Rugby Union: Saracens leave Bath standing

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Saracens ended their disappointing Courage League season with a thrilling second-half fightback to defeat the deposed champions Bath 36-29 yesterday. After trailing 22-16 at the interval, the London club rattled up 20 points without reply in the second half with their new player- coach, Francois Pienaar, collecting his fourth try in four matches.

The visitors, who finished second in the table, lost their England wing Jon Sleightholme, Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol and Argentine hooker Federico Mendez through injuries during the match while the attacking presence of the rested England backs, Mike Catt and Jeremy Guscott, was also sorely missed.

Saracens' other tries came from Ireland's Richard Wallace, his fellow wing Matt Singer and full-back Andy Tunningley, and Michael Lynagh kicked 16 points. Bath's touchdowns were supplied by Mendez, the Scotland No 8 Eric Peters, the England wing Adedayo Adebayo and replacement prop Kevin Yates.

Saracens, playing possibly their last match at Enfield before a mooted groundshare with Watford Football Club, were also saying farewell to their 31-year-old Australian prop Tony Daly, who scored the only try of the 1991 World Cup final against England. Daly, who won 41 caps, has announced his retirement from rugby to help run the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

London Irish ended their League One season by resting a number of first- team regulars and succumbing to a 48-27 home defeat by relegated Orrell. The visitors ran in six tries - two apiece for David Lyon and Alex Bennett - and one each from Rob Hitchmough and Jim Naylor. The Exiles claimed four tries of their own - from Barry Walsh, Alistair Allen, Nigel Richardson and Tim Ewington. The thoughts of London Irish, though, are focused more on the two-legged playoff they now face on Wednesday and Sunday against Coventry, who finished third in League Two despite losing 37-18 yesterday at Wakefield. Bristol, who entertain West Hartlepool today, are likely to emulate the Irish and field a shadow line-up in preparation for their play-off matches against Bedford. London Scottish, fifth in League Two, went down 23-17 in a meaningless fixture at Waterloo.

In League Three, Fylde are guaranteed one of the two promotion spots following their 20-6 win at Lydney, leaving Leeds, who beat Liverpool St Helens 44-10, and Exeter, who had a 30-16 success over Reading, to contest the final place.

In the Welsh First Division, Neath look safe after trouncing second-placed Swansea 42-20. Newport can also contemplate another season in the top flight after a 14-9 victory at Dunvant, who now look doomed. Fourth-placed Cardiff consolidated their position in next season's European Cup, with a 69-21 thrashing of relegated Caerphilly.