Premiership: Saracens 34-24 Bath
|Saracens (11) 34|
|Tries: Wyles, George, Ashton Pens: Hodgson, Goode 4 Cons: Goode 2|
|Bath (3) 24|
|Tries: Rokoduguni 2, Woodburn Pens: Homer Cons: Homer 3|
Saracens survived a second-half fight-back from Bath to seal a 34-24 victory and keep up the pressure on leaders Northampton in the Premiership.
Alex Goode, released by England this week, played a key role with 16 points and his influence helped seal the win over their play-off rivals.
Chris Wyles and Jamie George tries gave Sarries a 11-3 advantage at half-way.
Chris Ashton's score extended the lead but two Semesa Rokoduguni tries and Olly Woodburn's effort gave Bath hope.
However they missed out on a bonus point when Goode's penalty took Saracens out of range.
Victory was revenge for a Saracens side beaten by Bath at the Rec earlier in the season, although the disappointment for Mike Ford's visitors will be tempered by the knowledge they were without key personnel on England duty.
|England hopefuls: How did they do?|
|Saracens' England 'potentials' Alex Goode and Chris Ashton were impressive, combining for the latter's try. Brad Barritt earned the praise of Mark McCall, and levelled Sam Burgess at one stage with a huge hit. One player who might have caught the eye was Jackson Wray, a number eight whose ball carrying and work at the breakdown was most impressive. For Bath, Sam Burgess showed his tackling and ball-carrying skills to good effect, while his centre partner Kyle Eastmond demonstrated his quality in flashes. Semesa Rokoduguni's try highlighted his finishing, as did that of Olly Woodburn. Prop Henry Thomas enjoyed a good battle with Richard Barrington in the scrum.|
The close nature of the game was reflected by a skewed pot-shot from Charlie Hodgson at a drop goal inside two minutes, while Bath settled quicker and moved ahead with a Homer penalty on debut.
Hodgson levelled from the tee when Francois Louw went in off his feet at the ruck and the home side's momentum continued when Chris Wyles finished off a sliding move in the left corner.
Full-back Goode, taking over kicking duties from a wounded Hodgson, clipped over before the break and followed suit early in the second-half as Mark McCall's side cranked up the pressure.
Another pacy break got George in on the left after the ball went through hands but Bath responded with a try of their own after Ollie Devoto picked a gap and found the supporting Rokoduguni within seconds of conceding.
Goode's kicking skills provided the grubber for Ashton's score down the right and then saw another three-pointer bisect the posts.
Woodburn's try, from a Kyle Eastmond pop, was disputed by Saracens who felt Sam Burgess' dummy run was obstructive, and the hosts' frustrations grew when Bath's former league stars Burgess and Eastmond combined to find Rokoduguni out wide and he finished well.
Bath sensed the chance to push for a try that could bring the scores level but Goode's late penalty denied the visitors a bonus point and capped an impressive display.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
"I thought he was phenomenal. Not just in attack, but he must have made two or three last-ditch tackles on their wingers. He was outstanding today.
"I thought Brad Barritt was phenomenal as well today. He handled the ball brilliantly at times. It's always very disruptive having someone who comes back midweek who hasn't quite got what he wants but it tells you a lot about Brad that he can come back and deliver a performance like that for his club.
"We created plenty of chances today, but overall, we're pleased to get four points and the fact that they got nothing from the game. It's all about accumulating as many points as you can now to get into the top four."
Bath head coach Mike Ford:
"The start of the second half was terrible for us.
"We dropped the kick-off and conceded a penalty.
"They got three points. They kicked off again and we conceded another penalty that led to their second try. It was just an uphill battle then."
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Taylor, Barritt, Wyles; Hodgson, De Kock; Barrington, George, Du Plessis, Itoje, Hargreaves (capt), Brown, Burger, Wray.
Replacements: Sharman, Gill, Johnston, Smith, Joubert, Spencer, Streather, Strettle.
Bath: Homer; Rokoduguni, Burgess, Eastmond, Woodburn; Devoto, Cook; Auterac, Batty, Thomas, Hooper (capt), Day, Garvey, Louw, Houston
Replacements: Webber, Lahiff, Palma-Newport, Faosiliva, Fearns, Young, Lane, Arscott