Bath vs Saracens match report: Owen Farrell inspires superb Sarries to victory in Premiership final to win second ever title

Bath 16 Saracens 28: Three tries in the first half saw Bath blitzed off the Twickenham pitch with Saracens holding out to become the first team to win the Premiership final from fourth place in the league

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Controversy comes more or less guaranteed with these showpiece title deciders, but the difference here as Saracens became Premiership champions for the second time was that the aggro arrived very early in the piece, to the irretrievable detriment of Bath, who were contesting their first final since 2004.

The Bath head coach, Mike Ford, said Saracens’ England fly-half Owen Farrell should have been shown a red card for his high tackle on Anthony Watson after 80 seconds. Farrell could be cited and banned for two weeks, that would coincide with England’s World Cup friendlies in August, if the authorities take the same view as Ford about the degree of the offence. Farrell went on to accumulate 18 points, and sadly many Bath supporters booed the announcement of him as man of the match.

With five minutes gone, Saracens were 7-0 up thanks to a try and conversion by Farrell, who had dummied past two of his international colleagues in the Bath back-line, Jonathan Joseph and Watson, to finish a wide-ranging counterattack initiated by a missed touch-kick from another England hotshot, George Ford. The raging debate was whether either Watson or Farrell should have been on the pitch at the time.

In Watson’s case, the leggy full-back was in obvious discomfort and in need of a concussion check – he would go off soon enough, removing a prime weapon from the Bath arsenal – and as for Farrell, it was his swinging arm that had caused the damage. He connected with Watson’s head while making a trademark Saracens double tackle led by Mako Vunipola around the legs, but referee Wayne Barnes awarded only a penalty and no card, after choosing not to examine big-screen replays. The television match official, Graham Hughes, did not intervene either.

Ford later claimed Barnes had admitted “he should have had a look at it more closely”. An unscientific straw poll among neutral observers suggested a yellow card at most would have been appropriate.

Owen-Farrell.jpg
Owen Farrell scores the first try of the Premiership final

Whatever the case, Farrell played on and was pivotal to Saracens reaching half-time 25-3 to the good – and maintaining the statistic that no team since the Premiership play-offs were introduced in 2003 have won the trophy after trailing at the interval.

Farrell said: “I feel bad for ‘Ant’, that he had to go off. But there was no intent from me, I’m not that kind of player. I said sorry to him but things like this happen in rugby.”

There was another dubious decision when Saracens’ full-back Alex Goode, one of 18 England squad members on view, was spared a sin-bin after blocking a run by Semesa Rokoduguni. But most of Sarries’ work in that opening period was simply good, hard rugby from the platform of a hard-rushing and unbreakable defensive line.

Jamie-George.jpg
Jamie George runs in for Saracens' second try

Kyle Eastmond’s pass fumbled in midfield gave Saracens hooker Jamie George a glorious 35-metre run-in for a try in the 13th minute, Farrell added a penalty replied to in kind by Ford for the Goode offence, and a brief Bath rally was ended when Chris Wyles scored Saracens’ third try in the 33rd minute.

Their captain, Alistair Hargreaves, was hurt making a tackle on Leroy Houston but it epitomised the onslaught. An interception by Duncan Taylor and some stunning footwork by Dave Strettle to collect a pass on his instep left Mako Vunipola and George with sumptuous time and space to put Wyles into the left corner.

Chris-Wyles.jpg
Chris Wyles celebrates scoring a third for Saracens

In the second half, Bath, with Sam Burgess carrying strongly, were able to play more of their familiar patterns from set-pieces and their scrum bit back, although that was always a see-saw battle. A pair of penalties by Ford, either side of a wondrous try by Joseph, narrowed the gap to 25-16. Joseph, England’s best available outside-centre right now, took Ford’s sharply angled pass and rocketed around Taylor with a step and a burst of pace.

But the rot for Saracens was stopped in the mildest of manners when Watson’s replacement, Ollie Devoto, dabbled fairly harmlessly offside and Farrell gleefully administered the penalty punishment for a 12-point lead with 18 minutes remaining. Wyles’ touchline tackle on Rokoduguni, followed by a forced forward pass from Eastmond, helped keep Bath at bay.

Jonathan-Joseph.jpg
Jonathan Joseph scores Bath's sole try

Saracens’ coaching staff, led by Mark McCall, had been saying for months they were timing their season right and, with last week’s semi-final win at table-toppers Northampton and this subjugation of the second-placed Bath, they proved their point. The only major blip was a European semi-final loss to Clermont Auvergne in April; Sarries have won the Premiership, LV Cup, A-League, Academy competition and women’s league and cup.

No wonder Brad Barritt, who like Farrell finished with blood smeared across a smiling face, gushed: “People speak of culture and what a team is, but Saracens truly believe it. We are close on and off the field and that galvanises us in tough times.”

Teams:

Bath: A Watson (O Devoto, 8); S Rokoduguni, J Joseph, K Eastmond, M Banahan; G Ford, P Stringer (C Cook, 68); P James (N Auterac, 48), R Batty (R Webber, 48), D Wilson (H Thomas, 50), S Hooper (capt; D Day, 55), D Attwood (M Garvey, 59), S Burgess, F Louw, L Houston (C Fearns, 61).

Saracens: A Goode; D Strettle (C Ashton, 66), D Taylor, B Barritt (Ashton, 61-66; C Hodgson, 70), C Wyles; O Farrell, R Wigglesworth (N de Kock, 56); M Vunipola (R Barrington, 77), J George (S Brits, 54), P Du Plessis (J Figallo, 50), G Kruis, A Hargreaves (J Wray, 34), M Itoje (J Hamilton, 69), J Burger, B Vunipola.

Referee: W Barnes (London).

Comments