Goode sinks Bath top-two ambitions
February 28, 2014
Mako Vunipola of Saracens breaks with the ball
© Getty Images
Saracens all but ended Bath's ambitions of a top-two finish in the Aviva Premiership with a ruthless examination of the third-placed side's credentials.
Sarries were the last side to win a league match at the Recreation Ground - a similarly conclusive 22-0 victory in December 2012 - and the visitors seldom looked under pressure here in winning 23-10. Flanker Jacques Burger was at his destructive best in the loose, until he was sin-binned for one illegal tackle too many, while Alex Goode stepped up at short notice to control the game at fly-half. Goode landed two penalties, two conversions and a drop-goal in a near faultless performance after Charlie Hodgson pulled out during the warm-up, feeling unwell.
Bath had won 12 home matches and were unbeaten home or away in all competitions since the New Year - but starved of any useful possession for long periods, there was precious little time or space for their backs to shine. After a frenetic opening, with both sides spreading the ball wide, Saracens conceded two penalties in quick succession but escaped punishment.
George Ford kicked a 19th minute goal from short range but the lead was short-lived as Bath conceded a line-out from the restart and when Paul James was penalised at the maul, Goode landed an equalising penalty. Back came Bath and Peter Stringer thought he had scored from a quickly taken line-out by Matt Banahan but the TMO ruled the throw had been forward.
Saracens grabbed the first try on 31 minutes as Goode created an opening for Tomkins and Duncan Taylor to set Chris Wyles free on the left for a try which Goode converted.
Bath's poise again deserted them when they lost possession in the Saracens 22. Taylor hacked on, Ollie Devoto fumbled and Brad Barritt kicked across field for David Strettle to mark his 100th appearance with a simple try. Goode's conversion sent his side in at the break with a 17-3 lead.
Bath brought on a specialist openside in Guy Mercer for Alafoti Fa'osiliva in an effort to even up the breakdown contest but then lost Stringer to an illegal tackle on Burger.
Banahan was forced into touch at the corner but Bath lacked a cutting edge against the uncompromising Saracens defence and Goode stretched the lead to 20-3 with a drop-goal on 56 minutes.
After Burger was shown the yellow card in the 66th minute for a high tackle on Anthony Watson, Bath battled their way over the line but without convincing the officials Leroy Houston had managed to touch down. Eventually however their scrum earned a 72nd minute penalty try and Ford chipped over the conversion.
Instead of then going back upfield in search of at least a losing bonus point, Bath conceded another penalty to Goode.
With two minutes remaining Wyles became the second Saracens player to see a yellow card for an illegal tackle when he barged replacement wing Semesa Rokoduguni into touch - but by then the match had been decided.
George Ford knocks Joel Tomkins into touch just short of the try line © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies