Saracens outsmart Bath to lift title

Date published: May 30 2015

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Saracens put last year's agony to rest by clinching the Premiership title after a deserved 28-16 victory over Bath at Twickenham.

Tries in the first half from Man of the Match Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Chris Wyles gave Saracens a high enough vantage point at 25-3 that even a dip in their intensity during the second half couldn't stop them claiming the title.

Much was made of the two sides' contrasting styles before kick-off and rightly so, given that Saracens formulaic approach is made for finals rugby. How it showed here through their patient attacks and accurate kicking game, as Bath's lack of experience in these big games showed.

Just like when they blew Clermont away in the 2014 Heineken Cup semi-final, Saracens struck early and never looked back. It was a tactical masterclass from Mark McCall in the first half as his side cut down Bath's offloading game and then pulled them apart when on the attack. All the good work early on proved to be ultimately sufficent for a first title since 2011.

The 2014 Premiership Final was such a painful experience for Saracens losing to Northampton in extra-time. A year on this triumph will have tasted very sweet.

By building such a strong advantage so early Saracens managed to quieten down the larger number of Bath supporters and in the process take total control of proceedings.

Bath ran and ran but only right into Saracens hands. Their desire to play with plenty of width is admirable, but here in the final it initially completely backfired. The tweaks in their approach came too late, despite a spirited fightback.

There was real concern for Anthony Watson after a high tackle from Farrell in the opening minutes left him face down on the turf. The England full-back would not return after a concussion assessment but the defensive reshuffle his absence caused produced some clear dis-organisation, with Farrell arguably fortunate to avoid a yellow card. The citing commissioner may come calling.

David Strettle's diagonal sprint sucked the Bath defence one way, making the space on the opposite side for Farrell to then eventually dot down as he threw a dummy and weaved through the bodies to score.

Bath failed that composure test and they almost fell for Saracens' same tactic again, with Strettle unable to haul in Farrell's cross-field kick under pressure from Matt Banahan.

In their desperation to find a way into the game Bath were caught out. Kyle Eastmond's short pass at close-range to Ross Batty spilled loose and Jamie George was in the right place. Given the week he had had being called into the England squad for Dylan Hartley, that shouldn't have been a surprise.

The Saracens hooker scooped up and sprinted away to the line, outpacing George Ford, for a try that he won't stop talking about for a long time. Two clinical chances out of three taken by Saracens in the opening quarter, to leave Bath facing an enormous challenge at 12-0 down.

Bath found no joy in the scrums either, conceding back-to-back penalties with the second ending with three more points off the tee by Farrell.

Trying to manipulate Saracens' defence out of shape initially proved unsuccessful for Bath but Semesa Rokoduguni has a habit of producing something out of nothing. The England winger broke a tackle down the wing and was tackled late off the ball by Goode to give Bath their first points through a Ford penalty.

Bath rarely looked like scoring though, while Saracens bossed the territory and made opportunities time and again. Chris Wyles finished their third try but it was a moment of brilliance from Strettle that made it happen, controlling Duncan Taylor's offload with his foot to keep the play alive.

Relentlessly Saracens ploughed on, Farrell knocking over three more points for the biggest half-time lead ever in a Premiership Final as they went into the sheds ahead 25-3.

Bath would need a miracle and started with at least a minor improvement by winning a scrum penalty to reverse the momentum in that area from the first half. A second penalty against Farrell for a high tackle then allowed Ford to shave three points off the deficit.

Every hint of progress from Bath was greeted with a roar from a crowd looking for a contest, which the losing side were starting to deliver by delaying the timing of their passes to free up more space and keep the Saracens tacklers at bay.

Jonathan Joseph's now trademark skip and step provided them with a sniff of the improbable as he glided over for Bath's first try to make it 25-13 after Ford's conversion.

With the wave of replacements Bath suddenly had momentum and Saracens look tired. Three more points came from Ford, with Bath now nine points adrift.

Farrell's third penalty stemmed the tide but Bath were no closer to giving in, even with the clock now against them. Saracens order in the scrum too appeared to be restored.

Charlie Hodgson's clever kick to the corner nearly gave Saracens a fourth try to celebrate but Bath recovered just in time, although overall there would be no fightback.

Bath will hope this first final in ten years is the start of many, with their chances of winning silverware and ending a 19-year drought stronger now than they have been for some time.

But Saracens showed them how to get the job done. From fourth place in the table, they have produced two outstanding performances at Franklin's Gardens and at Twickenham to be crowned deserved champions.

The scorers:

For Bath: 

Tries: Joseph

Cons: Ford

Pens: Ford 3

For Saracens: 

Tries: Farrell, George, Wyles

Cons: Farrell 2

Pens: Farrell 3

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Sam Burgess, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Matt Garvey, 21 Carl Fearns, 22 Chris Cook, 23 Ollie Devoto

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Wyles, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Al Hargreaves (c), 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Ashton

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle, Greg Garner
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

by Ben Coles at Twickenham

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