Bath 16 Saracens 28: George Ford is left behind by England rival Owen Farrell

Man of the match Farrell shows why he's not out of the England fly-half battle

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The Independent Online

Owen Farrell was England's fly-half, George Ford now is, but this was indisputably Farrell's day. It did not need the award of the Peter Deakin Medal for the man of the match to tell us that.

As blood trickled from a cut over his right eye, Farrell embraced Ford and the two young men chatted, as childhood friends do after a period of stress. But underneath, Ford, who took over from Farrell in England white last November, will be wondering how he could have had twice as much ball and failed to do enough with it.

Possession passed through the Bath player’s hands on 65 occasions and he did purvey the scoring pass for Jonathan Joseph’s try. But from start to finish, Farrell’s influence was the greater, for good and ill – he may yet be cited for the high tackle which in due course forced Bath to replace Anthony Watson after only eight minutes.

 

There was, Farrell said afterwards, no intent and it was punished with only a penalty, as was a similar high tackle on Joseph at the start of the second half. But the positive side of his game far outweighed the negative, even when he switched to centre for the final 10 minutes to accommodate Charlie Hodgson.

Of the 31 pieces of ball that came Farrell’s way, 11 were dead-ball occasions (kicks at goal or to touch, or restarts). In the entire second half, he received live ball only four times, yet a season hampered by injuries to ankle, thigh and knee came to a glorious conclusion with 18 of his side’s points.

Farrell scored the game’s opening try, which had its origin in a missed touch-finder by Ford. He converted from a wide angle and, thereafter, missed only one scoring chance, the conversion of Jamie George’s try. When Bath had fought back to within 12 points and Saracens nerves were shredding, it was Farrell’s penalty that steadied the ship.

But there was a lack of zip and accuracy to the much-touted Bath midfield, another missed touch by Ford into the opposing 22 when Bath desperately needed an attacking field position. Earlier in the week, Sir Clive Woodward said there was no one better in world rugby at playing flat to the gain-line; not this time.

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