Bath returned to the ‘top six’ of the Gallagher Premiership, with an 18-9 win over Saracens. The reliable boot of Rhys Priestland triumphed over the erratic kicking of Alex Lozowski, in a tryless encounter.
James Barker was at The Rec for Last Word on Rugby, and brings you all the Bath vs Saracens post-match reaction from the coaches and players.
Last night was a game no-one wanted to miss 😂 pic.twitter.com/8RY2p0W0zS
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) March 9, 2019
Mark McCall laments ill-discipline
The Saracens Director of Rugby cut a quiet figure whilst speaking to the media; perhaps understandably after another defeat on the road.
McCall highlighted lost collisions as a problem area in the first half. He said “I’m not sure why we were the way we were in the first half. I thought we were much better in that regard in the second half. This put Bath under pressure more and we got down in their half and gave ourselves the chance to get something out of the game”.
However, he highlighted that another aspect of their game then hampered his side. “Our set piece let us down in a pretty huge way in the second half and we continued to give a lot of penalties away. That was at the set piece more than anything else.
“It was lost collisions in the first half and poor set piece in the second half”
Alex Lozowski and ‘salary cap allegations’ not to blame for defeat
McCall refused to put the blame on Alex Lozowski’s shoulders following missed kicks. “Alex has kicked well for us for many matches. We had a couple of chances to level things with ten minutes to go and then when the man was in the sin bin, a bit of a golden opportunity which we blew”.
Asked whether allegations about salary cap compliance had affected the team, McCall replied “I don’t think it would be fair to use that as some sort of excuse. Bath were just the hungrier side and the better side in the first half.
“I’m pleased we had a reaction and gave ourselves a chance to get something from the game n the last ten minutes”.
Todd Blackadder “furious” with Ross Batty
In his pre-match programme notes, Blackadder said he wanted his side to be ‘well out of reach’ before the last play of the game. Therefore the yellow card to Ross Batty with the scores at 12-9 understandably frustrated the Kiwi.
“I’m relieved about the result, but I’m absolutely furious at that yellow card and the situation that puts us in. It was the same thing at Worcester when it was a red card [for Ross Batty]. Our gameplan was to work hard at the back, so to get a shot on and get a yellow card, to then have to take Zach [Mercer] off was just stupidity.
“That could easily have been a Saracens win off the back of that and it’s those little things we’ve got eradicate from our game”.
Blackadder praised a “good consolidated effort by everyone” but highlighted the forwards work in particular. He elaborated, “it was an arm wrestle and we got the better of it I think.
“I thought our set-piece was really good, our lineout was really good, our decision making was really good. Your set-piece has to stand up against a team like Saracens. I thought our defence was outstanding.
“We basically based our game on kick chase and counter-rucking, putting pressure on them and trying to outwork Sarries in that area. It was heavily contested but we knew we had to put bodies into the breakdown, slow their ball down and put their kicking game under pressure”.
Nathan Catt enjoyed ‘decent arm wrestle’ in Tough Conditions
Prop Nathan Catt brought an upbeat outlook to the press room, saying: “It was enjoyable, a bit slower which makes it easier for us guys [the forwards]. It was a good fun game to play in, a decent arm wrestle which obviously it was always going to be in those conditions”.
Finally, asked about how this result will affect Bath’s Premiership run to the playoffs, Catt said “We obviously targeted winning all of these [recent block] games. We didn’t manage to get the last couple but the league it so tight so this gives us massive confidence that we’re still in with a shout.
“It’s exciting, we’ve still got everything to fight for going into the back end of the season”.
Bath vs Saracens: the Last Word
Todd Blackadder mentioned that it was clear what tactics are needed to beat Saracens and his side ‘got it spot on’. Limiting Saracens to very few opportunities in the red zone. It was the perfect response to recent defeats and sets them up for a top-four push.
For Saracens, they will probably not be overly worried that Exeter may now be able to pull away in top spot. Harlequins could close the gap [to second place] to five points but, those two sides meet at Wembley in the next round.
A home semifinal still looks odds on, and few would bet against Saracens being at Twickenham in June …..despite recent results.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images