Saracens’ England internationals dazzled as Mark McCall’s side rubber-stamped their place at the top of the Aviva Premiership table with a 23-14 victory over Bath Rugby.
Chris Ashton, Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell all scored tries as Bath saw their hopes of a top-six finish evaporate at Allianz Park.
Rob Webber and Horacio Agulla scored for Bath either side of half-time as the visitors threatened a comeback but Farrell’s kicking eventually put the game to bed to ensure Saracens will host Northampton Saints in next weekend’s semi-final.
Bath began on the front foot and won a penalty on five minutes which was sent wide by fly-half Tom Heathcote, a late replacement in the No.10 jersey for Stephen Donald.
Bath could not build on it however and soon after the was Saracens’ chance to turn the screw as fly-half Charlie Hodgson shunned a kick and goal following a penalty against Bath’s Simon Taylor, instead going for the corner.
And after some concerted pressure in the Bath 22, Sarries drew first blood through wing Ashton.
Second row Alistair Hargreaves claimed the lineout on the edge of the 22 and hooker Schalk Brits trucked the ball up at the back of the maul to the try-line before the ball was spun wide to Ashton, who scored a simple try in the right corner.
Owen Farrell, playing at inside centre in the absence of Brad Barritt, missed the conversion but Sarries’ pressure continued and they soon extended their lead.
On 19 minutes, with the try-line beckoning, Bath flanker Guy Mercer was sent to the bin for deliberately killing the ball in front of his own posts, handing Farrell the simplest of penalties.
He duly accepted and four minutes later it was his fellow British & Lion Mako Vunipola who showed his burgeoning talents, finishing with a winger’s instinct in the left-hand corner.
He spun past two tackles to ground the ball and was awarded the score after referee Martin Fox had consulted the TMO.
Farrell again missed the conversion, this time from the opposite corner but Vunipola again displayed just why he is so highly valued, popping up on the right.
Again from a lineout, Neil de Kock made a dart into 22 and fed Vunipola but his brilliant one-hand offload to Ashton, who touched down, was ruled forward.
Bath then came back into the match with the help Farrell’s sin binning for a stiff arm tackle on Heathcote and on 36 minutes their pressure was rewarded.
They made some decent inroads into the Sarries 22 and having won a penalty for offside they kicked for the corner, won the lineout and used the driving maul to put Webber over. Heathcote converted to make the half-time score 13-7.
Soon after the break Farrell made up for his earlier indiscretion however, dotting down after another smart break from de Kock, punishing Bath who missed a penalty from Heathcote.
Farrell converted from in front of the posts but Bath hit back on 51 minutes when scrum-half Michael Claassens fired a perfect falt ball for Agulla to hit the line at speed and go through Joel Tomkins and over. Heathcote converted to make the score 20-14.
Bath almost got another when Tom Biggs beat David Strettle to the loose ball after a foot race but he knocked on.
And on 68 minutes, when Farrell kicked a penalty, awarded at the scrum, there was no way back for Bath as Sarries topped the Aviva Premiership table for the first time in their history.