Bath Rugby clung on for a 14-11 Aviva Premiership win over Saracens in front of a record crowd at the Recreation Ground this afternoon.
A sold-out Rec was witness to a tense encounter between the two sides, with Bath’s defence eventually closing out the game.
The home side took an early lead after a stunning break from Taulupe Faletau. The Welsh international turned the ball over when Saracens were in possession and surged down the field. The ball found its way to Brew on the wing, and though he was bundled into touch, the resulting breakdown gave Bath put-in at the scrum. The pack heaved forward and a penalty was quickly signalled by referee Greg Garner. Tom Homer lined up the angled kick, and sent it neatly through the posts. 3-0.
Alex Lozowski drew level for Saracens on the 19th minute, but Homer quickly returned the favour for Bath, taking them back in front a minute later.
A huge kick from the left boot of Ben Tapuai on the next penalty gave Bath a five metre lineout. The ball was moved swiftly through the hands, first one way across the pitch and then back again, frantically drawing the Saracens defence. Dan Bowden sent a miss-pass firing out to Tapuai who jinked his way towards the try line. The centre couldn’t quite make it to the line himself, but his offload found Tapuai’s midfield partner Max Clark, who caught the ball sumptuously with one hand before sliding over the line. 11-3.
The Aviva Premiership and European Champions weren’t about to let Bath have it all their own way however, and they cranked up the pressure as the first-half drew to a close.
Bath were forced into some frantic defending of their own, and it looked as if the Saracens forwards had forced their way over the line – only the arm of Tom Ellis prevented the score. The visitors came again though, and having drawn the defence in tight, the spread the ball wide to Sean Maitland who crossed despite the attentions of Aled Brew.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 11 – Saracens 8
The visitors started the second-half in much the same manner as they had started – pressing Bath back and making the home side defend, and Lozowski levelled the scores on the 46th minute with a drop goal. 11-11.
Bath were firing from the re-start, working aggressively up the pitch into the Saracens 22. Max Lahiff went closest to scoring, but the loosehead prop agonisingly dropped the ball over the line. Play was brought back for a Bath penalty after Lozowski committed a high tackle on Bowden. A quick consultation with the TMO ended with the Saracens playmaker being shown a yellow card, and Homer continued his strong afternoon from the tee, adding the three points to Bath’s tally. 14-11.
A missed penalty from Alex Goode could’ve seen the visitors draw level, but Saracens kept up the intensity, time and again forcing Bath in to defending. But the defence was magnificent, holding wave after wave of attack back as the Champions tried all possible routes to score.
With just 24 seconds left on the clock, the visiting side were awarded a penalty. Opting for the draw, Lozowski lined-up the kick from inside his own half. A collective breath was held by all 14,509 people at the Rec as he connected with the ball, before rapturous cheers greeted the ball falling short of the posts. Tapuai gathered the ball and kicked it out to seal the win for the home side.
Final score: Bath Rugby 14 – Saracens 11