Bath v Saracens – The Business End of the Season

A rainy Friday night saw Saracens heading down the M4 to play the in form Bath; an important fixture at the business end of the season for both teams. David Strettle emerged first as he was playing his 100th Premiership game for Saracens,  I found myself annoyed by the commentator almost immediately as he statds that David started at the top level, for Harlequins!  I seem to think Saracens are a top team!  A big blow for Saracens playing an in form team became plain as Charlie Hodgson failed to make the pitch; this left Alex Goode playing at Fly Half, not his best position.  Saracens have a real problem at fly half when Owen Farrell is away on international duty; advantage to Bath as George Ford an outstanding young player emerged for the home team.  Would Goode show the form at 10, a position he had tried to make his own at one stage.

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Bath had the first opportunity to put points on the board with a penalty early on, Ford however failed to take advantage. The first scrum saw a penalty awarded to Saracens as the scrum wheeled around, scrums appear to have become penalty machines this season, not a good thing for spectators.  Saracens attacked from the resulting lineout spreading the ball from one side of the pitch to the other; Joel Tomkins took a looping pass from Schalk Brits and was very close to the line but he found touch rather than the try line.  George Ford proved that his inclusion on the England bench was a good pick after showing his prowess with the boot to clear the Bath lines.

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Bath attacked after Alex Goode kicked and failed to find touch, after playing the ball out of their own half they were awarded after several phases of play, with a penalty in front of the posts.  No mistakes from George Ford this time as he put 3 points on the board.  Saracens were awarded a penalty in return minutes later and Alex Goode slotted the ball over the posts, honours even after 21 minutes.  An amazing thing happened moments later as a touch judge made a decision!!!  Jackson Wray knocked the ball into touch close to the Saracens line, a quick lineout was taken and Peter Stringer thought he was running in for a try; the ball however was thrown forward.  I think I may put that fact in my diary, a decision from a man with a flag!

I must at this point confess I shouted at the TV on 31 minutes as Chris Wyles juggled the ball and ran in for a try after David Strettle had made a great break and Joel Tomkins a great off load!  Alex Goode converted the try to put the visitors ahead the score standing at Bath 3 Saracens 10.  An interesting point was made by Lawrence Dallaglio for all the Saracens haters after the try, Saracens have scored the most tries from their backs in the Preniership.  Boring Saracens?  I think not!  Dave Attwood made a couple of tackles that were sheer class as he firstly smashed Steve Borthwick then took down the powerhouse that is Mako Vunipola,  I’ve said it before but how on earth do they get up!

I always feel like a total nutter sitting shouting at the TV in an empty room but shout I did again as Saracens scored a brilliant try just before half time.  Bath were threatening the Saracens line but a poor pass saw the ball land in Alex Goode’s hands, he passed to Duncan Taylor who kicked the ball on, Matt Banahan made a mess of taking the ball, knocking it on allowing Taylor to pick the ball up, a pass to Brad Barritt who proved his kicking skills after spotting David Strettle in space, he ran in to score a wonderful try on his 100th appearance.  Alex Goode again converted the try and the teams went in at half time with the score Bath 3 Saracens 17.  Again I have said it before but I’m truly amazed that BT Sport thrust a microphone into the face of a player as he’s coming off at half time, David Strettle this time!

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Alex Goode started the second half; Jacques Burger made a late tackle on Peter Stringer leaving him in no small amount of pain, not a very fair match up.  Stringer fortunately survived in one piece, but not in a good enough state to carry on.   George Ford showed his skill on the middle of the field, he is such an exciting player!  He threw a great dummy, but the ball went astray giving a scrum put in to Saracens.  Said scrum collapsed several times before James Johnston was penalised.  Ford kicked to touch giving the home team a lineout close to the Saracens line; Bath attacked with intention but lost the ball to Jackson Wray.  A break in play saw the commentators talking about Jacques Burger and his propensity for putting not only his body but his face on the line for his team.  I can attest to that fact having seen his latest stitches up close as he was training last week!  On 54 minutes Alex Goode, playing a storm at fly half, kicked a drop goal adding 3 points for the visitors.

Gavin Henson came on at 63 minutes, another of rugby’s flawed geniuses, a man with so much natural skill who’s wasted so much of his potential through his crazy lifestyle.  Jacques Burger found himself off the field with a yellow card for the second week in a row after a high tackle on Anthony Watson.  It did appear that the decision to look at the offence was taken from a replay on the big screen rather than a spot by any of the officials.  So, a correct decision for a high shot, but a dubious reason for the review.  Bath attacked with intent but Saracens matched the effort defensively holding them up over the line.  Bath were however awarded a penalty try after they decided to take a scrum which collapsed several times, a fair and obvious decision by the referee.

Anthony Watson took a great catch from a high ball, but failed to release and was penalised giving Alex Goode another shot at goal. Bath 10 Saracens 23 with 5 minutes remaining. Burger reappeared to many boos with Saracens having conceded the standard 7 points but scoring 3 themselves.  We had a small blast of handbags as Chris Wyles basically shoulder barged Rokoduguni, another correct yellow card for a Saracens player, you just can’t tackle and not use your arms!  This card however made no difference to the score the final whistle blown with the score Bath 10 Saracens 23.  I’d been worried about the game 5 days after a tough game against Exeter but Saracens proved their pedigree with a superb defensive effort as well as 2 well taken tries. With 62 points and sitting at the top of the table at least until Northampton play Saracens are looking good for a play off place.

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