3 years ago
21 November 2010, 11:10am
Bath Rugby missed out on the opportunity to move up to fifth in the Aviva Premiership table as Saracens came from 13-0 down to win at the Recreation Ground, 13-17.
Nick Abendanon's first-half try, along with eight points from Olly Barkley, had put Bath firmly in the driving seat and on course for a first league win since September and a surge up the table.
But Saracens, who are unbeaten away from home in the Premiership this season, came back strongly and, inspired by young fly-half Owen Farrell, eventually turned their deficit into a lead.
Kameli Ratuvou and James Short scored the visitors' tries as Bath were left to rue a series of missed opportunities - even though Head Coach, Steve Meehan, was able to reflect on some positive aspects for his team.
He said: "That was one that got away - and it's easy to focus on the negatives, but on the flipside there were some real improvements in some of our play.
"When we got our attacking shape and structure correct, we were a real threat - and, defensively, when we had our line-speed and our intensity in the hit, you saw that we were very strong. There is a lot of good that went on for 60 of those 80 minutes - but unfortunately it was an expensive 20."
Bath led 13-3 at half-time after an opening period that combined resolute defence with clinical attack. The hosts had very few clear-cut try-scoring opportunities, while having to fiercely defend their own line at times, yet still emerged with a 10-point cushion at the interval.
Bath took the lead in the 12th minute when Barkley sent a 45-metre penalty sailing between the posts after the Saracens pack were penalised for standing up at a scrum.
The home defence then forced a knock-on from Nils Mordt as he looked to strike in their 22, before winning a turnover in a similar position after good build-up play from the visitors.
Nick Scott snaffled an interception pass deep in Saracens territory and, although they could not fashion a try, they were awarded a penalty when Abendanon was on the receiving end of a high tackle from Schalk Brits after they had switched play left. Barkley kept his cool from 30 metres to add to his earlier penalty and give Bath a 6-0 lead.
Saracens, for all their territory and possession, were unable to find a breakthrough - and Bath's opening try in the 28th minute summed up the first half-an-hour for the visitors.
They attacked Bath well, only to lose the ball at the ruck and Michael Claassens kick down-field. His clearance hit referee Tim Wigglesworth on the back and deflected into the path of Abendanon, who hacked ahead twice, before coolly gathering the ball on the bounce as it crossed the try-line and diving over to score. Barkley's conversion gave Bath a 13-0 lead.
But Saracens continued to press - and registered their first points of the evening on 32 minutes from a Farrell penalty after Wigglesworth had played a lengthy advantage.
The visitors created a decent chance in the closing minutes of the first half when Farrell chipped into the Bath 22 - but Andy Saull was penalised for shoving the covering Tom Biggs in the back as he attempted to collect the high ball.
The second half began with Bath in the ascendancy, although Barkley failed with an audacious long-range penalty after Saracens were penalised for not rolling away from a ruck.
Saracens could have been 16-3 down - yet within minutes it was 13-10. Farrell cleverly kicked toward the Bath left from deep inside his own territory and Short gave chase, kicking the ball back in-field and in the direction of the Bath line from the wing.
Ratuvou arrived in time to slide over, with the ball getting caught between his legs before he grounded it, and the try was only awarded after deliberation from television official Graham Hughes. Farrell's conversion ensured Saracens were firmly back in the game at 13-10 down.
Things went to bad to worse for Bath in the 57th minute. Under pressure from Farrell's kick, Abendanon went to send the ball back down-field but was charged down by Short, who enjoyed a simple run-in from 15 metres to give the visitors the lead for the first time in the match. Farrell's conversion saw Saracens into a 17-13 lead with a quarter of the game to go.
Bath tried to rally and were unlucky not to get more from a slick passing move that tested Saracens' resolve - but, when they went wide from a scrum on the 22, the ball was knocked on in a good position. A knock-on was again Bath's undoing a few minutes later when they spread the ball right after Abendanon's purposeful run had put Saracens on red alert.
The same fate - a knock-on at a key time - befell Bath again in the 75th minute as they drove into the Saracens 22 once more. And the hosts' frustration boiled over in the closing minutes when Barkley saw yellow for a high tackle on Sam Stanley, with Saracens closing out the final two minutes against 14 men to seal the victory.
By Helen Bayes
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