A spirited fightback from Bath Rugby at Allianz Park this afternoon was not enough to overcome Saracens, final score 34-24.
An even opening quarter which was brought to life by an electrifying break from Ollie Devoto, who shrugged off the challenge of the Saracens defence and gave debutant, Tom Homer, who had a solid start to life in Bath colours, the opportunity to nudge Bath in to a hard-fought 3-0 lead after 13 minutes.
Hodgson briefly brought parity between the two sides with a penalty shortly after Homer had put Bath in front. The scoreboard equality didn't last long, however, as a few minutes later Chris Wyles slid over in the corner to put the home side ahead with the first try of the game. Hodgson uncharacteristically pushed the conversion wide of the uprights, and so kicking duties were handed to Alex Goode for the next attempt. The fullback slotted a penalty to increase Saracens' lead after 30 minutes, but neither side increased their tally before the break.
Half-time: Saracens 11 – Bath Rugby 3.
The second-half got swiftly underway, but a penalty at the scrum gave Goode the chance to add to the host's lead , making it 14-3 just three minutes after the restart. A period of pressure from Saracens ensued, before the second-half really exploded in to life.
A neat break from Saracens' number 8, Jackson Wray, enabled the ball to be spread wide quickly, allowing Jamie George to crash over in the corner. With Goode adding the extras, the score stood at 21-3, but the visitors refused surrender. Having created good opportunities throughout the game, they finally converted one to bring themselves back into the game. Almost immediately from the re-start, Devoto made another purposeful break, slicing through the Saracens defence and putting through Semesa Rokoduguni, who ghosted to the line for Bath's first try of the afternoon. Homer continued his good kicking form and slotted the extras. 21-10.
The end-to-end action didn't stop there, though, as Saracens rallied with a move from the base of the scrum; Ashton latched on to a grubber kick and just beat replacement Micky Young to the touchdown. Goode duly converted to push the score out to 28-10.
Goode further increased Saracens' lead to 31-10, before the sun emerged, as if to ignite Bath's touch paper for the final 10 minutes. A Devoto kick to the corner produced a catch-and-drive opportunity for Bath, which they took with some aplomb. Kyle Eastmond found himself in the first receiver role, and a dummy line from Sam Burgess created space for Olly Woodburn to sneak through the gaping hole in the Saracens defence and slide in under the posts. A quick check with the TMO saw referee Luke Pearce award the score, before Homer swiftly added the extras and brought Bath back to 31-17 on 70 minutes.
Eastmond, buoyed by his part in Woodburn's try, was quickly in the thick of the action again in the 74th minute, making a sharp break from the half-way line and feeding Rokoduguni, who guzzled the ground before him and ran in his second try from 30 metres. Homer was again on target from the tee, taking the visitors within seven points. However, with five minutes left to play, Saracens showed their ability to close out games and dragged themselves into the Bath half, earning a penalty and denying Bath the losing bonus point.
Final score: Saracens 34 – Bath Rugby 24.