Phil de Glanville, the captain, acknowledged that the threatened split between the top clubs and the Rugby Football Union has affected the Courage League leaders. "It has all been getting to the players," de Glanville admitted after Bath scraped through at a highly charged Bramley Road, where Saracens were appearing for the final time in the league before moving across north London to Enfield FC. "The whole season has been a distraction off the field. It's a pleasure to concentrate on the rugby because of everything else that is going on."
Bath were quick to put their midweek misery against Gloucester behind them and established a plump cushion of 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. For the next 45 minutes, though, it was the First Division strugglers who dictated events. Two tries nosed them ahead with 11 minutes remaining.
They were on the threshold of a thrilling, and crucial victory, when appropriately, Graham Dawe shut them out with possibly the most important try of his career. The brilliant Mike Catt, who was commanding at stand- off, chipped ahead to leave the Saracens' defence flat-footed, Dawe had anticipated the move, looped around to the outside running a stunning angle, took a perfectly timed pass and galloping over.
Catt was moved to say afterwards that he thought the player outside him was the England wing Jon Sleightholme, rather than Dawe. The seemingly ageless Devon farmer (in fact 36) throws himself wholeheartedly into each game. Sadly sometimes too much so and Stuart Piercy, showed him a yellow card for punching in the first half. The try made amends for that breach though.
The win keeps Bath on top, all they have to do is win their final two games. Leicester's apparent advantage of a game in hand could well be nullified since it is one of four matches - three League and the Sanyo Cup next weekend - that they will have played in 11 days by a week on Wednesday. "If they come through that without a defeat they will have done well," said de Glanville, recalling Bath's three games in eight days with a shudder.
Meanwhile Saracens' survival hangs by a thread. Matches against fellow strugglers Bristol, next week, and Gloucester a week later have to be won other wise they will be down and fighting it out with the likes of Newcastle next season. Hanging on to their talented players could then be a problem but the No8 Tony Diprose, tipped as the next captain, said they were likely to have a players' meeting before the end of the season where they would pledge themselves to Saracens, just as Northampton did when they were relegated two seasons ago.
Saracens: Tries Diprose, Halvey; Conversion G Hughes; Penalty G Hughes. Bath: Tries Adebayo, Dawe; Conversion Callard; Penalties Callard 3.
Saracens: P Hughes; K Chesney, S Ravenscroft, D Dooley, P Harries; G Hughes, B Davies (capt); G Holmes, G Botterman, S Wilson, M Burrow, T Copsey, E Halvey, A Diprose, R Hill (J Green, 4-9).
Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, P de Glanville (capt), A Adebayo, A Lumsden; M Catt, A Nicol; D Hilton (D Crompton, 45), G Dawe, J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, S Ojomoh, E Peters, A Robinson (E Pearce, 51-55).
Referee: S Piercy (Goole)Reuse content