Saracens centurion David Strettle crowned a perfect night with a try
28 February 2014, 09:51 pm ::
By Chris Bailey
Bath Rugby 10 Saracens 23
David Strettle marked his 100th Saracens appearance in style as his side became the first to find a way past Bath Rugby at The Rec this season by 23-10.
Bath mistakes allowed Strettle to dot down for his ninth Aviva Premiership try of the season shortly after Chris Wyles finished off a flowing move down the line.
And Alex Goode - a late call-up at fly-half - kept the scoreboard ticking over with 13 points from his boot, as the hosts' penalty try proved too little too late.
Something had to give between the two Aviva Premiership play-off chasers - Bath were unbeaten at home all season while Sarries had won their last four at The Rec.
However, Mark McCall's best-laid plans took a blow just before kick-off as Charlie Hodgson pulled out of the starting-line up, forcing Goode to stand in at fly-half in his place.
Both teams came flying out at breakneck speed and after play was pulled back for a Bath penalty, George Ford drilled the first opportunity of the match wide.
Yet Sarries' momentum started to snowball, Schalk Brits showing remarkable awareness to release Joel Tomkins - who could not quite finish in the corner.
Ford's kicks from hand have been deadeye all season and he eased the pressure on the home side by doing just that.
And a bruising break from Alafoti Fa'osiliva, supported by an equally pulverizing run from Leroy Houston, nearly yielded a try but Bath could not pound down the door - instead taking the three points through Ford.
Peter Stringer then thought he'd scored after a quick-thinking offload by Matt Banahan from touch but the touch judge ruled the winger's pass was a forward one.
The scores were levelled via the boot of Goode - and it wasn't long until Sarries assumed the front-foot.
A break from Strettle eventually set Tomkins free, who evaded the grasp of Ford and put in Wyles for the score - which was swiftly converted by Goode.
And a series of mishaps made matters worse for the home side, first Nick Abendanon loose with possession before Banahan fumbled a kick to present Brad Barritt with a glorious chance.
The England international did not turn down the offer, laying on a beautifully-weighted grubber for the onrushing Strettle to crown his 100th appearance with one of the simplest converted tries he could have hoped for.
It was the first time Bath had gone into the break behind at home this season and at 17-3, though the tempo slowed down in the early stages of the second half, so had Sarries' scoring.
But Mike Ford's troops were struggling to string together a cohesive move, leaving a confident Goode to knock a drop-goal between the posts 15 minutes in.
Gavin Henson's introduction brought some fresh life into the game and after he won a penalty, Jacques Burger's high tackle on Anthony Watson earned the flanker a yellow card.
Only last-gasp defence from George Kruis prevented a try from the ensuing rolling maul as Sarries held firm. The clock was ticking away but Bath did not give up hope and were rewarded for their troubles with a penalty try.
It was to prove in vain however as Goode untwisted the home side's screw with a smartly-taken penalty to wrap up an impressive victory.