Saracens keep Bath pointless at the Rec

Former Premiership Champions Saracens managed to keep Bath pointless in their 0-22 victory over Bath in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday afternoon.

The victory for Saracens comes a week after they beat former Heineken Cup champions Munster at Vicarage Road last weekend.

Ex-England flyhalf Charlie Hodgson led Saracens to a 16 point half time lead
through three first half penalties and the conversion of Richard Wigglesworth’s

Bath had opportunities to get on the scoreboard but All Black world cup winner
Stephen Donald missed with his three shots at goal.

Hodgson too was off target twice in the second half but he was on target with
another two taking his personal points tally in the match to 17.

Bath had very little to offer and too often found themselves in the wrong areas
of the pitch, unable to break the stranglehold, let alone to fashion a telling
break themselves.

The Recreation Ground pitch had been under covers from Thursday but the surface
was still soggy and standing water could be seen in the dead-ball area under
the hospitality boxes and in one or two places on the touchlines.

Bath came into the game on the back of a double-header with Calvisano which
yielded 106 points to keep them top seeds in the Amlin Cup.

With Matt Banahan still under suspension, head coach Gary Gold continued with
a centre partnership of Ben Williams and Kyle Eastmond, who found himself lining
up against former rugby league rival Joel Tomkins.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall rested England men Alex Goode and Brad
Barritt, switching Owen Farrell to inside centre to allow Hodgson to return
at fly-half. Mako Vunipola started at loosehead prop.

Bath were quickly on the attack as Michael Claassens chipped over David Strettle’s
head to the 22. A strong drive forced a line-out even closer to the line but
Saracens scrambled a clearing kick away – and that was as close as the home
side came to scoring before half-time.

Saracens used their trademark kicking game to keep their pack on the front foot
and Bath at bay. Apart from a flourish from Horacio Agulla, handing off Matt
Stevens in a typically feisty run, the home side rarely ventured as far upfield
as the Saracens 22.

Hodgson fired a drop-goal attempt just wide but was immediately given a long-range
penalty attempt to open the scoring after 14 minutes.

Tomkins then put Chris Ashton away on the right but referee Greg Garner spotted
a forward pass. The try was not long in coming, however.

With perfect line-out ball off the top, Hodgson made light of the underfoot
conditions to glide effortlessly through the Bath defence. Strettle was on his
elbow and Wigglesworth finished off in a muddy splash.

While Hodgson converted impressively from wide out on the left, Bath’s Stephen
Donald appeared to be having difficulty keeping his footing as he missed a penalty
from 45 metres.

Hodgson then simply chipped over another penalty at the other end to extend
the lead to 13-0.

Donald was wide and short with two more attempts – all from a good distance
– before Hodgson added another three points from 25 metres after Nick Abendanon
was caught in possession from a lofted kick.

It was a more competitive Bath side that appeared for the second half. Strong
mauling and driving had Saracens on the defensive and Ben Williams broke through
for the first time. Saracens scrambled back successfully and also survived a
heavy spell of pressure in the right corner.

The one area where Saracens had not been dominant was the scrum but, pinned
back on their own line, they won a penalty on the Bath put-in. That moment seemed
to end Bath’s slim hopes of a comeback.

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