Hodgson walks on water as Saracens defy the rain

Bath 0 Saracens 22

the recreation ground

The mist hung low over Bathwick Hill and the rain drenched those brave enough to forego the Christmas shopping, but seasonal cheer warmed Saracen hearts. Their challenge to recover the Aviva Premiership title which they held in 2011 is everything they want it to be at this halfway stage of the season, and if Charlie Hodgson sustains this level of match management, they will still be there in May.

Hodgson, 32 this month, gave what his director of rugby, Mark McCall, happily described as a masterclass, most notably in the first half, which Saracens ended 16 points to the good. The former England fly-half made the opening for the game's only try, he kicked his goals, he drove his forwards to the places they needed to be – given the sodden surface on the cricket-pitch side of the Recreation Ground, he could even have been said to be walking on water.

"The top of the table is kind of irrelevant. It's a pretty good effort to be in this position after 11 games, of which seven have been away," McCall said. Saracens have the best away record in the Premiership, regardless of their try-scoring record, which staggered into double figures yesterday after Richard Wigglesworth touched down.

They can afford to score less than a try a game if they defend at the same parsimonious rate (their line has been crossed only nine times this season) and this was a day when performing the basics in defence was key. Bath, despite two long spells in the opposition 22, seldom looked like scoring a try. "Saracens don't give many penalties away, they know how to defend the maul and they have an aggressive defence on the edge," Mike Ford, Bath's assistant coach, said.

In contrast to Hodgson, Bath's fly-half endured a miserable afternoon. Stephen Donald may have won the 2011 World Cup for New Zealand but here he missed three first-half penalties in six minutes, put a restart kick dead and found the Saracens defenders apparently reading his every intention when he tried to kick for territory.

Add to that a misfiring line-out (you wonder whether Steve Borthwick reserves his best dissections of the opposing line-out for his former club) and it is no wonder that Saracens marched so cheerily into Christmas. Hodgson had only kicked the first of his five penalties when, behind a line-out 40 metres from the Bath line, he stepped inside the defence and found David Strettle on his elbow; the wing was brought down in the Bath 22 but Wigglesworth finished strongly for Saracens' 10th try of the Premiership season and one to be proud of on the driest of days.

Hodgson added two more lengthy penalties before the break, though he had the good grace to smile bashfully when he dropped a ball and was cheered by the home crowd. They had little else to celebrate; even when Bath marched a maul 25 metres and forced a penalty, they made nothing of the line-out while, on their increasingly rare visits to the home half, Saracens came away with points.

It makes the holiday period crucial for Bath. They lurk in a close-knit mid-table group which includes their next two opponents, Exeter Chiefs and London Wasps. "We said this game would show us where we are and we have to get better," Ford said. "Our kicking game was poor and, in these conditions, if you don't kick well it's difficult to get any sort of platform."

Bath N Abendanon; H Agulla, K Eastmond, B Williams (D Hipkiss, 61), T Biggs; S Donald, M Claassens; P James (C Beech, 77), L Mears (T Dunn, 65), D Wilson (A Perenise, 77), S Hooper (capt), D Day (D Attwood, 61), F Louw, S Taylor, G Mercer.

Saracens C Wyles; C Ashton (J Short, 65), J Tomkins, O Farrell, D Strettle (D Taylor, 71); C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth (N de Kock, 51); M Vunipola (R Gill, 51), S Brits (J George, 65), M Stevens (P du Plessis, 65), S Borthwick (capt; E Sheriff, 15-19, 44-46, 73), M Botha, G Kruis, K Brown, W Fraser.

Referee G Garner (Warwickshire).


Try: Wigglesworth

Con: Hodgson

Pens: Hodgson 5


  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before