Saracens 47-13 Bristol Bears: Premiership champions score seven tries to cut deficit
|Saracens: (14) 47|
|Tries: M Vunipola, Malins 2, Tompkins 2, Earl, Barritt Cons: Farrell 5, Daly|
|Bristol Bears (13) 13|
|Tries: Morahan Pens: Sheedy 2 Cons: Sheedy|
Saracens showed a champions' mentality despite their perilous plight with a seven-try demolition of Bristol Bears.
The visitors took the lead through Luke Morahan's try and went further ahead through two Callum Sheedy penalties.
Mako Vunipola replied before Max Malins scored just before half-time to give Sarries the interval advantage.
The second half was one-way traffic as Nick Tompkins (two), Ben Earl, Brad Barritt and Malins' second completed the rout at Allianz Park.
It allowed Saracens - deducted 35 points for breaching salary cap rules - to reduce their deficit at the bottom to 17 points on 11th-placed Leicester, who lost at home to Exeter.
The visiting Bears started the day in second and took an early lead when Wallaby winger Morahan collected Sheedy's cross-field kick to score.
Sarries hit back when England prop Vunipola powered over from close range but Sheedy's boot moved Bristol 13-7 in front.
The visitors went close to a second try when Sarries scrum-half Ben Spencer spilled the ball in his own in-goal area when covering a kick downfield, but Bears winger Toby Fricker couldn't get the required touch to score.
Saracens built up a head of steam as half-time approached, winning a string of penalties, which eventually resulted in Malins finding space to go under the posts, Owen Farrell's conversion nudging them in front.
The home side struck again just three minutes into the second period through Tompkins, before Earl secured the bonus point with half-an-hour still left.
Bristol hooker Harry Thacker was sin-binned shortly afterwards and Sarries took full advantage of the extra man, as Malins, Barritt and Tompkins crossed the whitewash at will, finding gaps in a beleaguered Bears defence.
The five-point haul will put Saracens in good heart ahead of a mouthwatering showdown with leaders Exeter at Sandy Park next Sunday, 29 December.
Bristol's second league defeat of the season saw them drop a place to third, with the Bears hosting Wasps next on 27 December.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
"We are not counting points; well I am certainly not looking at the table.
"I'm actually really pleased with the way we defended in the last 15 minutes because the game was done and won, and I thought we had an appetite not to concede during that period which was really encouraging.
"What I am really pleased about is that we could have been frustrated with the scoreboard after 30 minutes but we stuck to task and kept going and I think all of the points that we scored in the second half were a result of some of the really good work done in the first half."
Bristol head coach Pat Lam told BBC Radio Bristol:
"It was just like playing a final because they were desperate to win this game. They've build a great side over the last 10 years.
"The big thing is we were right in this game up until five minutes before half-time but we leaked a try and then the 10 minutes after half-time was the worst we've played all year.
"We conceded soft tries - missing high balls, little knock-ons, silly penalties, all things that gave them field position and then we were just playing catch-up."
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Saracens: Malins; Maitland, Tompkins, Barritt (capt), Daly; Farrell, Spencer; Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Kruis, Isiekwe, Earl, Vunipola.
Replacements: Singleton, Carre, Lamositele, Skelton, Wray, Wigglesworth, Taylor, Lewington.
Bristol: Piutau; Morahan, O'Conor, Bedlow, Fricker; Sheedy, Uren; Woolmore, Thacker, Afoa, Joyce, Vui, Luatua (capt), Heenan, Hughes.
Replacements: Capon, Lay, Lahiff, Holmes, Hamilton, Randall, Lloyd, Leiua.
Referee: Tom Foley