Strange things happen to you when you have grandchildren, this is my oldest grandson’s 6th birthday weekend and today I went to his birthday party rather than the match at the Stonex Stadium, an afternoon with all 5r of my grandchildren taking priority over Saracens? Whatever next?? Thanks to PRTV I can sit in the comfort of my living room to watch a re-run and get my thoughts down here. I’d watched some of the match live at the party until little ones intervened so know the score before I start, high scoring fun to say the least!
Maro Itoje was back in the Saracens line up, which is always a joy for Saracens fans. Before things get going too far a quick look at the stats tells me Saracens had a much better penalty count than they have so far this season, just 5 to Bath’s 14.
Saracens first try came after a charge down from said McFarland and Alex Goode, also back in the starting line up was the benefactor after a couple of passes across the pitch, the conversion close to the side line, was good and Saracens were 7 up after less than 4 minutes. David Flatman’s co-commentator is a stat man, which is great for someone keen on such things. His first input was the fact that Saracens ruck speed was under 2 seconds, difficult to defend!
The first scrum saw Saracens awarded a penalty and a platform to attack close to the halfway line, however ex Saracens man Matt Gallagher scored a solo try after a massive tackle from Joe Cokanasiga saw the ball go to the floor, Gallagher hacked the ball ahead, catching it to get over the lie, the conversion was good and the scored level after 9 minutes. I was sorry to see Gallagher go, initially to Ireland and happy now to see him back in the Premiership.
14 minutes in and Saracens seem to be missing Nick Tompkins in the midfield, I had thought Centre was Elliot Daly’s best spot but on these first moments I’m inclined to change that opinion, he just isn’t the same defensively as Tompkins who punches above his weight in virtually every game he plays. (Daly has been an attacking wonder from FullBack this season)
Bath took the lead with a penalty on 16 minutes. And just as I typed about Daly in the Centre, he makes a brilliant break straight through the middle of the pitch, his attack is second to none at the moment. Farrell kicked an easy penalty to even the scores up again on 10 apiece.
Another aside, I do enjoy David Flatman’s commentary, he has no axes to grind and is always impartial and often quite funny. Such as talking about Tom Dunn after the 3rd time he was blasted by Mark Itoje, I’m not sure how often we’ve heard the word geezer in commentary, I’d say he makes the game more accessible to non die hards.
Bath have again had a torrid start to the season but they were going toe to toe with Saracens. An interesting stat for Saracens; they’ve scored the most tries from line outs so far this season, but Bath foiled them on the half hour after Eroni Mawi had won a penalty just inside the Bath half. Mawi who has 14 caps for Fiji is another player going from strength to strength, and as I type that he’s leaving the pitch for an HIA (subsequently failed). Saracens took the lead with an Owen Farrell penalty with 35 minutes on the clock.
Bath again defended a Saracens attack close to their line, David Flatman being totally honest in saying he had no idea who had the ball at one point, it was Bath and they cleared their lines, they then won the line out on the Saracens throw. With the clock in the red Saracens were awarded another close to the Bath posts, the penalty was duly converted by Farrell which gave Saracens a 6 point lead at half-time. That was possibly Bath’s best half of rugby is far this season.
Max Malins, benefited from a horrible pass from Bath Lock Quinn Roux, he pounced on the ball to score his 40th Premiership rugby try in 54 starts, some record! Roux attempted a charge down of the conversion brushing Farrell as he went, but the kick was good and the Score Saracens 23 Bath 19 with 42 minutes on the clock.
Ollie Lawrence showed great skill after Saracens lost the ball as they were attacking, he literally danced down the right wing with the ball in one hand, going through Alex Lewington and round Alex Lozowski, a simple pass to Cockanasiga saw his score, the extras were added and the gap was just 6 points. A blip with the referee’s comms gave me another chance to see the skill of Lawrence, excellent stuff!
