Record-breaking Saracens seal fifth straight bonus-point win after thrashing heavily-changed Bath

Saracens 50-27 Bath: Liam Williams scored a hat-trick while Alex Goode continued to push his unanswered England claims with another breathtaking display

Jack de Menezes
Allianz Park
Saturday 29 September 2018 17:48
Comments
Goode continues to be overlooked by England head coach Eddie Jones
Goode continues to be overlooked by England head coach Eddie Jones

Saracens maintained their relentless grip over the Premiership with a record-breaking fifth consecutive bonus-point victory as they routed a heavily-changed Bath side 50-27, yet there was still plenty to suggest that the reigning champions have more left in the tank.

Wales wing Liam Williams led the way with a hat-trick of tries while man-of-the-match Alex Goode scored one himself and set-up two others, but the pair between them left a further two scores out on the park while Billy Vunipola could easily have scored one himself early on. That Jamie George, Nick Tompkins, Sean Maitland and Christopher Tolofua also crossed in the eight-try victory removed any scrutiny from Owen Farrell, who unusually missed three of his conversion attempts in a week that saw reports of fatigue fears emerge over the fly-half, but Bath did not disgrace themselves as they they scored three tries themselves, with a Tom Homer double and a Chris Cook interception plus 10 points from Rhys Pristland’s reliable boot and a Freddie Burns conversion doing the damage, but the absence of multiple first-teamers ultimately left them shy of the impact needed to take on this Saracens side.

The 13 changes Todd Blackadder made to his starting line-up - choosing to leave out Zach Mercer and Joe Cokanasiga after their participation in this week’s England training camp plus the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Dave Attwood and Tom Dunn - did not go unnoticed, but with Exeter Chiefs up next week and the Heineken Champions Cup visit of Toulouse on the horizon, the decision to effectively throw the game was understandable, if not acceptable.

It’ll come as a surprise to absolutely no one to learn that Saracens had the try-scoring bonus point wrapped up inside 38 minutes. After all, this is a team that has claimed a match-day maximum in all four of their previous rounds this season. But what did come as a surprise was the unusually poor defence they displayed for Bath’s two first-half tries that, combined with Rhys Priestland’s excellent goal-kicking, kept the visitors well in the game.

At least with the ball Saracens were able to demonstrate the aspects that has seen them rise above the rest. Liam Williams’ first try of the match came through a sublime backs move through the hands, Goode produced the individual sparkle that litters this side, Jamie George’s showcased the sheer dominance of their pack with a shove-over score and Nick Tompkins put the icing on the cake with a try borne out of sheer persistence as he executed a clinical finish following lengthy phase work from the home side.

It should have been more, too. Billy Vunipola was guilty of going it alone early on that led to a turnover penalty, and when he chose the blindside from close-range he looked to be in for all money, only to pass to Maitland and see the chance disappear when he couldn’t finish. Goode too should also have added another, yet his smart chip-and-chase into space that left him with what must have felt like hours to dot the ball down failed to pay-off as he lost control of the ball when grounding.

Liam Williams got the ball rolling with the first of eight Saracens tries

When they were good, boy, Saracens were good. The first try was perhaps the best, as first-phase ball off a scrum on halfway saw the ball shifted through the hands of Brad Barritt first, and within the blink of an eye Farrell, Maitland and Goode, The full-back committed the defence, fed Williams and he did just enough to get outside the covering England wing Semesa Rokoduguni and stretch out with both hands to score.

Three minutes later Goode struck with a devastating line off Lozowski’s shoulder to carve through the Bath defence and go other unopposed, and had it not been for two Priestland penalties to punish Saracens’ ill-discipline, the match could’ve been out of Bath’s grasp within 15 minutes.

Alex Goode scored Saracens' second try against Bath

The floodgates were threatening to burst open when George rumbled over on the half-hour mark, but it appeared to stir Bath into life. Firstly, scrum-half Chris Cook picked off Richard Wigglesworth pass from a lineout to intercept and sprint 60 metres to score, and although Tompkins wrapped up the bonus point two minutes from the break as he dummied his way past two defenders, there was still enough time for full-back Darren Atkins to send Homer over in the corner on the stroke of half-time to send the sides in at a slender 26-20.

But just like the last two visits to Allianz Park, Bath were unable to live with the reigning champions after the break. Williams was quickly over for his second of the day when tighthead prop Titi Lamositele displayed the very best of his game to burst through Homer’s tackle and send Priestland the wrong way with a dummy before feeding the British and Irish Lions wing, and the hat-trick was completed in the 53rd minute courtesy of a flash of brilliance from the excellent Goode as he danced outside of Max Clark, sucked in three defenders and offloaded the ball over his head to the waiting arms of the Welshman who duly finished the try.

Goode's alley-oop style offload over his head sealed Liam Williams' hat-trick

Saracens were starting to run rampant, but again they let errors creep into their game and another attack on the Bath line saw Farrell intercepted by Homer, who went the distance to bag his second. That gave Bath hope, if not a victory then potentially a double-bonus-point as they pulled to within 11 of Saracens, but Maitland’s score in the corner put paid to those ambitions and there was enough time for replacement hooker Tolofua to finish from close-range to bring up the half-century and keep Saracens top of the tree for another week.

Teams

Saracens: Alex Goode; Liam Williams, Alex Lozowski, Brad Barritt (Nick Tompkins, 23), Sean Maitland (Alex Lewington, 69); Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth (Ben Spencer, 54); Mako Vunipola (Richard Barrington, 58), Jamie George (Christopher Tolofua, 58), Titi Lamositele (Christian Judge, 66); Maro Itoje (Will Skelton, 54), George Kruis; Nick Isiekwe, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola (Schalk Burger, 58).

Bath: Darren Atkins; Semesa Rokoduguni, Max Clark, Max Wright, Tom Homer; Rhys Priestland (Freddie Burns, 59), Chris Cook (Max Green, 59); Jacques van Rooyen (Lucas Noguera, 58), Jack Walker (Michael van Vuuren, 58), Anthony Perenise (Victor Delmas, 64); Charlie Ewels, Elliott Stooke (Levi Douglas, 58); Josh Bayliss, Francois Louw, Paul Grant (Miles Reid, 64).

Replacements not used: Jackson Willison.

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