Bath Rugby’s hopes of achieving a top six finish ended in disappointment this afternoon as they were beaten 23-14 by Saracens at Allianz Park.
The visitors started brightly, stringing together a number of attacking phases, and it paid off when referee Martin Fox award the first penalty of the game their way, but Heathcote’s attempt was narrowly wide.
The home side began to get into their stride and a strong rolling maul allowed Schalk Brits to peel away from the pack and find Chris Ashton out wide for the first try of the game, but Farrell couldn’t add the extras. 5-0
The Saracens pressure showed no signs of receding and they soon found themselves camped on the Bath five metre line. Just as it looked as though Bath had turned the ball over, the ref awarded Saracens a penalty and sent flanker Guy Mercer to the sin bin for killing the ball. Farrell made no mistake with the penalty in front of the posts to take the score to 8-0 after 20 minutes.
Saracens’s man advantage was telling as another penalty was awarded to the home side inside the Bath 22. A powerful maul saw Mako Vunipola touch down for what looked like the second try of the game. Fox called on the TMO and the try was awarded but Farrell couldn’t add the conversion. 13-0.
Two minutes later, and it looked as if Ashton had got his second of the day. However, the TMO was called upon again and it was ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up play.
Determined to bring themselves back into the match, Bath went on the attack and a high tackle from Farrell on Heathcote saw the England fly half spend the next ten minutes in the sin bin, just as Mercer made his return to the field.
The extra man saw the momentum swing back in Bath’s favour as a good passage of play took them into the Saracens 22 . Captain Francois Louw signalled to Heathcote to kick for touch as Bath looked to finish the first-half strongly. Webber found his jumper in the lineout and the resulting maul saw the hooker follow up for touchdown. Heathcote added the extras to take the score to 13-7 at half-time.
Bath looked to start the second half the way they ended the first and an early penalty opportunity presented Heathcote with a chance to reduce the deficit, but the tricky winds at Allianz Park meant the kick went wide of the mark.
With both sides back up to a full complement of players, Saracens went on the attack with scrum-half Neil De Kock spotting a gap in the Bath defence. Farrell was up in support and the centre touched down, converting his own try. 20-7.
Bath were refusing to give up and pushed hard to get themselves back into the opposition 22. A well taken lineout saw Michael Claassens feed quick ball to Horacio Agulla, and the wing bounced his way through five tackles from the Saracens defence to get the try. Heathcote was again on target with the conversion. 20-14.
The lightening quick pace from Tom Biggs, on as a half-time replacement for Kyle Eastmond, was causing some trouble for the Saracens defence with the wing taking on David Strettle in a footrace following a chip ahead from the Bath man. The pressure forced Saracens to take the ball over the goal line and set up an attacking scrum, but Fox awarded the scrum penalty to the home side and the chance was gone.
Farrell extended his sides lead to nine points with ten minutes to go, but Bath kept working hard to try and find a way through. Good breaks from Ollie Devoto, Dave Attwood and Nick Koster looked promising but with time ticking down, the home side’s resilient defence won through.
Final score: Saracens 23 – 14 Bath Rugby