Bath bounced back from last week’s defeat at Northampton with a 21-11 win over Saracens in their Aviva Premiership meeting on Friday.
Bath bounced back from last week’s defeat at Northampton with a 21-11 victory over Saracens in their Aviva Premiership showdown at the Rec.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster could certainly do worse than select try-scoring duo Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond for the November internationals on the evidence of this display.
Both players were on fire, as was man-of-the-match Semesa Rokoduguni, but the Bath forward pack should also take a large slice of the credit after doing to Saracens what they have done to so many teams over recent years with their ferocious work at the breakdown.
Bath could even afford to see 14 points from the boot go begging, with fly-half George Ford missing four of his nine kicks at goal.
Joseph got the ball rolling when Alex Goode and Billy Vunipola showed indecision and allowed a high bomb from Ford to bounce into the arms of Eastmond. Eastmond took play on before drawing his man to put Joseph away. Ford converted.
Charlie Hodgson pulled three points back for the visitors from a scrum penalty before Ford put two misses behind him to nail his next opportunity in front of goal.
Goode reduced the deficit to four points after taking Sarries’ next shot at goal – with Hodgson receiving treatment for a shoulder knock.
A deliberate knock down by Chris Ashton, when Sarries were out-numbered in defence, saw the England man dispatched to the sin-bin just before the break. Ford kicked the resulting penalty to hand Bath a 13-6 half-time lead.
Rokoduguni’s powerful running had caused Saracens problems all night, and the Fijian-born winger’s superb break took Bath from five metres from their own line to deep into Sarries territory. Unfortunately a rare handling error from Joseph prevented Bath from profiting.
Joseph made amends not long after when he sped through the Sarries defence and found Eastmond on his shoulder. The ex-rugby league man’s score was the first try Sarries had conceded on the six occasions they’ve been a man short.
Chris Wyles’ try on 57 minutes briefly raised Sarries’ hopes of staging a comeback but Bath’s determination in defence, typified by the big hits of flanker Alafoti Fa’osiliva and some good work late on by replacement nine Micky Young, saw the West Countrymen soak up everything thrown at them.
Ford’s penalty on 59 minutes, after Guy Mercer had been taken out in the lineout, proved to be the final points of a memorable match for Bath which further underlined their title credentials.
Tries: Joseph, Eastmond
Pen: Ford 3
Pen: Hodgson, Goode
Bath: 15 Gavin Henson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 George Ford, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Alafoti Fa’osiliva, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James,
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dominic Day, 20 David Sisi, 21 Micky Young, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 Anthony Watson.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 George Kruis, 3 James Johnston, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Ben Ransom.
Referee: Greg Garner (69th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Geoff Warren