Saracens cemented their place at the summit of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table after a convincing 30-10 win over Bath Rugby at the Rec.
Will Fraser and Mike Ellery scored first-half tries for the champions, who led 18-3 at the break, and on a tough night for Bath, full-back Anthony Watson was sent off early in the second half for taking out Alex Goode in the air.
A minute later Chris Cook was sin-binned for a tip tackle, and down to 13 men Bath couldn’t cope.
Chris Ashton grabbed two tries on his return from suspension but Bath showed some spirit with a try from Leroy Houston.
In fact Bath could have crumbled altogether but battled all the way in what was a hugely physical encounter.
Still, Ashton’s second wrapped up the bonus point and helped Saracens stretch their lead at the top of the table to eight points with three rounds to go.
Bath meanwhile, are eight points behind sixth-placed Harlequins in the battle for a Champions Cup spot, although they have four matches left to close that gap.
Both teams showed ambition early on, with Saracens looking the more dangerous, but Bath also trying to run the ball when they had the opportunity.
Watson caught the eye with one break out of his own 22, turning down a chance to kick it away and instead beating a number of players and making 50 yards before being hauled down.
Despite that, Saracens were dominating territory, and they were rewarded for that on five minutes with the opening try.
A loose kick from Cook put Saracens in prime position, and after Marcelo Bosch was stopped just short of the line, Fraser was able to burrow over. Owen Farrell converted to make it 7-0.
The set-piece battle was also turning Saracens’ way, and a couple of penalties against Henry Thomas allowed Farrell to stretch the lead to 10-0, although his second effort bounced away off the post.
He soon made amends with a second penalty of the evening when Rob Webber was too slow to roll away in the tackle, and very quickly Saracens had another try as the game threatened to get away from Bath.
It started with a fine charge by Billy Vunipola off the back of the scrum, and after he had been stopped, the power of the Saracens runners eventually told. Goode provided the scoring pass, whipping it out to replacement Ellery for the try. Farrell again found the post with his conversion, but Saracens led 18-0.
The hosts at least appeared to have turned the tide in the scrum, Thomas winning a couple of penalties off Mako Vunipola, but they were still struggling to find a way through the Saracens defence.
They did manage a penalty late in the first half, with Vunipola again the man penalised and threatened with a yellow card if he infringed again at the set-piece.
George Ford’s three points made it 18-3 at the break, but it still looked a long way back in the second 40.
They actually started the second half strongly, but after being stopped initially, they then lost their discipline and any hopes of a comeback.
Watson was sent off when he caught Goode as the full-back leaped high for a ball in the 22, and landed on his head and shoulders.
Almost immediately Cook joined him on the sidelines, albeit for ten minutes, for a tip tackle on Michael Rhodes.
With two extra men, it seemed inevitable that Saracens would take advantage, and they did just that with third try of the evening.
After a powerful rolling maul, Bath were short of numbers, and Richard Wigglesworth went down the short side to send Ashton over.
And yet the home side showed their fight with a try despite still being down to 13. After winning a line-out, the Bath maul ended up with Houston going over in the corner. Ford nailed the conversion from the touchline to make it 23-10 to the visitors.
Still, with an extra man Saracens will always be dangerous, and it was Goode’s passing again that was key.
After Ellery’s powerful burst on the left, Saracens came back the other way, Goode floating a long pass out to Fraser, who found Ashton inside him for his second. Farrell, who’d struggled from the kicking tee slotted the touchline conversion to seal the win.