Two late tries from Semesa Rokoduguni, helped Bath Rugby maintain their 100% start to the Aviva Premiership season, with a 31-21 victory over European Champions Saracens at the Recreation Ground.
It was a strong start from Saracens, who came within touching distance of adding the first points of the game. A clever chip over the Bath defence found the chasing Duncan Taylor, but an excellent covering tackle from Anthony Watson dislodged the ball from the Scotland centre with the try line in his sights.
It was then Watson who showed his attacking intent with nine minutes on the clock. The fullback gathered the ball deep inside his own 22 gliding past the Saracens defence, before Alex Lozowski maded the crucial intervention to stop Watson crossing in the corner.
The attacking momentum paid off when after 18 minutes, Rhys Priestland coolly slotted the opening points of the half. After a number of well-worked phases in the Saracens 22, Kahn Fotuali’i sent the ball back to Rhys Priestland, who sent his drop-goal attempt straight through the uprights. 3-0
Midway through the first 40 minutes, Bath increased their lead with a superb flowing move finished off by Francois Louw. The ball was recycled from right to left to find Jonathan Joseph, who used quick hands to send Matt Banahan into space. The winger used all his experience to draw in the Saracens defence, before offloading to Louw, who fended off attentions Alex Goode and Michael Rhodes to score a memorable try. 8-0
Priestland kept the scoreboard ticking over with two penalties, to give the Blue, Black and White a 14-0 lead going into the interval.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 14 - Saracens 0
Two minutes into the second-half Lozowski reduced arrears with a penalty of his own, which gave the visitors a new-found confidence. Lozowski’s replacement Owen Farrell added another three points to put Saracens within eight points, but Bath hit back through Priestland, who notched his second drop-goal of the game. 17-6
However, the visitors’ comeback was well and truly on course, when referee Wayne Barnes stepped in to award a penalty try after sustained pressure from Mark McCall's men. Saracens used the catch and drive to good effect from the line-out, only for it to be hauled down by Taulupe Faletau, who was adjudged to have collapsed the maul. Barnes signalled for the try and Faletau was sent to the sin-bin, with the tie closely poised at 17-16.
With seven minutes left on the clock, Saracens went in front for the first time at the Rec through replacement Ben Spencer. Farrell, who was at the centre of Saracens’ comeback in the second-half was pivotal in a dangerous attacking move. The England fly-half got the ball rolling, before Chris Wyles found Spencer with an inside pass and the scrum-half did the rest. 17-21
With four minutes to play and with Bath down to 14 men after Watson left the field injured, step-in Semesa Rokoduguni. After his 80m effort last week against Leicester Tigers, the Bath flyer was back in the act weaving his way through the Saracens defence. Rokoduguni evaded the clutches of four diving tackles before crossing the whitewash to put Bath back in the ascendancy. 24-21
If the supporters thought they had seen it all, they were in for another tense finale. With Saracens pressing in the Bath 22, Vunipola tried to offload out wide only to find that man again - Semesa Rokoduguni. There was no stopping the prolific winger, who made it a second length of the field effort in as many weeks to send the Rec into raptures in the final play of the game.
Final score: Bath Rugby 31-21 Saracens
9 September 2017
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Half Time score: 14-0
- Tries: Louw (23), Rokoduguni (76, 81)
- Conversions: Burns (77, 82)
- Penalties: Priestland (35, 42)
- Drop goals: Priestland (17, 53)
- Tries: Spencer (72)
- Penalties: Lozowski (41), Farrell (50, 66)
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