, but we knew if we kept playing, then the opportunities would come.

"Stephen kicked his goals - you have got to take your points in games like this. Unfortunately for (Bath fly-half) George Ford, he missed a few at a crucial time.

"We know we are improving as a team. We are a better team than what we were last year. We are pleased with the way things are going."

Northampton trailed 13-6 at half-time after Ford kicked two penalties and converted wing Anthony Watson's try, but they then recovered superbly despite losing prop Alex Corbisiero to the sin-bin as Bath were sunk.

Match-winner Myler said: "You are not just going to turn up and get given the trophy.

"You have got to go out and earn it and the forwards have been outstanding all season for us. They've given us that platform to play from.

"We regrouped at half-time, came up with a plan and I am proud of the lads that we stuck to that plan."

And Saints skipper Tom Wood added: "We knew we were going to have to weather a storm. We knew Bath were going to be fully charged up for this game.

"We had to keep working, and hopefully we would get our rewards in the last 20 minutes.

"It wasn't alarm bells at half-time, but it is always frustrating to be behind. We were confident we had it in the tank to finish the job.

"The message before the game was that it is nine months' work, grafting through pre-season. It all comes down to days like today and to get that win makes it all worthwhile."

Bath head coach Mike Ford accepted that his team had not taken their chances during what was a tight and tense final until the closing minutes when Dowson and Foden struck.

"We had to take our opportunities when they were on offer, and we missed a couple. Myler picked us off," Ford said.

"Maybe at a crucial time the inner belief you get from winning big games and trophies just wasn't quite there because we have got no recent history of that.

"We are proud of what we have done this season. We are not going to change our philosophy. The pack is one of the best in the league, if not the best, and we have got a massively exciting back-line.

"We don't want anyone to feel sorry for us. We were good enough to get in the top four (in the Aviva Premiership) and we were good enough to win tonight. I think the game slipped away from us.

"We have won more than 75 per cent of our games this season, and we have played some entertaining football. Next season we will come back stronger."

And Bath skipper Stuart Hooper added: "It is hugely disappointing. We played perfect cup final rugby in the first-half, but second-half we probably went away from what we were doing.

"The way you are judged in the sport is by winning trophies. We were desperate to get our hands on some silverware this season, which hasn't happened.

"But in the cold light of day, we will look back at the improvements we have made day to day this season in the way we are learning and the way the young guys are getting better."