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Johann van Graan's verdict on Bath’s impressive victory over Saracens

By PA
Finn Russell of Bath Rugby looks to pass the ball during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Saracens and Bath Rugby at StoneX Stadium on October 21, 2023 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images)

Johann van Graan hailed Bath’s mental strength and tactical nous after an impressive 25-16 victory over defending champions Saracens at StoneX Stadium.

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The visitors went 7-0 down after an early Andy Christie try, but Tom de Glanville, Miles Reid and Ruaridh McConnochie put Bath in the driving seat at the break.

Alex Lozowski kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit to four points, but Thomas du Toit’s score secured the bonus-point win despite Chris Cloete’s yellow card in the closing stages.

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The result leaves Saracens bottom of the Premiership table, while Bath go top after successive bonus-point triumphs.

“The two things that stood out for me today were our mental toughness, we came back straight away with two tries,” said Bath coach Van Graan.

“Then just before half-time, it started to rain, but we adapted our plan and I felt we played the second half in the right parts of the pitch.

“Saracens are a club that I respect so much for what they have achieved on the pitch, and it was a tough battle.

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“We are very happy with the away win, since the first game in the Premiership Rugby Cup and last week, we know our ability to score tries is very important to us.

“The challenge for us is to make sure that we score more than we conceded, and we did that today, so I am very happy with the performance.

“It was a real 23 effort, even the three backs who came on for one minute, it is all about the squad.”

Despite seeing his Sarries side fall to back-to-back defeats, director of rugby Mark McCall was pleased his side improved on last week’s 65-10 loss against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.

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“We struggled at the scrum at times and gave away key penalties there, which gave them the platform to win the match really, but there was some good fight from the team after what happened last week,” said McCall.

“Every time we gave ourselves some field position or some glimmers of hope we kept on making mistakes, which is not surprising in those conditions.

“There is obviously disappointment overall, but some encouragement that we were a lot better and a lot more competitive than we were last week.

“Fair play to Bath, they were very good today, Finn Russell is obviously a good player, but I was more impressed with them as a team, to be honest.

“It is always difficult playing catch up when it was wet like it was, and you keep making simple or basic handling errors when we had some field position.

“We have to work hard and pull in the same direction, which we will, and try to get better week after week.”

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