Saints lose all hope in league chase
April 22, 2000

Northampton boss John Steele tonight described his team's title chances as "very slender" following their second Premiership defeat in four days.

Steele's Saints slipped seven points behind league leaders Leicester after their 17-13 defeat against second placed Bath at Franklin's Gardens.

While Northampton are still chasing Tetley's Bitter Cup and Heineken Cup honours, their championship challenge will now depend on either Leicester or Bath inexplicably losing form.

"Realistically, the league title is a remote chance for us now," said Steele.

"Our hopes are extremely slender; it seems to have slipped away from us in a matter of days. But we'll keep on battling in the league we dug deep today and showed a lot of heart and commitment."

Northampton, having been beaten by Harlequins in midweek, were undone by Bath tries from England internationals Iain Balshaw and Mike Catt.

There was also an injury scare for the Saints in the closing seconds when
their inspirational captain Pat Lam went off nursing shoulder trouble that Northampton's medical staff will assess over the next 48 hours or so.

With the league effectively gone for another season, Steele could decide to rest key players in next Saturday's clash at Leicester.

But it is an option he probably will not consider, and he could even recall the likes of Matt Dawson, Allan Bateman and Budge Pountney who are all currently recovering from injury.

While Saints were left licking their wounds, Bath began celebrating a first victory on Northampton soil since September 1994.

But Bath coach Andy Robinson knows that arch rivals Leicester are in the Premiership driving seat, given their current two-point advantage over Bath with a game in hand.

"Leicester are on form and they are driven towards winning another league title," said Robinson.

"All we can do is go forward and try to win our remaining games, and we've now got two tough home fixtures with Harlequins and Saracens ahead of us."

Bath visit Leicester on the Premiership's final weekend May 21 and Robinson added, "A title decider up there would make a great spectacle, but if it doesn't happen then it doesn't happen."

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