Bath made their journey up to North London on the back of a good win against the Champions, Harlequins. Saracens had been defeated by both Wasps and Gloucester in their previous 2 Premiership games. Both teams were missing international players, but 2 of Saracens’ Scots, in the ever improving Andy Christie and 100 Saracens cap man Sean Maitland had returned from their Scotland call ups. I was hoping we wouldn’t see the drubbing that occurred in Bath, I’m not a fan of massive score differentials, even when it’s my team handing the pain out. Recent results had suggested the 2 teams might be more evenly matched.
Sara Cox was the referee, standing in just her second Premiership match I thought she worked really well with her Assistants in Craig Maxwell-Keys and John Meredith. It was funny to hear her being asked if she minded being called Sir, she handled that perfectly. Saracens were in Co Captain mode again this week, with Mako Vunipola and Alex Goode in the role. It didn’t seem to cause any issues this time round.
What wasn’t handled well were the constant interruptions by the ‘water carriers, having just edited this photo I’m going to have my moan about that early on. I have no idea who this is in the orange top, but he seemed to be out of the Rassie Erasmus mould of water carrier to me, I was sure coaching is frowned on during the game. Bath took an age to come to nearly every line out, anyone would think calls weren’t practiced on the training ground. That fact contributed to an extra long game, which with Scotland v England game being shown wasn’t great.
The teams exchanged penalties in a less than thrilling first 25 minutes, it took 37 minutes for the first try of the game, with the Saracens hooker Tom Woolstencroft benefiting from Saracens rolling maul twice in the 3 minutes before the second half was up. The maul was successful all over the pitch for Saracens, and obviously 2 tries from the tactic was a great return.
That was a big blow for the visitors as half time was looming, they’d also lost starters Mike Williams and Jonathan Joseph in the half. The teams went in at half time with the score on Saracens 18 Bath 3. Saracens had the lead on the scoreboard and had dominated in that first half in most areas.
The dynamics between the referee and the players was interesting, she seemed to be happy for Nathan Hughes, who wasn’t captain to chat away to her, yet told Alex Goode that Saracens were getting ‘chopsy’ at one point. Is that a case of their antics in a couple of games following them? It was good to hear her tell Joe Simpson he didn’t need to tell her that Saracens were offside late in the second half as her assistants could do that. I’d say he was lucky she was so good humoured about it!
Alex Lozowski scored his third penalty early in the second half as Saracens looked to get the win secured. We had seen a hint of the speed in the Saracens back line and Alex Goode, who really does seem to be able to read the game in a way most can’t, combined beautifully with back rower Ben Earl to score a lovely try.
Saracens had 3 Vuniploa’s on the pitch again this weekend and they contributed 41 tackles between them, if one Vunipola didn’t get you there was another behind him. Mako and Billy seemed to be everywhere, It felt like they were, again, showing England what they’re missing.
For the next try, Alex Goode provided a lovely pass out to Alex Lewington on the wing, he leapt over the line to score and Alex Lozowski added the extras; Saracens had a lead of 30. Theo McFarland starting at 4 this week is fast becoming a fans favourite, he literally has big shoes to fill as a potential replacement for Will (Size18) Skelton and Saracens legend Michael Rhodes, he made 15 tackles and carried the ball (often in one hand) well, he’s a man who’s hard to put down. That ability saw him power over the line with a couple of backs triyng to stop him, that was never going to work.
Joe Simpson added some real impetus to Bath’s play, not enough to see them go close to scoring a try, it was another hard day at the office for them. The game wasn’t without frustrations for the home team, there were a few dropped balls and missed opportunities, but on the back of 2 losses it was a good win. The final score was Saracens 40 Bath Rugby 3. Saracens finished the weekend in second spot and Bath stay rock bottom with just 14 points. Harlequins travel across London in the next round, they faced a heavy loss at home to Sale Sharks this week. Bath travel to the Midlands to play Wasps who beat Exeter in Sandy Park.