Big Match Preview: Bath v Saracens
In a hotly-anticipated Gallagher Premiership Rugby showdown, defending champions Saracens will travel to seventh-placed Bath in the opening game of Round 16 on Friday night in a game that could have decisive ramifications.
Saracens, who ran out 36-17 winners against Northampton Saints at Allianz Park on Saturday, will be looking to record back-to-back Gallagher Premiership Rugby victories for the first time since December when they make the trip to Recreation Ground, looking to keep pace with current leaders Exeter Chiefs.
Meanwhile, Bath will attempt to secure their first win in three in front of a home crowd and close the gap on the top four.
What’s at stake?
Saracens have scored the most points in the league this season with 463 but they’re not quite top of the table thanks to Exeter’s superior bonus-point haul.
Mark McCall’s side currently sit in second with 58 points, just three behind their title rivals from Devon with seven league games left to play.
Despite winning just six of their 15 matches so far, Bath are only six points off the top four.
If they can pull off a home victory against Saracens, and other results work in their favour, Todd Blackadder’s side will certainly be in closer contention for a play-off spot.
Form so far
Whilst Saracens have won all eight of their league home matches so far this season, they have experienced troubles on the road as of late.
The north Londoners have lost just three away from home this season, and these have come in the last five rounds against Exeter, Sale Sharks and Gloucester Rugby – a run they will be determined to stop on Friday in Somerset.
Meanwhile, Bath have lost (7) more games than they have won (6) this season but four of those wins have come at Recreation Ground.
They will be determined to bounce back from Saturday’s narrow 31-29 defeat to Harlequins and add to their tally of home victories when they welcome Saracens to the West Country.
🚨 #GallagherPrem table with 7️⃣ games left of the regular season 🚨
STILL SO TIGHT 😬
Leave your predictions for where your club will finish below 👇 pic.twitter.com/7MJlLxHDMn
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) 3 March 2019
The last time these two met in September, Saracens racked up nine tries in a rampant display of rugby as they beat Bath at home 50-27 for their fifth straight bonus-point Gallagher Premiership Rugby victory.
Saracens were too hot to handle on the day as Wales and British & Irish Lions wing Liam Williams bagged a hat-trick and Alex Goode, Jamie George, Nick Tompkins, Sean Maitland and Christopher Tolofua added one apiece to secure the win.
And there were more positives for Saracens than their scintillating performance.
They became the first club in Gallagher Premiership Rugby history to begin a campaign with five bonus-point victories and Owen Farrell, who kicked five conversions, became the club’s leading points scorer in the competition’s history.
This fixture has been an evenly-matched affair in recent years but the last five matches have been narrowly in favour of Saracens, with three wins to Bath’s two.
Last season, the two teams won one apiece – Bath 31-21 in Somerset and Saracens 41-6 at Allianz Park.
As the Six Nations returns to action this Saturday, Bath will be relieved to be facing a depleted Saracens squad.
Whilst the likes of Farrell, Jamie George and Maro Itoje did not feature in Saturday’s win against Northampton as they remained in the England set-up, McCall was boosted by Scotland wing Sean Maitland’s brief return to domestic duty as he crossed twice in the triumph.
But on Friday, Saracens will be without Maitland again as he returns to the international fold as Scotland prepare to host Wales.
Saracens may be without an array of key players, but Blackadder’s men will still be dealing the likes of Tompkins and David Strettle, who notched tries themselves on Saturday against the Saints.
And Bath are without their own star men as Charlie Ewels and Joe Cokanasiga are away with international duty and Anthony Watson and Sam Underhill, who joined up with the England squad in Oxford last week for medical checks, remain unavailable.