What a difference a week can make, last week Allianz Park was arctic this week positively balmy! Would Bath prove to be a different level of opposition to 14 men Gloucester, I’d felt all week that they would prove to be a much harder prospect!
Saracens had a less than perfect first half against Glaws, perform in the same manner and we would be struggling. Seems the boys had the same thoughts! Wow, what a half of rugby ‘boring, boring’ Saracens had! (Eat your words premiership fans). The game started with a penalty for Farrell who certainly had his kicking boots on. It was Bath who were to go over the line first however, but a knock on was picked up by the video ref. Bath did get points on the board next with a Heathcote conversion. We were treated to a spot of rugby tennis, never an exciting thing, the result was a Saracens line out won by Bath, but Mako Vunipola picked the ball up, some great play by Saracens saw an in form David Strettle run in for the try. Farrell converted to extend the lead. Having messed up a kick off Strettle redeemed himself with a great take and spin from the next. However Billy Vunipola knocked the ball on when he was watching the man rather than the ball. After the scrum was reset (the story of the game!) Bath were awarded a penalty, Heathcote got the distance but not the accuracy.
Another scrum this time for Saracens saw a mess up between 2 Bath players as the ball was kicked, whatever happened to calling ‘my ball’. Saracen took advantage and a great passage of play put our very talented Alex Goode in for a try on his comeback. Goode adds another dimension for Saracens it was great to see him back in the shirt. The conversion saw the score at Saracens 17 Bath 3, half way to a bonus point!
Bath benefited from a slightly dubious high tackle call, the man was definitely on his way down, hard to hit low under those circumstances. Heathcote made a good kick to touch but Saracens won the lineout then promptly gave a penalty away, they however won the next lineout and Strettle kicked to touch. Now I haven’t been a big fan of Chris Ashton since he’s been at Saracens but today? He made some amazing tackles, timed to perfection! A series of penalties for Saracens saw them kick to touch 4 times the forwards driving on time after time, a further penalty saw a yellow card pointed in the direction of Rob Webber. I’m now going to type exactly what I put on my phone about what happened next…… ‘Ha ha ha, a dive over by Matt Stevens, how funny!’ It was one of the funniest things I’ve seen on a rugby pitch! (Sorry Matt) but 5 more points turned into 7 by Farrell.
Lots more boring scrum actions then occurred; set, reset, set, reset; clearly all levels are struggling with the new laws, doesn’t make for good viewing! So after much dull shizzle a Saracens attack saw Ashton put in a great pass to send Strettle in for his second try, bonus point time! Saracens went in at Half time with 31 points Bath 3! Well, that was a better first half!
Now half time at Allianz Park sees the standard dancing girls, I have no idea how good they were because our mascot Sarries the Camel decided, as is his thing, to join in. We must surely have the funniest mascot in the Premiership, I can highly recommend watching him on YouTube dancing Gangnam Style, laugh tout loud funny!
So would Saracens keep up the momentum and post a cricket score in the swcind half? Hmmmm, that would be a no; I don’t have as much to say about this 40 minutes because the story of the half was mainly a defensive one for the boys in black and red. Bath made key changes at half time for me the most important being George Ford, the fly half is a future England star for me, a real talent. He took control of the game and Bath went on the attack. Matt Stevens nearly went from hero to zero with a deliberate knock on, a penalty was given; he was in that case lucky not to be shown yellow. The next knock on was for some reason hugely popular as Gavin Henson was the culprit; bringing on lots of cheers. For me it’s a real shame that he’s such a fool off the pitch, on form he has been a truly great rugby player; a flawed genius.
Many knock ons and scrum resets followed, to see a great attack shaping up for Saracens, Alex Goode however passed to a player in White and Blue and Semesa Rokoduguni ran virtually the length of the pitch to score a try at last for Bath. Ford converted to take the score to Saracens 31 to 10. The second half felt like a totally different game, that old saying of a game of two halves was so true today. Saracens made a number of substitutions seeing Alastair Hargreaves, James Johnston, Neil De Kock, Jamie George, Nils Mordt, Kelly Brown and Ben Ransom coming on with Richard Barrington making his debut. That’s half a team, maybe a contributory factor to Saracens failing to score in the second half? After a great run by George Ford it looked like Bath were in, but a brilliantly timed tackle by Ashton saved the score! Bath however did go over the line for a second time, with the exceedingly tall (to my 5ft 2 eyes) Dave Attwood running in (just checked, he’s a lofty 6ft 7!) the conversion took the score to the totals that show on the scorecard for the game. Saracens 31 Bath 17. In spite of their best efforts Bath didn’t achieve a losing bonus point.
So, a bonus point win for Saracens after an amazing first half, I’m going to say again, we need to do better, keep the momentum up for the whole game. The second half was a great defensive effort, but no points? Harlequins are the next opposition, another top 4 team; beaten home and away by Saracens last year. A misfiring Nick Evans would be nice, but he’s had a couple of those games already. Saracens travel as the only team unbeaten in the league sitting on the top of the table; it should be a great game!
And the answer to the question? Gavin Henson got nowhere near a point; an odd thing for a Saracens fan to say I guess, but I hope he does find some of his form this year to get his rugby ‘self’ back again.