MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 37-31 Bath Rugby
Four tries and more free-flowing rugby lit up StoneX Stadium as Saracens Men hit the top of the Gallagher Premiership once again after a nail-biting 37-31 victory over Bath Rugby.
Mark McCall’s men looked to be rampaging to a big victory when they had a 20 point lead mid-way through the second half, but a spirited comeback from the visitors meant it went down to the final seconds and the whole stadium had a huge sigh of relief when the ball was smashed in to touch to confirm a fifth consecutive victory.
Sarries, as they have done so often this season came flying out of the blocks and took just two minutes to open the scoring.
Elliot Daly gathered a loose ball and then the ball was recycled to Alex Goode who expertly dummied his way to the line to mark his first start of the season in style. Owen Farrell’s touchline conversion made it 7-0.
Bath hit back almost immediately though when former Saracen Matt Gallagher raced clear for their opening try. Max Malins ran in to contact and the ball was dislodged, allowing their full-back to hack the ball away and it bounced up perfectly for him to run over the line unattended. Orlando Bailey added the extras to level the score with 10 minutes played.
The hosts then created a chance out of nothing when some neat offloading put Malins in space on the right, but his chip over the top unfortunately bounced dead with the try-line beckoning.
Sarries were then caught in possession right on their line as they looked to play from deep, and Bath took advantage as they kicked a straight forward penalty to take a 10-7 lead.
Farrell had other ideas though, as he tied the score almost straight from the restart following another brilliant piece of footwork from Daly which earned a penalty at the breakdown.
The pressure was building from the hosts who were still determined to play their high tempo game, and Eroni Mawi’s dummy almost cut through the defence but the ball trickled forward from the next phase.
There was still time after a disjointed first half for two more penalty attempts from Farrell, who slotted both, as the hosts went down the tunnel with a narrow 16-10 lead at the break.
The second half started perfectly for Sarries who made the ideal response to challenging opening 40. Almost straight after the restart a looping pass from Bath was picked off by Malins, who was never going to be stopped from 30 metres out. Farrell added the extras from in front of the posts as the lead grew to 13 points.
Bath refused to roll over though, and got right back in the match with an impressive try from Joe Cokanasiga. New signing Ollie Lawrence broke through the defence and drew in the final defender, releasing the winger who strolled over. Bailey’s conversion meant the lead was back down to six points with just over 30 minutes to play.
D’Arcy Rae was then sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Ben Earl, and Sarries punished the visitors straight away with their third try.
The penalty was kicked to the corner, and then with the maul brought down the ball was spun from right to left and Daly was there to continue his exceptional form with another score in the corner. Farrell’s conversion edged his side 13 points ahead.
The bonus point followed just minutes later to the delight of the home crowd. Theo McFarland carried from the base of a ruck and dummied his way past two defenders before releasing Alex Lewington who could sprint clear from 25 metres out and dive over in the right hand corner. The conversion was again on the money and all of a sudden the lead was up to 20 points.
Once again though Bath hit back in style, this time it was Max Ojomoh who ended a flowing move from turnover ball to acrobatically score their third try. Bailey’s conversion which was drop-kicked brought them back in to the equation.
Seconds later Lawrence strolled through the defence for Bath’s fourth, but fortunately for the home crowd we came back for an earlier knock on and Sarries survived.
They didn’t survive the next attack though, as Wesley White drove over from just a metre out following Ruaridh McConnochie’s excellent break, and Bailey’s conversion meant the lead was now just six points as we entered the closing stages.
Bath then had a golden chance to take the lead when a 50:22 gave them a lineout just five metres from the try-line, but a brilliant piece of maul defence earned Sarries a crucial turnover.
It went down to the final play when a Bath penalty had the hosts defending for what seemed an age, but eventually they got the much-needed turnover and made it five wins from five.