7 years ago
28 January 2008, 12:00am
With the chance to put an end to the three wins-one loss pattern that Bath Rugby have fallen prey to this season, the visiting team came to Vicarage Road with a score to settle for more than one reason. Although Bath managed to clinch the bonus point, the half-time lead of 13 - 5 to Saracens and an injured fly-half, meant that Bath were unable to seal the victory and the final whistle blew on 26 - 20 to Saracens.
At the first whistle, Saracens were on the attack and wasted no time in taking the ball straight up the left wing towards Bath's 22. Strong defence by Bath prevented an opening five points for the hosting team, but after three infringements by Bath, Saracen's Number 10, Glen Jackson tipped the ball over the uprights for a successful penalty kick, taking the men in black into the lead after just five minutes.
Olly Barkley was given the opportunity to equalise, after a fumble by Saracens gave Bath's Andrew Higgins the space to make a short break midfield, that was extended by a hand-off and drive from Steve Borthwick. Mears kept the momentum going from the ruck, moving deep inside Saracen's 22, but with the centre's penalty kick going wide, Bath failed to match the points.
Fifteen minutes gone and with Bath dominating territory and possession, Higgins made a break from the stalemate on the wing, to be supported by Lipman and later Banahan, whose 6ft 7 frame sprinted up the left wing before being taken down. With Saracens feeling the pressure, a quick clearance kick gave Bath the opportunity to win some much needed points and after a corner-kick into touch by Barkley and a lineout won by Bath, Butch James powered through an attempted tackle by Adam Powell to secure the first of Bath's three tries. Minutes later, having failed to get up due to an injured shoulder, the try-scorer was replaced by Samoan Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, and Barkley failed to convert.
As the half hour mark approached, Brent Russell reacted quickly to the short-lived lead by the visitors, breaking through the white and blue defence at pace and grounding the ball behind the posts. Glen Jackson added a further two points to the score with a successful conversion, taking Saracens to a five-point lead.
Minutes later, Bath looked dangerously close to hitting back, after Eliota made a rapid sprint up the pitch and offloaded to Nick Abendanon who helped get Bath to within inches of the line. Jersey-born Banahan was back fighting for some points, hammering back down the left wing after receiving a ball tapped over to him from Barkley. Caught at the feet, as he neared the line, the giant failed to reduce the point-gap and with just one minute left before the half-time whistle, a Bath offence gave Jackson an extra three points as he dissected the uprights, taking Saracens to a 13 -5 lead.
At the restart, Bath had some vital points to gain to ensure that they were not out of the match entirely and Higgins attempted to win these for Bath as he shot down the right wing towards Saracen's 22. Under pressure, Saracens looked as though they were about to clear the ball out of their danger zone, but after a pass from Lipman, Barkley brushed aside the tackling Russell to crash over the line at 52 minutes. Converting his own try, Barkley took Bath to within one-point of their hosts.
Three minutes later, Jackson responded to the lessened score divide by landing a penalty kick and nudging Saracens back into the lead. Another three minutes after that, Russell, enjoying his second try of the match, crossed the white line to take the hosts to an eight-point lead, that was stretched by a further two points as Jackson successfully converted.
Barkley broke free again with 15 minutes to go, speeding straight though a gap midfield. Short, who had replaced Grewcock after 62 minutes, pounded his way towards the posts, but was forced to offload with black shirts holding up the defence. With the heat on, Saracens helped Barkley to notch up some points for Bath, but this move was imitated minutes later by Saracens as, yet again, Jackson made a successful penalty kick.
Bath, desperate to make up the points-difference, retained the ball deep inside of Saracen's 22 in the remaining minutes and although the 76th minute saw Jonny Faamatuainu launch over the line for an unconverted try, it sealed the bonus point for Bath, but not the final victory. The whistle sounded on a 26 - 20 win to Saracens
By Kate Oram
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