Farrell inspires Saracens to Premiership final win over Bath
Sarries become the first side to win title after finishing outside the league’s top two
Saracens lifted the Premiership after a 28-16 win over Bath at Twickenham. Photograph: Reuters
Bath 16 Saracens 28
Saracens created Aviva Premiership history at Twickenham as they beat Bath 28-16 to be crowned English champions for a second time in five years.
And in doing so, they became the first club since Premiership play-offs were introduced 12 years ago to lift silverware after finishing outside the top two following a 22-game regular season.
Bath, despite blazing into the final following a campaign when they scored tries for fun, were blitzed as Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell, hooker Jamie George and wing Chris Wyles claimed touchdowns during a dominant opening 40 minutes that saw Saracens take a commanding 25-3 lead.
Farrell added 13 points from the boot, giving him an 18-point haul, but he could yet find himself in trouble from the match citing commissioner following a high tackle early in the game that forced Bath full-back and his England colleague Anthony Watson off.
Bath rallied for a second-half fightback that delivered a Jonathan Joseph try, while his England team-mate George Ford kicked 11 points, but Saracens’ clinical first-half display underpinned their title march.
They remain a model of consistency under rugby director Mark McCall, and while Bath will undoubtedly live to fight another day, they were given a ruthless lesson in how to prosper on English rugby’s biggest stage.
A team that had scored 79 tries in 23 Premiership games before the final were left in their starting blocks by a Saracens side who always looked a step ahead, both mentally and physically.
And after suffering a European Champions Cup semi-final exit against Clermont Auvergne last month, domestic silverware did not elude them, with Bath left to offer no genuine complaints at the outcome.
Both teams were predictably unchanged following impressive semi-final victories seven days ago, and Bath made a bright start as they looked to get wing Semesa Rokoduguni immediately involved.
Farrell was then penalised for a high tackle on Watson, but no further action was taken by referee Wayne Barnes, and Farrell responded by scoring the final’s opening try.
Bath struggled to cope with the pace of Saracens’ rumoured Clermont Auvergne target David Strettle out wide, and after possession was recycled at pace, number eight Billy Vunipola’s midfield interjection helped Farrell to touchdown via a pass from centre Duncan Taylor.
Farrell converted as Watson left the field for a head injury assessment. Saracens continued to dominate territory, and such pressure resulted in a second try after 13 minutes.
A midfield fumble between Bath hooker Ross Batty and wing Matt Banahan offered Saracens the glimmer of a chance, and George, who was called into England’s World Cup training squad on Friday as replacement for the axed Dylan Hartley, galloped away to score following a 30-metre run.
Watson did not return to the action, being replaced on a permanent basis by Ollie Devoto, and a 21st-minute Farrell penalty opened up a commanding 15-point advantage.
Ford opened Bath’s account shortly afterwards, but Saracens finished a dominant opening period in charge by adding 10 more unopposed points.
Bath again struggled to cope with the ball in open play, and superb approach work by George and Saracens prop Mako Vunipola created an opportunity that Wyles gratefully accepted.
Bath could not wait for the half-time whistle to arrive, but a Farrell conversion and another penalty took him to 15 points and gave Saracens a commanding 25-3 interval advantage.
Bath had come out firing for the second period, and they gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Ford kicked a penalty and Joseph danced through Saracens’ defence for a try that Ford converted.
At 25-13 adrift, Bath had at least given themselves half a chance, before another Ford penalty approaching the end of the third quarter gave Saracens further cause for concern.
Farrell resumed normal business by kicking a penalty 18 minutes from time, which meant that Bath still had it all to do as they found themselves chasing the clock and the scoreboard.
Saracens, though, were made of strong stuff mentally and physically, and Bath could not get close enough to seriously threaten one of Twickenham’s great fightbacks, as Premiership silverware deservedly made its way to Hertfordshire.