Owen Farrell scored 20 points as reigning Gallagher Premiership champions Saracens battled past Bath Rugby to secure a 12-25 victory at the Rec.
In a game that saw nine players from the Rugby World Cup Final feature across the starting line-ups, it was a game filled with international talent on a cold evening under the Friday night lights.
Bath started with a force and a drive, taking the game to Saracens from the off and making their intentions clear to the visitors.
Saracens coming into the game with, what many would consider, their strongest line-up were tested at every possible opportunity by a Bath team keen to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat against Harlequins.
Early pressure at scrum time from the Bath pack forced the error from Saracens and provided Rhys Priestland with the first chance to open the scoring with just three minutes played. The Welsh fly-half made no mistake, as he gave the Blue, Black and White the early lead. [3-0]
In the early exchanges Bath showed real endeavour against a team renowned for its defence. However, six minutes after Priestland’s successful kick, Farrell made light work of the kick from 35 metres out following an infringement at the ruck. [3-3]
The cold conditions were making handling tricky, but Bath capitalised on an offside with Rhys Priestland was once again immaculate from the tee to put his side back in front. [6-3]
After a slow start by their standards, Saracens were not going to be shaken off easily and Farrell kept the scoreboard ticking over with another successful kick at goal with the game only 17 minutes old.
After a period of sustained pressure, Bath got their just rewards with the visitors penalised for a Maro Itoje trip on Will Chudley at the ruck with 10 minutes to go in the half. Priestland knocked over the kick with minimum fuss to maintain his 100% record. [9-6]
With the game slowly heading towards the interval, Saracens began to show the quality which saw them win the double last season. From the kick off, Mark McCall’s men pushed and probed with a series of defence splitting breaks and some fine handling sent Scotland international Sean Maitland over the line to push Saracens into the lead for the first time. Owen Farrell was on point with his conversion to extend the visitors lead to four. [9-13]
Saracens were growing in confidence as the half drew to a close, and despite Bath constantly battering at the Saracens defensive door, a penalty at the scrum in front of the posts gave Owen Farrell the chance to add another three points.
Half-time – Bath Rugby 9-16 Saracens
Saracens came out firing at the start of the second half, with a high defensive line forcing the error from Bath. Owen Farrell took his tally to 14 points with the successful penalty. [9-19]
Bath may have been down by 10 points, but they continued to show resilience and fight epitomised by a phenomenal break by Tom Homer. After a period of concerted pressure, Itoje was caught off his feet at the breakdown and Priestland duly stepped up and notched another three points to reduce the deficit to seven. [12-19]
From the resulting kick-off, Bath were unable to retain possession and were caught offside, allowing Owen Farrell to make the kick and restore Saracens 10-point advantage with just over 20 minutes to play. [12-22]
Imperious from the tee, Farrell scored another quickfire penalty to give his side a commanding lead with 17 minutes left on the clock in a Man of the Match display from the fly-half. [12-25]
A cynical foul from Itoje saw the England international yellow carded after a barnstorming break from Jamie Roberts with less than 10 minutes remaining. Bath persisted to find the score, which would take them back into losing bonus-point territory. Despite testing the Saracens line, the visitors proved a tough nut to crack and were unable to find the breakthrough.
Full-time – Bath Rugby 12-25 Saracens
29 November 2019
Referee: Karl Dickson
Half Time score: 9-16
- Penalties: Priestland (2, 12, 30, 54)
- Tries: Maitland (32)
- Conversions: Farrell (33)
- Penalties: Farrell (9, 16, 38, 45, 57, 62)