Bath 17 Saracens 71
Eddie Jones was at The Rec to witness an X-rated exhibition from Saracens, who ran in 10 tries to inflict a painful palindrome on their insipid hosts.
Bath were dreadful. A fourth defeat of the season keeps them at the bottom of the Premiership table and their first-half performance, in which they shipped 45 points without mustering one, amounted to a humiliating surrender. But Saracens issued a library of statements.
As a collective, the club reinforced their ruthlessness. On the eve of an England squad announcement, convincing cases were made. Max Malins scored a hat-trick. Billy Vunipola was exceptional on both sides of the ball. His brother Mako excelled. Jamie George added two tries. Ben Earl, a fourth forward to be omitted from England’s latest training squad, looked fiercely motivated.
“Billy has been good anyway, but I thought he was unreal today,” said Mark McCall afterwards. “Mako as well. There is a new [England] squad announced tomorrow and I think they deserve to be in there.”
This was Maro Itoje’s first Premiership fixture for a year and a fortnight, since these teams drew 17-17 in North London, and Sam Underhill clattered him in the opening minute. It proved a momentary hiccup. Saracens dusted themselves off.
Malins, on the left wing as he had been for England at Twickenham against USA in July, cut down Anthony Watson and Earl swooped to win a penalty. Owen Farrell converted for a 3-0 lead and soon had his tee back.
Alex Lozowski glided down the Saracens right, breaching the 22, before Nick Tompkins and Aled Davies made ground. Billy Vunipola bumped, rolled and lifted an offload to Itoje, who strode through passive tackling to score.
Even when Jonathan Joseph’s break put the visitors under pressure, Itoje spoiled two lineouts. Nick Isiekwe then forced a fumble out of Charlie Ewels and, from the resulting turnover, Billy Vunipola drove a grubber down-field cleverly. Had it not been carried out by Tom de Glanville, it would have been a Saracens throw because of the 50-22 law anyway.
Itoje gathered the lineout and the backs were released, Sean Maitland wrapping around Alex Goode to feed Malins. Saracens pulled 17-0 in front.
Underhill’s carrying did cause dents. However, the resistance of Saracens was epitomised by two moments. Earl stole in for a second jackal turnover under his own posts and then Billy Vunipola tracked across to cut down Joseph brilliantly.
A flashpoint arrived in the 27th minute. Maitland chased a high ball and up-ended De Glanville to jeers from home supporters, who wanted a Bath penalty. Instead, Will Muir was collared for obstructing Maitland. Farrell dinked into the corner and a driving maul carried over George.
The bonus-point was sewn up before the half-hour mark, in trademark Saracens style. Itoje rushed Beno Obano into an inaccurate pass and Danny Cipriani looped the ball towards midfield aimlessly. It found only Malins, who gathered and ran 50 metres unopposed.
On the stroke of half-time, Farrell palmed away Cipriani. Tompkins dodged tackles and Goode’s pass was deflected by Watson. Bath stopped. Saracens did not. Mako Vunipola fed Earl, who dotted down.
Still, Saracens were not satisfied. A scrum penalty brought a close-range lineout and George registered his double. Farrell’s conversion made it 45-0 at the break.
Bath responded at the start of the second period. Josh Bayliss charged down Farrell and released Underhill, who galloped close. Saracens regrouped but De Glanville sliced them to score.
Itoje then left the field after receiving treatment, which disrupted the rhythm of the massacre until Eroni Mawi tracked replacement scrum-half Ivan van Zyl to spin over. Earl’s third breakdown turnover earned dangerous field position minutes later and Malins completed his hat-trick out wide.
Watson limped off with 15 minutes left, although thankfully for Jones the injury was not as serious as it had initially appeared. Any relief on Bath’s part was short-lived. Rotimi Segun bagged Saracens’ ninth try on the back of Billy Vunipola’s quick-tap penalty and another replacement, Dom Morris, made it double figures in the same corner.
Ironic cheers rose up from Bath’s finish, with Tom Ellis scoring from a pushover and Orlando Bailey fashioning a try for Will Muir. The players themselves appeared sheepish. Saracens were not so much superior as out of sight.
“It’s as bad as it gets, what you’ve seen there today,” conceded Stuart Hooper, the Bath director of rugby, who must be under pressure.
“We have a group of young men desperate to do well and it’s too easy to turn your back and have conversations in the corridor, so let’s front up.”
Scoring (Saracens first): 3-0 Farrell penalty, 8-0 Itoje try, 10-0 Farrell conversion, 15-0 Malins try, 17-0 Farrell conversion, 22-0 George try, 24-0 Farrell conversion, 29-0 Malins try, 31-0 Farrell conversion, 36-0 Earl try, 38-0 Farrell conversion, 43-0 George try, 45-0 Farrell try, 45-5 De Glanville try, 45-7 Cipriani conversion, 50-7 Mawi try, 52-7 Farrell conversion, 57-7 Malins try, 59-7 Farrell conversion, 64-7 Segun try, 69-7 Morris try, 71-7 Goode conversion, 71-12 Ellis try, 71-17 Muir try
Bath: T de Glanville; A Watson (Green, 64), J Joseph (R McConnochie), M Ojomoh, W Muir; D Cipriani (O Bailey, 52), O Fox; B Obano (L Boyce, 57), T Dunn (J du Toit, 57), W Stuart (D Rae, 65), J McNally, C Ewels (M Williams, 52), M Reid (T Ellis, 35), S Underhill, J Bayliss
Saracens: A Goode; S Maitland, A Lozowski (D Morris, 63), N Tompkins, M Malins; O Farrell (R Segun, 62), A Davies (I van Zyl, 51); M Vunipola (E Mawi, 51), J George (T Woolstencroft, 51), M Riccioni (V Koch, 33), M Itoje (A Christie, 47), T Swinson, N Isiekwe, B Earl (S Reffell, 60), B Vunipola
Referee: J Makepeace