Bath brush aside Saracens to claim final Heineken Champions Cup spot
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Gavin Hastings, was playing was he? 🤔Go to comments
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