8 January 2012, 6:08pm
Bath Rugby fought back to take a losing bonus point from the 2000th Premiership game, against current champions Saracens, final-score 26-19.
All Bath's points came from their fly-halves, Stephen Donald and his replacement Tom Heathcote, with a try, conversion and penalty for Donald, and three penalties for Heathcote, including the vital 80th minute kick that secured the bonus point.
The visiting side started the brighter of the two, picking up where they had left off a week ago against London Irish. They dominated possession early on, controlling the game and making it difficult for Saracens to make any headway out of their own 22.
A well-taken lineout by Ryan Caldwell set up a strong driving maul deep in the Saracens 22. Quick ball was passed across the pitch, eventually finding Matt Carraro who punched a hole through the centre. The recycled ball found its way to Donald, who powered through two tackles to burst over the line in between the posts. The fly-half converted his own try, giving Bath an early 0-7 lead.
The forwards continued to dominate, and Bath came close to doubling the lead as they drove the Saracens scrum back following the sin-binning of Saracens' loosehead Rhys Gill. However, referee Pascal Gauzere saw no reason to award a penalty try, and momentum swung in the way of the home side.
They steadily worked their way up field, with wing David Strettle in particular making headway. The champions made no mistake, and in their first real foray into the Bath half, set Steve Borthwick up to crash over the try line from short range. Owen Farrell levelled the scores with the conversion.
Donald landed a long range penalty moments later to regain the lead, but Farrell, who was having a shaky afternoon with the boot having already seen two penalty attempts bounce back off the left upright, equalised again to start clawing the home team back into the game. He extended the lead by another three just before half time, giving Saracens the lead for the first time of the game. 13-10
Bath were fighting hard from the start of the second half, and although Farrell boosted the hosts with another three points on 49 minutes, the visitors continued to scrap for possession. The forwards drove hard, and although camped on the Saracens try line, Bath just couldn't quite force their way through but were awarded a penalty for their efforts. Replacement Heathcote stepped up and calmly slotted the three points, taking the deficit back to three with just over 20 minutes left.
The champions were slowly turning the screw, and with their scrum steadied after bringing on Carlos Nieto, they began to dominate territory, eventually leading to a try for winger Chris Wyles, who sliced through the Bath defence to touchdown. Farrell converted to extend Saracens' lead to 10. 23-13.
Bath kept battling though, refusing to give in and working hard to take something from the match. Farrell looked to have extended the lead beyond losing bonus point range for Bath in the dying minutes, but the visitors made their way back up the pitch, and were awarded a penalty. Heathcote calmly stepped up to the tee, and despite the tight angle, sent the ball sailing between the posts to secure the point for Bath.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere
Half Time score: 13-10
Tries: Borthwick (18), Wyles (68)
Cons: Farrell (19,69)
Pens: Farrell (32,38,47,78)
Tries: Donald (4)
Cons: Donald (5)
Pens: Donald (21), Heathcote (56,73,81)
|08/01/12||London Irish||21 - 19||Sale|
|FB||Alex Goode||15||Nick Abendanon||FB|
|W||David Strettle||14||Ollie Woodburn||W|
|4||2||C||Owen Farrell||13||Matthew Carraro||C|
|C||Bradley Barritt||12||Matthew Banahan||C|
|1||W||Chris Wyles||11||Tom Biggs||W|
|FH||Charlie Hodgson||10||Stephen Donald||FH||1||1||1|
|SH||Ben Spencer||9||Michael Claassens||SH|
|P||Rhys Gill||1||Nathan Catt||P|
|H||John Smit||2||Ross Batty||H|
|P||Matt Stevens||3||Anthony Perenise||P|
|1||L||Steve Borthwick||4||Dave Attwood||L|
|L||Mouritz Botha||5||Ryan Caldwell||L|
|FL||Jackson Wray||6||Andy Beattie||FL|
|FL||Andy Saull||7||Francois Louw||FL|
|8||Ernst Joubert||8||Simon Taylor||8|