Bath 18-9 Saracens: Rhys Priestland kicks six penalties as they stun Gallagher Premiership leaders at the Recreation Ground

8 Mar

Fly-half Rhys Priestland kicked six penalties as Bath finally managed to held on to a lead to topple second-placed Saracens 18-9 in the Gallagher Premiership.

The champions were missing their England contingent, but it was their ill-discipline which let them down on a wet night at the Recreation Ground, as well as a patchy goal-kicking display by Alex Lozowski.

Rhys Priestland was clinical from the tee for Bath

The result resurrected Bath’s hopes of a top-six finish after last-minute defeats in their last two games.

Priestland opened the scoring after five minutes after a Zach Mercer offload to Elliott Stooke got Bath behind the visitors’ defence and Saracens gave away a penalty under their posts.

Lozowski hooked a fairly straightforward kick at the other end soon after, but quickly made amends with an 11th-minute strike from 40 metres.

In steady rain, there were many more rucks than line-breaks and Saracens began to build pressure ominously with their driving play until Nathan Catt ripped the ball free on his own 22. The Bath loosehead was as busy as anyone in defence, helping to hold the Saracens runners on the gain-line.

British and Irish Lion Jonathon Joseph on the ball for the hosts

When presented with a kickable penalty at the other end, Priestland opted for a kick to touch. Stooke’s take was clean enough and the visitors infringed again at the breakdown. Priestland made the score 6-3 from close range.

With full-back Tom Homer, solid under the high ball despite the conditions, Bath began to play more expansively, although Priestland hit the post with another penalty attempt on the half-hour.

Surprisingly, it was the visitors’ handling skills that were suspect. Will Skelton spilled the ball in a tackle just inside the Bath 22 and Alex Goode dropped a simple pass from his scrum-half Ben Spencer.

Bath began to get the upper hand in the scrum and Priestland kicked a third penalty to earn a 9-3 half-time lead.

Alex Lozowski lacked accuracy with the boot

However, the Saracens front row turned the tables immediately after the break, earning a penalty that Lozowski landed from 30 metres.

Presented with another straightforward kick, Lozowski hooked it wide, but Priestland’s 22 drop-out was charged down by Skelton. Bath won the scrum, but Lozowski brought the scores level.

As the rain cleared away, Bath struggled at first to match the visitors’ intensity, but clawed their way back upfield on the back of their opponents’ indiscipline. Finally, replacement back row Ben Earl was sent to the bin just after the hour and Priestland booted Bath back in front.

But their discipline began to fray too, and a needless block off the ball by replacement hooker Ross Batty saw the home side reduced to 14 men for the last 10 minutes.

Lozowski was wide again with the kick, but Priestland made no mistake when presented with a difficult chance at the other end to put Bath 15-9 ahead after 75 minutes.

The Welsh fly-half put the result beyond doubt with his sixth penalty two minutes from time.

Don’t celebrate too early: Bath’s Freddie Burns tackled at last moment, loses match against Toulouse

13 Oct

Freddie Burns made a shocking error to cost his side Bath the match against Toulouse on Saturday.

The French side emerged victorious by a score of 22-20 in their Champions Cup opener, despite the fact it seemed their English opponents had the game won.

Having already missed a penalty right in front of the posts just minutes earlier, Burns then broke through and looked set to score the try which would steal victory for his side.

He was so confident of his triumph, that he started celebrating early and blew a kiss to the supporters before tapping the badge on his shirt.

Burns was consoled by his teammates after the defeat

Just as the full-back went to put the ball down to score, Maxime Medard of Toulouse poked it out of his hand before booting the ball away, leaving Burns distraught.

Burns collapsed to the ground and was subsequently taken off as his team went on to lose the match.

Gallagher Premiership: Billy Vunipola scores on Saracens return, Exeter continue good start, Bath and Gloucester draw in thriller

8 Sep

Here is the best from Saturday’s action in the Gallagher Premiership.

Saracens 44-23 Bristol

Billy Vunipola made a try-scoring comeback as Saracens pulled clear of Bristol in a dominant second half that underpinned a 44-23 Gallagher Premiership victory at Allianz Park.

Vunipola’s first appearance since re-fracturing his arm against South Africa in June totalled 36 minutes and the injury-ravaged England number eight was a menace throughout.

Saracens needed his firepower to subdue a resilient Bristol who led 18-13 at half time and suffered the injustice of seeing George Smith harshly sent off for a tackle on Jackson Wray when the score was delicately poised at 18-18.

Vunipola and Saracens turned the screw in the second-half

Smith’s challenge was at shoulder height and there was a clear attempt to use his right arm, but after repeated viewings referee Andrew Jackson reached for the red card. Wray departed for a head injury assessment and was unable to return.

The Australia Test centurion stared at Jackson in disbelief, received a sympathetic pat on the head from his head coach Pat Lam upon reaching the dugout and then watched as Saracens powered clear with tries from Vunipola and Liam Williams.

England lock Maro Itoje was lucky to escape punishment for a high tackle on Joe Joyce under the posts as Bristol staged a final-quarter comeback that ended when Williams plundered two additional tries to complete his own successful return from a groin problem.

Wasps 31-42 Exeter

Exeter beat Wasps 42-31 in an enthralling contest at the Ricoh Arena to continue their impressive start to the Gallagher Premiership season.

Henry Slade scored two of Exeter’s six tries

After last week’s 40-point demolition of Leicester at Sandy Park, the visitors overcame a 24-21 half-time deficit to run out deserved winners.

Sam Simmonds and Henry Slade both scored two tries for Chiefs, with Santiago Cordero and Don Armand also crossing and Gareth Steenson converting all six.

Elliot Daly, Josh Bassett, Dan Robson and Nathan Hughes scored Wasps’ tries, with Billy Searle adding three conversions and a penalty. Lima Sopoaga added a conversion.

Bath 31-31 Gloucester

Matt Banahan denied his former Bath team-mates a remarkable Gallagher Premiership victory as his late converted try secured Gloucester a 31-31 draw.

Banahan denied his old club the victory at the death

Ex-England wing Banahan, who joined Gloucester this summer following a long Bath career that saw him more than 250 appearances, struck two minutes from time, with Billy Twelvetrees’ conversion ensuring the points were shared.

Leicester 49-33 Newcastle

Leicester gave Geordan Murphy the perfect start as interim head coach as they came out on top in a thrilling 49-33 victory over Newcastle.

It had been a turbulent week for the Tigers with Matt O’Connor sacked on Monday following their 40-6 humiliation to Exeter in their Gallagher Premiership opener, leaving former Ireland and British & Irish Lions full-back Murphy in command on a temporary basis.

Murphy got off to a winning start as interim Leicester head coach

But the 40-year-old, who made 316 appearances for the Tigers, watched his men get off to a winning start against his old coach Dean Richards.