Last-gasp Voyce leaves Bath and the Rec crew in good heart

Bath 27 Saracens 19 Agg: 57-57; Bath win on tries scored

Hugh Godwin@HughGodwin_
Monday 20 January 2014 02:29
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Two legs good, so far as Bath are concerned. For the third Parker Pen Challenge Cup tie in a row, the Rec crew came back from losing the first match to do the necessary in the second, this time on try count.

The cumulative try tally moved to 6-5 in Bath's favour when Tom Voyce squeezed in at the left corner in the fifth minute of added time, but it still required Ollie Barkley's conversion from a testing position to prevent Saracens going through.

Whether Bath can enjoy the same success when it comes to the one-off final, against Wasps at Reading on 25 May, is open to question. They will certainly be second favourites. Nor will their long-suffering supporters be too chuffed to have had it confirmed yesterday that, should their team be relegated from the Premiership in the meantime, winning the Parker Pen will not be enough to write their name into next season's Heineken Cup. The politics of English rugby dictate that only a Premiership club will be put forward. All the more incentive for Bath to get the points they need from their remaining matches, against Bristol and Newcastle.

Had Saracens prevailed, they would have faced the same conundrum. They thought they had done so, when Andy Goode put over a penalty two minutes into added time for a match scoreline of 20-19 to Bath. Goode punched the air, Abdel Benazzi, the French-Moroccan who had previously been whirling like a Dervish after a couple of heavy knocks, looked equally exultant.

But the restart led to several phases of Bath possession, a half-break up the middle by Barkley, and quick recycling out to the left where Kevin Maggs put Voyce over. The stands on the far side of the Rec rocked, before falling into silence while Barkley lined up the crucial kick. Over it went, and after a moment's confusion while referee David McHugh confirmed he had blown the final whistle, Bath celebrated.

They might have expected that it would come to the very last knockings, having won here against Northampton in the Powergen Cup and London Irish in the league in similar circumstances this season. Their newly-found all-action hero, Elvis Seveali'i, was at it again, claiming his fifth try in six matches since arriving from New Zealand at the end of a neat line-out move in the 33rd minute. Danny Grewcock won the catch, Andy Long peeled round to feed Gareth Cooper, and the scrum-half popped Seveali'i through a gap. All it needed from Elvis was a swivel of the hips, a curl of the lip and an "ah-ha-ha" as he sidestepped Tim Horan.

Barkley's conversion made it 17-3 to Bath at half-time (after they had lost the first leg at Watford, 38-30). Earlier, Grewcock, the captain, scored his first try in almost two seasons with Bath since signing from Saracens, and Barkley's conversion and a penalty were answered only by a penalty for the visitors by Nicky Little.

But Bath's vulnerability was evident when Saracens stole back in front on aggregate, a minute into the second half. Horan joined a simple threequarter line move, drew three defenders, and chipped through for Darragh O'Mahony to score. Little converted before being replaced by Goode, who exchanged a penalty apiece with Barkley, then dropped a goal from about 45 metres' distance.

In the midst of it all, Saracens lost Kyran Bracken and Horan to injury, joining Thomas Castaignède as doubts for Tuesday's Premiership match at home to Bristol.

Iain Balshaw's comeback for Bath after three months crocked also ended early as the England full-back limped off. Bath's lost a couple of line-outs, Goode missed a couple of penalty attempts, and it seemed no one wanted to lurch over the finishing line. Ultimately, Voyce did, to Bath and Barkley's benefit.

Bath: M Perry (T Voyce, 12); I Balshaw, K Maggs, M Tindall, E Seveali'i; O Barkley, G Cooper; D Barnes, A Long, J Mallett (M Stevens, 68), S Borthwick (J Scaysbrook, 62-65), D Grewcock (capt), G Thomas (Scaysbrook, 65), N Thomas, A Beattie (G Delve, h-t)

Saracens: T Horan (B Johnston, 59); R Haughton, T Shanklin, K Sorrell, D O'Mahony; N Little (A Goode, 44), K Bracken (capt; D Kirton, 53)); M Storey, R Russell, C Califano (J Marsters, h-t), C Yandell (S Hooper, 60), A Benazzi, R Peacey, K Chesney (B Skirving, 74), T Roques.

Referee: D McHugh (Ireland).

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