Glen Jackson put the boot into bottom club Bristol as Saracens comfortably completed a third successive GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP victory.
The prolific points-scorer kicked five penalties and a drop-goal to leave Bristol still without a GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP win since March. They have collected just two losing bonus points, and look destined for a seven-month struggle to avoid the drop into National League One.
While Jackson missed one kick all night – the conversion of wing Kameli Ratuvou’s first-half try – Bristol proved a shambles in that department.
Fly-half Adrian Jarvis missed three penalties in a row – and when he was eventually taken off 16 minutes from time, his replacement Ed Barnes slotted two successful kicks after an initial failure.
Wing David Lemi’s third Premiership try of the campaign was scant consolation for a Bristol side high on endeavour,] but lacking pace, penetration and fluency.
If anything, Saracens made hard work of it; yet in New Zealander Jackson, they possessed a player comfortable with the role of successfully steering his team through awkward away games.
Bristol have now lost 10 Premiership matches on the bounce, and the last time they started a campaign with five defeats – in 2002/2003 – relegation was the end product.
Jarvis returned for Bristol after missing the 17-3 defeat at Newcastle last Friday, while Saracens were without their ex-All Blacks forward Chris Jack because of a shoulder injury.
Jack was replaced in the back row by Ben Skirving as Saracens targeted a third successive Premiership victory, after posting 70 points and seven tries in wins against Newcastle and Northampton.
Bristol, though, were in no mood to let Saracens settle as they targeted a priceless win before a six-week break from Premiership action.
Wing Tom Arscott proved an early threat, yet Bristol lacked confidence when it came to maximising some promising attacking positions.
Saracens were content to absorb the anticipated opening-quarter onslaught – and they duly ended it in front by posting a superbly-crafted try.
Number eight Michael Owen ensured quick ball to Jackson, who linked neatly with centre Adam Powell and sent Ratuvou powering over.
Jackson failed to convert. But the score threw down a challenge to Bristol, whose response belied a team struggling for form and points.
Sustained pressure inside Saracens’ 22 saw a patient home side reap its reward when Lemi pounced.
Jarvis added the extras, and then slotted a 28th-minute penalty that opened up a five-point advantage – before Saracens stole a narrow interval advantage through two Jackson penalties.
But Saracens should have been more than one point ahead, and could only kick themselves when lock Hugh Vyvyan spilled possession – with the Bristol line at his mercy following a 40-metre break by Ratuvou.
Saracens boss Eddie Jones was forced into a half-time switch, sending on Moses Rauluni for full-back Richard Haughton – and Jackson quickly completed his penalty hat-trick.
Bristol had to keep themselves in touch but they were not helped by Jarvis missing two straightforward penalties either side of the break.
When he then drifted a 52nd-minute shot wide as well, his confidence appeared drained to such an extent that Bristol captain Joe El Abd had to consider changing the kicker.
Jackson continued to show Jarvis exactly how it should be done, slotting his fourth penalty after 54 minutes and presenting Bristol with an increasingly-demanding uphill struggle.
Barnes narrowed the gap to seven points with a penalty from in front of the posts when Skirving was sin-binned, but Saracens knew all they had to do was play the territory game – even with one player short.
A second Barnes penalty at least gave Bristol a bonus point, but there was precious little to cheer for a crowd that only just topped the 7,000 mark.