Saracens 20-9 Bath, Aviva Premiership, April 3
Sarries grind out another win
April 3, 2011
Sarries grind out another win
Saracens saw off the challenge of Bath 20-9 at Vicarage Road on Sunday to bolster their charge for a home semi-final in the Aviva Premiership.
Mark McCall's side moved nine points clear of third-placed Gloucester thanks to a try from David Strettle and five penalties from fullback Alex Goode, while Bath were limited to nine points from the boot of Butch James as their hopes of a play-off spot went up in smoke.
Sarries are now only three points behind leaders Leicester prior to a tough run of games that will test their title credentials to the limit in a manner that Bath were unable to. Saracens dominated both scrum and lineout and in Strettle had the game's ace.
Bath started brightly and drew the game's first penalty against their former player, Matt Stevens, at one of the few scrums to go their way. James was well wide with his first shot at goal and then made a further mistake with the boot by kicking the ball dead, allowing Goode to open the scoring with a penalty when the visiting front-row was penalised at the ensuing scrum.
An injury to Simon Taylor caused a reshuffle in the Bath back-row as Guy Mercer was introduced but Luke Watson provided impetus with a charge along the flank, having been sent clear by a determined surge from hooker Lee Mears.
Bath's momentum was short-lived and Saracens went close to the game's first try following a pirouette from outside-centre Chris Wyles. The US Eagle also popped up on the end of the move to be driven across the line, but Bath tight-head Duncan Bell was able to hold the ball up. From the scrum, Sarries were awarded another penalty and Goode doubled their lead, having seen a well-weighted chip fall to Mercer in-goal.
James found his range from the tee to open Bath's account with a penalty and continued to grow in confidence with a raking kick to touch and shuddering hit to relieve Steve Borthwick of the ball. Unfortunately for the Springbok his purple patch did not last and an overcooked kick gifted Saracens the ball just before the break.
David Strettle scored just before the break for Saracens © Getty Images
After a period of concerted possession Sarries flicked a switch and found the first real space, with Stevens' offload allowing Wyles and Brad Barritt to work the ball wide, where Strettle arrived from deep and at 100 miles per hour to crash over. Goode missed the conversion to end the half with the scoreline reading 11-3 in favour of the hosts.
Saracens began the second-half as they ended the first, with a Strettle break, but the winger's charge for the line was on this occasion halted by a bootlace tackle from Nick Abendanon. The hosts then introduced the much-missed Jacques Burger from the bench after injury and the Namibian flanker had an immediate impact, carrying hard, along with Stevens, before Andy Saull found some space along the flank.
The danger was snuffed out as Borthwick was isolated but Bath were penalised, allowing Goode to land another penalty. Sarries returned the favour immediately as Mouritz Botha was pinged, and James bagged his second penalty to reduced the arrears.
A smart break by Owen Farrell then opened up space for Barritt but the centre was chopped down in a suspiciously early tackle by Shontayne Hape. Referee Nigel Owens waved play on but soon pinged Hape for going in at the side, Goode slotting a further three points.
Burger conceded a penalty with a high shot on Abendanon and James smashed over a long-range kick to give his side a glimmer of hope, but in the final moments they saw an intercept try to Banahan chalked off, with Sarries unable to further trouble the scorers despite massive pressure at a five-metre scrum.
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