Hodgson inspires Sarries to victory
December 22, 2012
Charlie Hodgson kicked 17 points and set-up Sarries only try at The Rec
Charlie Hodgson shone in the gloom at the Rec to help Saracens to a 22-0 victory over Bath.
The former England fly-half kicked five penalties and set up a try for half-back partner Richard Wigglesworth with the one moment of magic in the game. And he added the conversion for good measure.
Bath had very little to offer and too often found themselves in the wrong areas of the pitch, unable to break the stranglehold, let alone to fashion a telling break themselves.
The Recreation Ground pitch had been under covers from Thursday but the surface was still soggy and standing water could be seen in the dead-ball area under the hospitality boxes and in one or two places on the touchlines.
Bath came into the game on the back of a double-header with Calvisano which yielded 106 points to keep them top seeds in the Amlin Cup. With Matt Banahan still under suspension, head coach Gary Gold continued with a centre partnership of Ben Williams and Kyle Eastmond, who found himself lining up against former rugby league rival Joel Tomkins.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall rested England men Alex Goode and Brad Barritt, switching Owen Farrell to inside centre to allow Hodgson to return at fly-half. Mako Vunipola started at loose-head prop.
Bath were quickly on the attack as Michael Claassens chipped over David Strettle's head to the 22. A strong drive forced a line-out even closer to the line but Saracens scrambled a clearing kick away - and that was as close as the home side came to scoring before half-time.
Saracens used their trademark kicking game to keep their pack on the front foot and Bath at bay. Apart from a flourish from Horacio Agulla, handing off Matt Stevens in a typically feisty run, the home side rarely ventured as far upfield as the Saracens 22.
Hodgson fired a drop-goal attempt just wide but was immediately given a long-range penalty attempt to open the scoring after 14 minutes.
Tomkins then put Chris Ashton away on the right but referee Greg Garner spotted a forward pass. The try was not long in coming, however. With perfect line-out ball off the top, Hodgson made light of the underfoot conditions to glide effortlessly through the Bath defence. Strettle was on his elbow and Wigglesworth finished off in a muddy splash.
Saracen's Charlie Hodgson reflects on his latest match-winning performance
While Hodgson converted impressively from wide out on the left, Bath's Stephen Donald appeared to be having difficulty keeping his footing as he missed a penalty from 45 metres. Hodgson then simply chipped over another penalty at the other end to extend the lead to 13-0.
Donald was wide and short with two more attempts - all from a good distance - before Hodgson added another three points from 25 metres after Nick Abendanon was caught in possession from a lofted kick.
It was a more competitive Bath side that appeared for the second half. Strong mauling and driving had Saracens on the defensive and Ben Williams broke through for the first time. Saracens scrambled back successfully and also survived a heavy spell of pressure in the right corner.
The one area where Saracens had not been dominant was the scrum but, pinned back on their own line, they won a penalty on the Bath put-in. That moment seemed to end Bath's slim hopes of a comeback.
Having ended the siege, the visitors worked themselves into position for Hodgson to land his fourth penalty on the hour, extending the lead to 19 points, unassailable in the conditions.
Shortly afterwards another penalty attempt hit the post and he was also wide from longer range but there was no mistake when Hodgson was offered a more straightforward chance after 74 minutes. Saracens finished firmly in control, as they had been for most of the game.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "I think it's kind of irrelevant who's top of the table at the halfway point. We've played seven away games so we've got four proper away games to go and hopefully we'll have six games at our new home.
"To be where we are after 11 games - seven of which have been away from home and two of them in other places - is a pretty good effort."
The ESPN team analyse Saracens' latest Premiership victory
Bath's defensive coach Mike Ford accepted his side's shortcomings on the day, saying: "Obviously, we knew what Saracens would do. It's not rocket science the way they play and conditions probably suited them a bit more than us.
"Fair play to them, they gave us a lesson today. I think the killer blow was the try. Once you go 10 points down, especially in conditions like that against a team of Saracens' ilk, then it's very, very difficult to pull it back.
"Their defence is outstanding isn't it? Any time they were in our half, second half, they kicked three points. It's a good lesson for us about how to play the conditions, really."
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