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Bath brush aside Saracens to claim final Heineken Champions Cup spot

By PA
Johan van Graan - PA

Bath ran in nine tries in a 61-29 win over a game Saracens second string to snatch the last Heineken Champions Cup spot next season from local rivals Bristol.

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Hooker Tom Dunn scored a hat-trick as Johann van Graan’s resurgent side notched a fourth successive Gallagher Premiership victory, a run that has propelled the club from the bottom of the table to that all-important eighth qualifying place.

The Rec broke into wild celebration as news came through from Ashton Gate that Bristol’s winning margin against Gloucester had not been enough.

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Bath had led within three minutes of kick-off after Miles Reid won a line-out and popped up again to finish off a series of pulverising drives by his team-mates, with Ben Spencer adding the conversion.

Saracens’ youngsters opted for a wider game and soon fashioned an overlap on the right for the speedy Rotimi Segun to touch down an unconverted try.

The home side’s strong mauling game claimed a useful scalp when Saracens loosehead Eroni Mawi was sin-binned for offside and it proved even more costly when Dunn immediately finished off a catch-and-drive from the line-out for his 10th try of the season.

Spencer’s conversion took his side into a 14-5 lead after 12 minutes, but the visitors were giving as good as they got in the early stages.

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While Bath’s approach was narrow and predictable, Saracens made intelligent use of meagre possession and centre Olly Hartley was put clear with a deft pass from fly-half Manu Vunipola, who added the conversion.

England tighthead Will Stuart was close to claiming another try for Bath’s pack but the quick-thinking Josh Hallett scored again at the other end for Saracens, leaving Vunipola with a simple conversion to make it 19-14 to the league leaders.

The lead see-sawed as Beno Obano forced his way over from close range, Spencer converting again, only for hooker Ethan Lewis to finish off a catch-and-drive which gave Saracens a try bonus point and a 24-21 half-time lead.

It was a far more purposeful Bath side that emerged from the break, suddenly favouring quick line-out ball as Saracens’ discipline began to fray and Ted Hill’s surge to the line presented Obano with a try under the posts.

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There were still reminders of Bath’s power in the maul as Dunn found the try-line twice in four minutes to complete his hat-trick and all-but end Saracens challenge.

Although Vunipola weaved 60 metres to score a remarkable virtuoso try for the visitors, Chris Cloete featured twice in a line-out move to restore Bath’s 20-point lead, thanks to Spencer’s conversion.

Orlando Bailey then rounded off a length-of-the-field move and converted his own try, Bath’s eighth, as they passed the 50-mark before Ollie Lawrence raced away to touch down in injury time to complete the scoring.

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

Bath Rugby v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Recreation Ground

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J
Jon 13 minutes ago
Buoyant England travel to New Zealand full of hope but are they walking into an All Blacks ambush?

> New head coach Scott Robertson has kept only forwards coach Jason Ryan and conditioning coach Nic Gill from the previous regime *and so there is little institutional knowledge inherent in the new team.* Shows you what the English know about sport. Isn’t just fantastic that the best rugby team, or brand, on the planet has three brothers playing together? One a bull, the other a dancer, and last a .. boxer? Looks like a boxer bless him. > But Robertson has been working to fix that issue, with senior players and coaches having been regularly meeting to work out how they will operate together both on and off the field to ensure there is strong decision-making and a deep understanding of how the team wants to play. Have they? I would suggest then it is not a case of fixing things, that is not what Razor does. Razor will evolve the relationship between player and coach into a more symbiotic relationship. This wont be a coach that shouts down at his players theyre not doing good enough. I can imagine one of the first key areas he will be implementing is the respective leadership for each coaching group. Tight five, Loosies, Halves, Centers, and Back Three, will each have their own leadership team and an agile approach to the playing group relaying what they believe is happening on the training paddock, and in games. It will be a very big step to get everyone involved, able, and thinking about contributing to that process, but I believe a very beneficial one if successful. > England may have their best chance to win in 21 years, but they may also be walking into an ambush – *about to be hit* by a young, gifted, supremely physical and athletic All Blacks team coached by a man who has made every post a winner so far in his career and has this uncanny knack of getting the best out of people. Or, by a group hurting from not getting over the line and proving to everyone they are the best in the world, full of experience and cohesion, grit and motivation. You only need to look at someone like Patrick Tuipulotu to see someone with a fire under his belly from missing out on the last RWC due to injury, and having lost to this opposition in the previous one. It will be very interesting to see how this ‘Razor’ plays it. Does he stick with the traditional and protect the time honored All Black values of commitment, or does he evolve and pick the best players to win the Rugby Championship - and by association this test series - like Akira Ioane?

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