Bden Earl replaced Jackson Wray on 48 minutes, Earl, who’s been superb this season had been missed I felt. Music to Saracens fans ears this week when a highly amusing Tweet confirmed he will not be joining Malins at Bristol Bears next season, he was always very vocal about confirming the fact that Saracens are his team when he was there on loan. Signing a new deal put the rubber stamp on that, in his words – “”Saracens is the club I call home and I’m delighted to have extended my contract here”
Back to the action, and a nasty ‘hit’ on that man Earl was checked by the officials, it was a clear shoulder to the chin from D’Arcy Rae, Earl’s step was the factor that saved him from seeing red. Moments later as Saracens attacked from the resulting line out I think Lozowski may have been lucky with the way he went into the ruck nit being picked up, that also looked like a shoulder to th head of the defender to me. Saracens carried on with their attacking the ball was passed across the pitch to Eliot Daly who’d run a very good line. Farrell converted and the score was Saracens 30 Bath 17.
Saracens made 40 metres from the kick off with first Daly then Itoje storming down the pitch, they were then awarded a penalty taking them deep into Bath’s half. As their attack then progressed Hugh Tizzard committed a penalty as he went in from the side.
With the substitute prop in the bin the referee reminded Bath that they’d be going down to 13 if there was a scrum, happily for them that didn’t happen. A big tackle from Itoje then. jackal from Earl won Saracens a penalty, Daly took the kick and made a schoolboy error in missing touch. However they soon won the ball back and a break from the hugely talented Theo McFarland gave Saracens a 2 against 1 and Alex Lewington took the ball to run in and score. The conversion took Saracens t0 37 and a 20 point lead. You’d think game over wouldn’t you? But……… The stats man had stated how Bath had been having better second halves than first and they most certainly had a good last quarter having conceded 14 points while they were down a man.
Bath’s replacement Hooker Niall Annett made a great break after the ball was lost on the ground as Saracens attacked, and it was, again Ollie Lawrence who showed his side stepping skills , he danced round Daly to get a pass away to Max Ojomoh who had an easy run in. This was still with 14 men on the pitch. Orlando Bailey had rot drop the conversion as it kept falling off the Tee, he was virtually on the side line and the kick was good. 24 points for Bath with 62 minutes on the clock.
Ollie Lawrence looked to have scored a highly deserved try after Alex Goode failed to take a high ball, with the ball in one hand it looked like Saracens had forgotten how to tackle, or Lawrence had an invisibility cloak on. However the try wasn’t given, as a minor knock on had ben spotted in back play. Flatman also noted that Goode had been held back in his attempt to get to the ball.
In spite of the referee shouting that the ball had been taken back into the Saracens 22 in the next attack, Lozowski kicked the ball straight out giving Bath a good attacking platform. However Saracens counter rucked and won the ball back, getting the ball back into the right area of the pitch. There was a debatable incident as Daly had kicked the ball ahead, he was checked as he ran, according to the TMO no line was changed, but it perhaps needed a closer look.
Saracens have played with an attacking from all areas plan so far this season, and Daly did just that as the ball came his way on 71 minutes, he was slightly isolated and a kick at that point felt like the better option, Bath turned the ball over in the ruck and Ruaridh McConnochie emerged with the ball from there it was a fairly simple run on for Wesley White once the forwards had taken the ball towards the line. Bath had closed the gap back to 6 again and were right back in the game with 7 minutes left on the clock. That game wasn’t over with Saracens 20 point lead.
A wonderful kick from Gallagher giving them a 50/22 and a great platform for an attack was foiled by some string defence from Saracens, the final minutes saw a final attack from Saracens, they last scored with 57 minutes on the clock. With less than 2 minutes remaining it was Bath who had the best chance, a poor pass was intercepted by some immense work from Owen Farrell and the attack was foiled.
Bath left the Stonex Stadium with both a losing and a 4 try bonus point and several of their players really impressed, in particular Ollie Lawrence and Matt Gallagher. Considering the fact that Lawrence had joined from the turmoil of Worcester Warrior his was a very impressive performance. David Flatman also impressed on the commentary, he was refreshing to say the least.