3 years ago
28 February 2010, 10:32am
Enjoying their fifth Guinness Premiership win on the bounce, Bath Rugby proved the old saying true - that the best does come to those who wait.
Having recognised the limitations of the Saracens style of play, that had taken them to the top of the table at the start of the season, Bath were able to expose their opponents weaknesses and steal the win at Vicarage Road.
"I think the scoreline flattered Saracens," admitted Skills and Defence Coach Brad Davis after the game. "Their try came against the run of play, and was rather fortunate. But, our eight did ever so well and they rarely threatened our line. I hope this backs up what we have been saying for some time, that we are not a one-man team and we are able to win when Butch James is not on the field.
"Winning breeds confidence," Davis continued. "And this type of performance at this time of the season is hugely satisfying."
Demonstrating the confidence gained in the latter stages of this season, Bath wasted no time in stamping their mark on the match. After just three minutes, Matt Banahan made an excellent interception and booted the ball towards the 22 and made good chase. He was challenged by Chris Wyles just as he neared the try line and was prevented from scoring the try. However, their efforts were not in vain, as an offence from Saracens allowed Ryan Davis to boot three points instead.
Bath continued to hold the majority possession and prevented Saracens from being able to equalise until 17 minutes had passed and a Bath infringement allowed Derick Hougaard to boot the ball from 30 metres and slot it between the sticks for three points.
Five minutes later and Michael Claassens looked close to scoring his sixth try of the season. The Bath captain made a skilful break down the wing and chipped the ball into Saracens' 22, only to see it bounce agonisingly over the dead ball line.
Saracens responded with an aggressive kick and chase from Neil De Kock and Brad Barritt which rewarded them with a five metre line out. The ball ricocheted fortunately for the hosts and Wikus Van Heerden, their captain in Steve Borthwick's absence, went over the line for five points. Hougaard missed the conversion, but Saracens slipped into the lead.
With just over 10 minutes left of the first half, Bath looked determined to rack up more numbers before the interval and forced their way inside the home side's 22. Their efforts paid off and a Saracens offence following a strong Bath maul gave Davis the chance to put his boot into action and kick for three successful points.
But, there were two more kicks before the half-time whistle - one a piece for each side - and Bath remained just two points behind the home team at the break.
With the score line marginally in Saracen's favour, Bath returned to the pitch with the same determination as the first half and the pressure mounted on the men in black. After a strong scrum from Bath, an offence by Saracens handed Davis the ball to slot Bath into the lead, but being forced to rush his kick because the ball had fallen over, it fell just right of the posts and after 48 minutes the score remained 11-9 to Saracens.
However, Bath were unrelenting and the following 15 minutes were played deep within the host's 22 and a series of scrums resulted, finally, in a penalty try. With the home crowd booing, Davis stepped up and successfully slotted the conversion and Bath nipped ahead. But, a penalty kick by Hougaard meant that the score divide was a mere two points by 58 minutes.
Limited by their game plan, Saracens chances were few and far between. A drop goal by Hougaard was unsuccessful and excellent work from the Bath pack prevented them from making any further headway.
At 66 minutes, Stuart Hooper stole the ball from a Saracens line out and Davis attempted to find Banahan with a cross kick. Unfortunately, Saracens replacement hooker Shalk Brits pounced on the ball and broke into Bath's territory.
However, Bath were not to be undone and the team scrambled back quickly and regained possession. From the resulting scrum, Saracens were once again penalised but Barkley, who stepped up to take his first kick at goal back in the Bath jersey, failed to hit the mark.
As the clock counted down the remaining minutes of the match, Hougaard was given two opportunities to rescue the match. Having already booted the ball wide, he was gifted another chance to win the game just before the final whistle. The fly half kicked from wide, but, to the roars of the crowd, failed to succeed and Bath were left celebrating the 14 -16 victory.
By Kate Oram
Other results for this match are not available.
Lineups for this match are not available.