Another second half, another emphatic second-half performance from Saracens as they kept their try line intact for the second successive week, scoring 29 unanswered points to blow Bath away 41-6 and book their place in the Premiership semi-finals.
Last week it was Northampton Saints who were on the end of 56 unanswered points as Saracens romped clear after the break, and it was very much the case of same again at Allianz Park as the home side kept Bath scoreless in a near-perfect second half display. Early tries from Schalk Brits and Liam Williams gave Sarries a lead they would not surrender, and although two Rhys Priestland penalties kept them in check at the break, second-half scores from Richard Wigglesworth, Owen Farrell, Schalk Burger and Ben Spencer sealed the landslide victory and a place in the top four for a ninth consecutive year.
Saracens sit 10 points ahead of fifth-place Newcastle, and with the Falcons yet to play fourth-place Leicester Tigers, they cannot be ousted from the top four, with another victory against basement side London Irish in a fortnight enough to seal a home semi-final too. For Bath, the result sums up a miserable season that has fallen well short of expectations, and while mathematically they can still pip Gloucester to sixth place and a European Champions Cup place, they would need two bonus-point wins and the prospect of that looks about as likely as their hopes of winning this one-sided encounter.
Saracens could be forgiven for making a slow start back at Allianz Park, after all, they have not played at their home stadium in seven weeks after excursions to the London Stadium and Dublin among trips to Northampton and Exeter. But they were soon hitting their stride, and had it not been for desperate defending from Matt Banahan, Bath could easily have fallen behind in the 12th minute.
It stemmed from their own sloppy play, with Francois Louw throwing a rushed no-look pass that was snapped up by Chris Wyles, making his 250th appearance for the club. The American, being tracked down by Banahan, fed Alex Lozowski, but the Bath wing managed to get back and make the covering tackle, albeit conceding a penalty for not rolling away. But if Banahan felt that he’d saved a possible seven-pointer for a kick at goal, Saracens had other ideas.Schalk Brits opened the scoring for Saracens (Getty)
Twice the home side went to the left corner, and twice Bath did everything in their power to stop them through methods that referee Karl Dickson deemed illegal. But from the third kick to touch, this time on the right, a 13-man forced the Bath pack to splinter and through went Schalk Brits to score, with Farrell converting.
For Bath, it’s very much been a season of disappointment having been backed to finish well inside the top four. For large parts of the first half they played some good rugby, particularly through the Welsh duo of Taulupe Faletau and Aled Brew, and it was those two who combined brilliantly to set-up bath’s first real chance. Turning the ball over inside their own half, Bath spread left to Brew and he danced inside Sean Maitland to burst clear. With Ben Tapuai outside him, Brew decided to go it alone and 15 seconds later, Bath were beneath their own posts. Priestland’s rushed pass to Francois Louw went to ground, and Williams burst through to collect the ball and go 85 metres unopposed.Liam Williams starred by scoring a try and setting up a second for Richard Wigglesworth (Getty)
Farrell couldn’t add the conversion, and Bath, to their credit, fought back impressively but only had two Priestland penalties to show for it – both in front of the posts when Saracens went off their feet at the ruck. But it could have been so much more after Faletau broke down the blindside from a scrum on their own 10 metre line, with his pass inside allowing Brew to take it on into the Saracens 22 before feeding Kahn Fotuali’i. The scrum-half looked certain to score in the corner, only for a recovering Nick Isiekwe – who had been cunningly held in the scrum by opposite number Tom Ellis – to smash him into touch as he reached out for the try line.
Bath were just unable to hold Saracens to half-time, with Farrell kicking a penalty that only just cleared the crossbar from 35 metres out as he kicked into the wind, but it would be that wind that would make such an impact on the start of the second half. A poor clearance kick from Priestland hung up and made all of 10 metres, with Maitland charging onto it to pass outside to Williams and his smart pop off the deck sent Richard Wigglesworth over unopposed inside five minutes of the restart.Ben Spencer completed the scoring with the sixth try (Getty)
It would only get worse for Bath, with Farrell intercepting a blind Priestland pass on his own 10 metre line to go the distance and sew-up the bonus point that effectively seals Saracens’ place in the semi-finals, although in the fly-half’s defence the pass to him from Fotuali’i was behind the target and forced Priestland to turn his back on the defence.
With the win in the bag, Saracens largely took their foot off the gas, and yet Bath never looked like scoring until after the inevitable fifth try arrived in the 72nd minute. With Saracens unloading their replacements, the fresh legs made the desired impact and then some. Firstly, Michael Rhodes – back for his first appearance since being injured on his last comeback on 13 January – offloaded to Duncan Taylor, who in-turn found Richard Barrington and the powerful burst through the middle produced space out wide for Schalk Burger to canter over on the right.
And there was just enough time left for Alex Goode to waltz through the defence and set-up Ben Spencer to dive beneath the posts, with Farrell’s conversion sealing the emphatic victory.
Saracens: Liam Williams; Sean Maitland, Alex Lozowski, Brad Barritt (Duncan Taylor, 57), Chris Wyles (Alex Goode, 56); Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth (Ben Spencer, 57); Mako Vunipola (Richard Barrington, 59), Schalk Brits (Jamie George, 51), Juan Figallo (Kieran Longbottom, 59); Dominic Day, George Kruis; Nick Isiekwe (Ben Earl, 68), Schalk Burger, Jackson Wray (Michael Rhodes, 56).
Bath: James Wilson; Matt Banahan, Jonathan Joseph (Tom Homer, 28), Ben Tapuai (Freddie Burns, 57), Aled Brew; Rhys Priestland, Kahn Fotuali’i (Max Green, 74); Beno Obano (Lucas Noguera, 56), Tom Dunn (Jack Walker, 56), Shaun Knight (Victor Delmas, 56); Charlie Ewels, Elliott Stooke (James Phillips, 56); Tom Ellis, Francois Louw (Paul Grant, 74), Taulupe Faletau.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Source : https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-union/club-rugby/saracens-vs-bath-highlights-video-score-result-premiership-semi-finals-a8306001.html