Bath Rugby lost out to a last minute Owen Farrell penalty as Saracens edged an away victory in a tight, see-saw game. Final Score 26-28.
Bath took the first steps in the right direction after a well-placed high ball from full-back Nick Abendanon put his opposite number, Alex Goode, under pressure. With Goode tackled well by Bath flanker Carl Fearns, Saracens overcommitted in the ruck resulting in them being penalised for infringing. Fly-half Sam Vesty stepped up and slotted the three points to give the home side an early advantage.
Within minutes of the restart, Saracens demonstrated their ability to throw the ball around as Schalk Brits jinked through the defence and offloaded to James Short, releasing the winger down the touchline. A try looked guaranteed but the superb covering tackle from Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens stopped Short in his tracks. The visitors attack did bear fruit with Bath giving away a penalty, also in the ruck, with Farrell securing the points. 3-3.
The first try of the match followed shortly after for the visitors as a sustained period of attack drew in the Bath defence, and Short snuck through a gap to touch down just left of the posts. Farrell converted. 3-10.
Bath came right back with a determined attitude and a solid set piece enabled Abendanon to grab the first try for the home side just moments later. Quick ball off the top of the lineout on the halfway line found Vesty who delicately chipped the ball over Saracens' flat defensive line. Abendanon was on the charge and as the ball sat up nicely for him, he gathered and ran in unopposed to score. Vesty added the extras. 10-10.
Saracens grabbed another three points on the board after, much to the crowd's dismay, referee Greg Garner awarded last season's Aviva Premiership winners a penalty after Bath were punished for their efforts in the scrum. Farrell found his mark. 10-13.
A great piece of play occurred at the close of the half when Bath centre Dan Hipkiss took the ball on and made good ground, followed by Claassens who added few more metres from the back of the ruck. Flanker Ben Skirving assumed the scrum-half role and, sensing no-one was at home, broke through the defence to charge down the pitch with one defender to beat. Hot in pursuit was Fearns who, screaming for the ball, received the well timed offload from Skirving to run in and score his first Premiership try in Bath colours. Blood replacement fly-half, Paul Roberts, added the extra two points making the half time score 17-13.
Saracens clawed back to within a point of Bath with five minutes played of the second half, after the referee's whistle blew once again at scrum time, awarding the visitors a relatively easy penalty. Farrell stepped up and added another three. In almost the identical position to the previous one, Saracens received another penalty, this time for Bath having hands in the ruck. Farrell added three more points to take the visitors back in front. 17-19.
The boot of Farrell was beginning to hurt Bath as again the young fly-half was given the chance to extend his sides lead when Bath got on the wrong end of the referees whistle on the half way line. A low long range effort skimmed over the cross bar to make the scores 17-22.
Some well combined forward play found Bath trundling up the pitch with some good go forward momentum. With play in Bath's favour, Saracens crumbled under the pressure and gave away another penalty. A vital kick to keep Bath in the game, Vesty struck the ball beautifully, sending it flying though the posts. 20-22.
An attacking lineout deep in Saracens 22 saw Bath attack hard at their try line with replacement prop Duncan Bell powering at the defence. With Bath desiring the quick ball, Saracens killed the momentum resulting in Andy Saull seeing the yellow card. Bath capitalised and Vesty added another three points putting Bath in front by one point. 23-22.
Ten minutes later Bath were in control of a maul deep in their own 22 when Ryan Caldwell was penalised. Farrell stepped up and slotted another easy three. 23-25.
Six minutes remained on the clock and the restart saw Tom Biggs sprint through to follow the kick, but to be seemingly tripped. With the referee seeking the touch judges advice, the penalty was awarded against Saracens replacement Mako Vunipola. Vesty once more stepped up at the most crucial of times and put the ball through the posts to take Bath ahead as the game reached its closing minutes. 26-25.
Seconds remained on the clock and Bath had possession, waiting out the seconds by keeping it close in the forwards. However, inside Saracens half, the ball was lost forwards and the trailing side attacked hard and wide with numbers in their favour. A great covering tackle from Abendanon on Brad Barritt halted them in their tracks with Bath flooding the ruck. The whistle blew - penalty to Saracens, Bath off their feet in the ruck. The weight all lay on Farrell's shoulders and the ball was struck and looked to be drifting wide, but sadly for Bath, it hit the upright and bounced in and over the posts clinching the victory for Saracens with time up and the game over. Final score 26-28