Bath give Ubogu a rousing send-off
Sunday 07 May 2000
This was Victor Ubogu's farewell appearance at the Recreation Ground. Ubogu, the former England prop, who led the team on to the field, fittingly left it as a winner, as he has done for most of his 138 League appearances for the West Country club - old habits die hard.
He even got to lead the post-match lap of honour. The chances are, though, that he will not have a trophy to hold aloft. Bath had in effect bade farewell to the Allied Dunbar Premiership title some time ago, and by the time they tackle Leicester in a fortnight up at Welford Road the Tigers could already have retained the title. They can do that by beating Bristol in a game originally scheduled for Ashton Gate next Sunday but which may now revert to the Memorial Ground as Bristol Rovers failed to secure a football play-off place.
Bath's situation did not seem to worry the 8,200 who crammed into the ground to enjoy some sun-baked rugby.
Bath opened their account in thrilling fashion. The lock Martin Haag pounded upfield out wide before going to ground. The ball was recycled at speed and ended up in the hands of the England full-back Matt Perry, who crashed through the centre Ben Johnston and smashed aside George Chuter, the burly Saracens hooker, before crossing the line.
There was a worrying hold-up not long afterwards when Kyran Bracken needed attention after getting in the way of Adedayo Adebayo when the powerful Bath wing gathered his own chip ahead. Bracken, who has only recently returned following a back operation, insisted on remaining on the pitch although he looked completely out of it. He lasted a few more minutes, spilled the ball uncharacteristically in a tackle and was led off.
Within 10 minutes of his departure Bath had broken clear, first came a Jon Preston penalty and then a marvellous moment when Iain Balshaw, the Premiership's top try scorer going into this game with 14, looped around off his right wing, latched on to a long pass from Mike Catt before stepping on the gas and knifing in at a great angle to touch down. Preston landed his second conversion.
Saracens then gave themselves a shake and rattled Bath when they worked their way to within 10 metres, at which point the prop Paul Wallace's sharp pass found Darragh O'Mahony in space.
Preston knocked over a couple of penalties to restore the natural order, but Rob Thirlby, who had converted O'Mahony's try, then landed a penalty either side of half-time to haul Saracens back into the game.
But the Bath backs would not be silenced. Catt stepped off his left foot as the Saracens defence drifted right for the third try, Mike Tindall bulldozed through for the fourth and although some casual play allowed Saracens to get back in touch with tries by Thirlby and Tony Diprose, Bath were a class too far for them.
Bath: M Perry; I Balshaw (P de Glanville, 52), K Maggs, M Tindall, A Adebayo (G Cooper, 63); M Catt, J Preston; V Ubogu (C Horsman, 75), M Regan, J Mallett, M Haag, S Borthwick, A Gardiner (G Thomas, 67), D Lyle, B Clarke (capt).
Saracens: R Thirlby; R Constable, B Johnston (B Sparg, 75), K Sorrell, D O'Mahony; N Walshe, K Bracken (M Powell, 21; M Leek, 59); P Wallace (D Flatman, 59), G Chuter (M Cairns, 59), J White, K Chesney (K Roche, 78), D Grewcock, R Hill, T Diprose (capt), T Roques (B Cole, 75).
Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).
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