Sep 09, 2017
Saracens Rok'd at the death in Bath defeat
A late Semesa Rockoduguni brace sunk Saracens hearts in a pulsating 31-21 defeat away to Bath.
Clawing their way back from 14-0 at the break, a 75th minute try from replacement scrumhalf Ben Spencer looked to have seen Mark McCall’s side complete a heroic fightback only for Bath’s Fijian flyer to break their hearts in the closing stages.
It was a real Premiership Rugby humdinger, as Saracens were left to rue their slow start to the game as they were sunk by Bath’s star winger in the closing stages.
In two rounds of Aviva Premiership rugby, Saracens couldn’t have experienced more contrasting fortunes of rugby, as the free-flowing dominance that lit up the London Double Header in their opening rout of Northampton Saints was replaced by a close, tip-tuck affair at The Rec.
The hosts squeezed and harried Mark McCall’s side who were off colour in terms of their composure and decision making in an opening half that Bath deservedly led 14-0 at the break.
Todd Blackadder’s side have quietly made improvements to little fanfare in the back half of the 2016/17 season and after their dogged away win to old foes Leicester Tigers, the West Country outfit once again showed how far they have come under the tutelage of the former Crusaders and All Blacks back-rower in the opening half.
Bath were dangerous throughout the first half, British and Irish Lions flyer Anthony Watson and Wales outside half were the thorns in Sarries side. Watson was electric from full-back, and had to be bundled into touch after a scorching first half break forced Alex Lozowski into a fine try saving cover tackle. Watson’s fly-half Priestland was less burning pace, but icier cool in the Bath No10 shirt but was equally dangerous for the visitors. His cross-field kick that found Matt Banahan kept Saracens famed defensive line-speed in check and it was the former Scarlets fly-half who would open the scoring – his 17th minute drop goal opening the scoring.
Next on the scoresheet was Bath’s Springbok flanker Francois Louw who brushed off his compatriot Mike Rhodes and the covering Alex Goode to score a richly deserved opening score for the hosts. Priestland failed to convert but he found the target with two penalty goals before the break as Sarries headed to the Sheds at The Rec for a half-time pep talk.
Saracens named three British & Irish Lions on the bench for the game, with Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola and Liam Williams all featuring in the second half. Farrell’s introduction provided the most impetus, with the England playmaker seizing control almost immediately from his opposite number Priestland as he sparked Sarries into life.
Farrell landed two quick-fire penalties to get his side into the game, only for Priestland to land his second drop-goal of the game.
Sarries though were in control in the second half, much better for the half-time break and the introduction of a heavy hitting bench. With the initiative captain Brad Barritt called for his side to turn down a kickable shot at goal to kick for touch instead. His decision was an inspired one, as the Sarries back bludgeoned their way over the try line. A penalty try was called and Bath’s star No8 Toby Faletau was yellow carded.
Sarries continued to crank up the pressure as their offloading game flourished. Forwards and backs combining to great affect but all Saracens could muster was a penalty goal as Bath’s defence stood firm.
The Levee though would eventually break for when Sarries worked a short-side to perfection. Some superb vision from first Farrell, and then Goode and Wyles combined to release Spencer who scorched away to score. Farrell couldn’t land the extras from out wide.
Sarries looked to close the game out but just couldn’t grab possession. A series of Kahn Foutali’I box-kicks caused havoc in the back field, and from a resulting knock-on Bath struck from the scrum. Rokoduguni showed his finishing prowess as he brushed aside some desperate Sarries tackles to score in the corner.
The game looked all-over but somehow Sarries won back the ball from the kick-off and moved through the phases to get back down to Bath’s 22 with only three points separating the sides.
As they moved the ball wide, Rokoduguni hooved up a pass and raced away to seal a famous win for the hosts. Saracens will lick their wounds as they head Stateside to face Newcastle Falcons.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode; 14 Nathan Earle (Williams 51'); 13 Duncan Taylor; 12 Brad Barritt (c); 11 Chris Wyles;
10 Alex Lozowski (Farrell 47'); 9 Richard Wigglesworth (Spencer 63'); 1 Richard Barrington; (M.Vunipola 41'); 2 Schalk Brits (Tolofua 61'); 3 Vincent Koch (Figallo 51'); 4 Dominic Day (Isiekwe 51'); 5 Maro Itoje; 6 Michael Rhodes; 7 Schalk Burger; 8 Jackson Wray.
Replacements 16 Christopher Tolofua; 17 Mako Vunipola; 18 Juan Figallo; 19 Nick Isiekwe;
20 Ben Earl; 21 Ben Spencer; 22 Owen Farrell; 23 Liam Williams:
Scores Tries Penalty Try; Spencer.
Penalties Lozowski 1/2. Farrell 2/2:
Bath Rugby: 15. Anthony Watson; 14. Semesa Rokoduguni; 13. Jonathan Joseph (Tapuai 61'); 12. Max Clark; 11. Matt Banahan;10. Rhys Priestland (Burns 58'); 9. Chris Cook (Fotuali'i 3'); 1. Beno Obano( Auterac 51'); 2. Tom Dunn( Walker 73'); 3. Anthony Perenise (Andrews (60'); 4. Luke Charteris (Phillips (60'); 5. Elliott Stooke (Grant 62'-70'); 6. Matt Garvey (c) (Grant 76'); 7. Francois Louw; 8. Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: 16. Jack Walker; 17. Nick Auterac; 18. Scott Andrews; 19. James Phillips;20. Paul Grant; 21. Kahn Fotuali’i; 22. Freddie Burns; 23. Ben Tapuai:
Scores Tries Louw (24'); Rokoduguni (77'- 80+3')
Cons Burns 2:
Penalties Priestland 2:
Drop goal Priestland (18'-54')
Scoring sequence 3-0 Priestland D/G; 8-0 Louw try; 11-0 Priestland pen; 14-0 Priestland pen;14-3 Lozowski pen; 14-6 Farrell pen; 17-6 Priestland D/g; 17-13 penalty try; 17-16 Farrell pen; 17-21 Spencer try; 22-21 Rokoduguni try; 24-21 Burns con; 29-21 Rokoduguni try; 31-21 Burns con.