Match Reaction: Bath Rugby 18-9 Saracens
Saracens strike fear into most opponents they face but travelling to the Rec is one such obstacle they struggle to overcome.
Rhys Priestland’s six penalties inspired Bath Rugby to victory against the defending Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions to move them back into the top half of the table, their third straight home win against the team from north London.
In a match without tries, it came to down to two kickers and Priestland got the better of opposite number Alex Lozowski.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Priestland was excellent of the tee and ensured Bath would not go home frustrated again following narrow defeats to Northampton Saints and Harlequins in recent weeks.
- Round 16 Social Media Preview
- The Big Interview: Simon Hammersley
- Things to look out for in Gallagher Premiership Rugby
But lock Elliott Stooke was the star of the show in a defence which kept Saracens at bay.
Stooke made seven tackles and won two turnovers, while with ball-in-hand he made 39 metres – an impressive haul in a match where the ball spent much of its time in the air – one clean break and beat three defenders.
Saracens squeezed Bath into their own 22 for much of the second half but the hosts held firm, with Stooke marshalling them superbly.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Trailing 9-3 at the break, Saracens needed to hit the ground running in the second half and they did just that by levelling up the score thanks to Lozowski.
Bath, who have let games slip in recent weeks, were all of a sudden under pressure and Saracens sensed an opportunity to move a score ahead.
Fly-half Alex Goode, in a good position just inside the Bath half, kicked the ball high in order to put pressure on the home defence and when Will Skelton recovered it, they looked well-set to score.
But Bath won a penalty by preventing a Saracens player from releasing on the five-metre line, much to the delight of the home faithful.
Minutes later Priestland had regained them the lead and from there they did not look back.
WHAT THEY SAID
Bath Rugby lock Elliott Stooke: “Our backs have been against the wall for the last couple of weeks.
“We let ourselves down in the last few plays of the game but credit to the boys, what a comeback that was in terms of character.
“We came through in the wet against Saracens. Credit to the boys. We spoke at half time that we needed a big start to the second half and we did not do it.
“Our discipline let us down but we had a good conversation under the posts. We then forced mistakes, got penalties and converted.”
Bath Rugby fly-half Rhys Priestland: “A lot of teams go into their shell when they play Saracens and they have probably earned that.
“They are so formidable when it comes to the kicking game and they bring so much line speed but I do think we have turned the corner here.
“We wanted to be brave and go and play and I think we saw that, perhaps a little bit too much at times. But the plan was to put them on the back foot.
“In three of the last four games, we have been winning at 80 minutes and then lost. If we hold on in two of those then we might be top four.
“It is a case of how to lose a game of rugby. I can stand here and say I think we have turned the corner but it is a results-based game.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall: “The penalties Bath had in the first half were the result of lost collisions and we were better at that in the second half.
“We got ourselves back into a position where we could have got something in the end. But our set-piece was really poor in the second half, we gave away far too many penalties.
“We got what we deserved probably. When we got down their end, we were poor. The weather was poor and we could not get quick ball.
“I am almost more disappointed with the first half because we wanted to fire some shots and be physical and we weren’t.
“It is disappointing to come away with nothing.”
BEST OF SOCIAL
Listen to that Rec roar! 🗣
There’ll be no late heartbreak for Bath. They take the win against the defending champions.
FT: Bath 18-9 Saracens pic.twitter.com/bx85WED016
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) March 8, 2019
— Louis Shaw (@louis1999shaw) March 8, 2019
Massive win full of character for @bathrugby tonight versus @Saracens. Nothing exemplified the brick wall they created in defence more than @Alex_goode0 being forced to launch those high balls in attack during the last 15 mins! #🔵⚫️⚪️ #BATvSAR pic.twitter.com/7u38j3IFJm
— Howard Pothecary (@Pothe79) March 8, 2019