Planet Rugby

Hodgson pulls plug on Bath

22nd December 2012 15:05

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Charlie Hodgson kicks London Welsh v Saracens Aviva Premiership 2012

Excellent form: Charlie Hodgson

A kicking masterclass from Charlie Hodgson handed Saracens a 22-0 victory over Bath in grim conditions at The Rec on Saturday.

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 loosehead 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.

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.

The scorers:

For Bath:

For Saracens:
Try: Wigglesworth
Pens: Hodgson 5
Con: Hodgson

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Kyle Eastmond, 12 Ben Williams, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Will Skuse, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Dan Hipkiss.

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Kelly Brown, 7 Will Fraser, 6 George Kruis, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 James Short.

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