Jan 30, 2016
Saracens Comeback Sinks Bath
It was a tale of two halves at Allianz Park this afternoon as Saracens came back from 13-0 down at half time to defeat Bath 19-13.
A poor first half saw Bath dominate Saracens at the breakdown thanks to an impressive showing from captain Francois Louw. Bath were effective up front with a strong driving maul setting up fullback Tom Homer who crossed the line in the 13th minute. A string of Rhys Priestland penalties added to Bath’s advantage and the visitors went in 13-0 up at half time.
The second half saw Saracens return to their clinical best as they frustrated Bath time and again. Man of the match Maro Itoje was superb for the home side and it was his run which would be the catalyst for Schalk Brits' equalising try with 9 minutes to go. It was a nerve biting end to the game but two penalties from veteran fly half Charlie Hodgson were enough to pull Sarries ahead and secure the victory.
It was a first half to forget for Saracens. Playing into a fierce breeze, Sarries were far from their best as they headed into the Allianz Park changing rooms scoreless, trailing 13-0 at the break.
In a poor first half, prop forward Richard Barrington was impressive for Mark McCall’s side. The loosehead prop was starting the game with Mako Vunipola away on international duty made a series of bulldozing carries that bludgeoned the Bath defence.
Despite Barrington’s efforts on the first forty the half certainly belonged to Mike Ford’s beleaguered side, with Ford’s captain Francois Louw leading the charge by producing a breakdown masterclass in the Bath No7 shirt.
After an early Rhys Priestland penalty edged Bath in front, they scored the first try of the game when full-back Tom Homer chimed into the line with perfect timing to score in the left hand corner after collecting a well-timed Dan Bowden pass in the build-up.
Sarries responded almost immediately, when the home side thought Duncan Taylor had crossed for a try in the week he put pen to paper on a contract extension with the club. The bad news for Saracens was referee Dean Richards called a forward pass in the build-up, with Chris Wyles’ cut-out ball thrust forward by the breeze.
Priestland would land two more penalties to extend his side’s lead to 13 points as Saracens went into the break in unchartered territory, behind and scoreless after 40 minutes play at Allianz Park.
Saracens were not at the races in the first half, but after some inspired words form captain Brad Barritt they emerged in the second half a revitalised team. Barritt was a pillar of strength for his side. His form for Saracens so far this season has been exemplary and once again he was at the fulcrum of all that was good in this Sarries performance. Despite another fine display from the centre, it would be young star Maro Itoje who would leave his indelible mark on the game.
Itoje re-joined his Saracens teammates after being released by England coach Eddie Jones earlier this week and his second half display must have given the new England boss some real food for thought. Physical, abrasive and athletic, Itoje looked all the player many have been building him up to be as he teared through the Bath pack in a stunning personal display.
Inspired by Itoje, Saracens were a much better side going forward, and after two quick-fire penalties from Charlie Hodgson as the Aviva Premiership champions started the second-half with far greater purpose.
Priestland then missed a very kickable penalty from 35 metres out soon after for Bath, and balance was restored at scrumtime with the introduction of USA prop Titi Lamositele.
Sarries started to crank up the pressusre. The Bath defensive line exasperated Saracens on plenty of occasions, with Tom Homer’s crucial interception from Nick Tompkins break a particular frustration.
But it was the Man of the Match Itoje who eventually broke the Bath resistance. Bursting down the right flank after a superb take from substitute lock Hayden Smith from a charge down kick, Saracens recycled the ball, Brits surged through a gap and had just enough reach to dot down.
Hodgson added the extras two minutes to go and he nudged Saracens ahead after Itoje made a menace of himself in the ruck. A further Hodgson penalty sealed the victory.
15 Ben Ransom;14 Duncan Taylor;13 Marcelo Bosch;12 Brad Barritt ©; 11 Chris Wyles; 10 Charlie Hodgson;9 Richard Wigglesworth; 1 Richard Barrington;2 Schalk Brits;3 Petrus Du Plessis;4 Maro Itoje; 5 Jim Hamilton;6 Michael Rhodes;7 Jacques Burger;8 Jackson Wray.
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders; 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer;18 Titi Lamositele; 19 Hayden Smith;20 Kelly Brown;21 Ben Spencer;22 Nils Mordt; 23 Nick Tompkins.
Replacements used: Lamositele for Barrington (57); Smith for Hamilton (69); Brown for Rhodes (41); Spencer for Wigglesworth (68); Tompkins for Bosch (57).
Tries Brits (71).
Penalties Hodgson x 4
15 Tom Homer; 14 Semesa Rokoduguni;13 Matt Banahan;12 Dan Bowden; 11 Horacio Agulla; 10 Rhys Priestland; 9 Chris Cook;1 Nick Auterac; 2 Rob Webber; 3 Henry Thomas; 4 Charlie Ewels; 5 Dominic Day; 6 Matt Garvey;7 Francois Louw (c);8 Leroy Houston.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn; 17 Max Lahiff; 18 David Wilson; 19 Tom Ellis;20 Guy Mercer; 21 Alafoti Faosiliva; 22 Jonathan Evans; 23 Max Clark.
Replacements used: Dunn for Webber(68); Lahiff for Auterac(18); Wilson for Thomas (58); Ellis for Day(58); Mercer for Garvey(72); Faosiliva for Houston(65); Clark for Bowden (59).
Tries Homer (13).
Penalties Priestland x 2.
Yellow card Wilson (80).