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Owen Farrell's heroics dent Bath's title challenge

REPORT: Reigning champions Saracens put one foot in the Premiership play-offs after Owen Farrell’s late penalty sunk title rivals Bath 15-12 at the Recreation Ground.

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Farrell’s 78th-minute strike meant that Saracens climbed above Bath into second place, three points behind leaders Northampton Saints, following a performance that crackled with intensity.

But they had to withstand a fierce Bath fightback from 12 points adrift as tries either side of the hour-mark from replacements Thomas du Toit and Cameron Redpath, plus a Ben Spencer conversion, threatened a famous home win.

Saracens took charge through first-half tries by wings Tom Parton and Rotimi Segun, while Farrell kicked a conversion and match-winning penalty.

The former England captain, who will join French club Racing 92 this summer, impressed throughout, combining an immaculate kicking game with astute tactical appreciation.

And the end result was a priceless win on the road as Saracens chase a sixth Premiership crown in the last 10 seasons.

Bath were eager to put pace and width on the ball, with centres Max Ojomoh and Ollie Lawrence prominent during promising early flurries, but Saracens struck first after 12 minutes.

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Fullback Elliot Daly and centre Lucio Cinti worked their way in behind Bath’s defence, before Cinti’s midfield partner Nick Tompkins fired out a long pass and Parton finished comfortably.

Farrell missed the touchline conversion attempt, but Saracens were off and running in front of England head coach Steve Borthwick.

Kicking dominated the contest, with Saracens content to play a tight game that revolved around major ball carriers Ben Earl and Juan Martin Gonzalez, and Bath found it hard going breaking down such impressive organisation.

Things ramped up a gear 10 minutes before half-time when Saracens’ England lock Maro Itoje made head-to-head contact with Bath number eight Alfie Barbeary.

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Referee Luke Pearce consulted with television match official David Rose before brandishing a yellow card, meaning 10 minutes off for Itoje when it could have been considerably worse.

Saracens made progress approaching the interval when prop Eroni Mawi’s pass sent No.8 Tom Willis clear, and it took an outstanding tackle by Bath wing Will Muir on Gonzalez to prevent a try.

But Bath’s defence was then unlocked courtesy of a well-placed Farrell kick, and Segun touched down in the corner before Farrell’s conversion opened up a 12-0 interval lead.

Saracens had the bit between their teeth, and Earl’s pass to Parton split Bath’s defence on halfway before Joe Cokanasiga managed to stop any further try-scoring threat.

It took Bath 56 minutes to establish any kind of threat inside Saracens’ 22, yet they made it count after two driven line-outs in quick succession ended with Du Toit crashing over close range.

Bath were at it again six minutes later, inflicting more pain on Saracens’ defence as another relentless driving maul this time delivered a try for Redpath, with Spencer’s conversion levelling things up early in the final quarter.

But some opportunism from Farrell inside his own 22 set up a thrilling Saracens counter-attack and created a scrum platform only five metres from Bath’s line.

And Bath could not hold out, conceding a penalty that Farrell duly landed from in front of the posts.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries: Du Toit, Redpath
Con: Spencer

For Saracens:
Tries: Parton, Segun
Con: Farrell
Pen: Farrell

Teams

Bath: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Will Muir, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Archie Griffin, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Jaco Coetzee

Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Tom Parton, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Aled Davies, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jamie George, 1 Eroni Mawi
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Toby Knight, 22 Ivan van Zyl, 23 Alex Goode

Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys, John Meredith
TMO: David Rose

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