31 May 2015

Saracens smother Bath to lift English title

9:12 am on 31 May 2015

Saracens overwhelmed Bath with a three-try first-half blitz and a supreme display of aggressive, destructive rugby to secure a 28-16 victory in the English Premiership final at Twickenham.

Saracens' Owen Farrell kicking for goal.

Saracens' Owen Farrell kicking for goal. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

In a game billed as a showdown between Bath's ambitious attack and Saracens' pragmatic, squeezing game it was the London club's approach that proved decisive as they dominated the first half to lead 25-3 with tries by first-five Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Chris Wyles.

Bath, seeking their first title since 1996, briefly found their fluidity after the restart as a Jonathan Joseph try and George Ford's third penalty cut the deficit and raised the hopes of their fans in the 80,589 crowd.

But Saracens showed all their big-game temperament to close the game out and, having scraped into the playoffs on the final day of the season, became the first side to finish outside the top two to go on and lift the crown.

"We've had to work hard coming into this game and it's pulled us together," said Farrell, named man of the match after scoring 18 points with a try, three penalties and two conversions.

Saracens drew first blood after six minutes when Farrell's one-handed flick wrong-footed the Bath defence and the number 10 was on hand to receive the return from Duncan Taylor and cross.

They grabbed a second try seven minutes later when Bath hooker Ross Batty failed to gather a pass and his opposite number Jamie George, who was yesterday added to the England World Cup squad in place of the banned Dylan Hartley, scooped it up and showed winger-speed to gallop home.

Another interception by Taylor on the halfway line sent Saracens forward again and, after some neat footwork by David Strettle, Chris Wyles finished things off.

Since the playoffs began in 2003 no team had come from behind at halftime to win but Bath at least came out fighting as a Ford penalty and a trademark sidestep by centre Joseph for their opening try reduced the deficit to 25-13.

Ford and Farrell then exchanged penalties but as both teams tired the tighter game suited Saracens and their remarkably disciplined defence.

Saracens, appearing in their fourth final in the last six years having lost in extra time to Northampton last year and then beaten by Toulon in the Heineken Cup final, never looked like letting things slip as they took their second title in five years and completed a domestic double having also won the LV Cup.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.