Bath take 'pride' out of narrow final defeat

Bath head of rugby Johann van Graan summed up a feeling of pride within his squad after a dogged 14-man performance in a narrow defeat by Northampton in the Premiership final.

Saints were 25-21 winners in a thrilling, tense match at Twickenham, with England scrum-half Alex Mitchell scoring the decisive try seven minutes from full-time.

Bath, who had a chance to score with the final play of the game, had come from behind to take a 21-18 lead despite playing 60 minutes with a numerical disadvantage after prop Beno Obano was shown a red card.

"I can't be prouder of this group," said Van Graan.

"From a belief point of view, everybody at the club stuck in it until the last play of the game and we as a group have got zero regrets."

South African Van Graan has taken Bath from a team that finished bottom of the league table to a Premiership final in two years.

The 44-year-old said he was not going to speak about the future yet although Bath - who retain the bulk of their squad under contract having extended deals with a number of key players - will surely start the 2024-25 campaign among title favourites.

"There's a belief in what we do, in the past 23 months we've clearly become a group that know what we're about," said Van Graan.

Bath captain Ben Spencer called the performance "heroic" while speaking to his team-mates following the final whistle.

The number nine - who won four Premiership titles with Saracens - said that the team showed their character to bounce back from the red card and go on to be the better side for much of the second half.

"I think we showed what sort of team we are. A team's that's tough to beat, a team that's hard to play against and a team that loves a challenge," said Spencer.

Bath had to make a number of tactical changes after Obano's red card, with number eight Alfie Barbeary the first to be taken off for a front-row replacement.

He said the team would use the experience as motivation to return and go one better next season.

"We can be proud of the journey we've been on this season. We've been a hell of a team, another day we'd have taken that," Barbeary told BBC Radio Bristol.

"We're all sticking around for the next few years and hopefully we'll do it again and again.

"We don't want it to stop so let's just build and go from there."