Bath snatched a win away from title favourites Saracens in another engaging and thrilling Aviva Premiership encounter. Here is what we learned from the contest:
Head/neck injuries are scarier than ever
Rugby union is a tough sport. It is a sport where players are rarely 100% fit and healthy coming into a game, yet they put their bodies on the line for 80 minutes, regardless. This is as true at the top professional level as it is where people play on parks and fields at the rec level all over the world.
That is why it is so scary when a player goes down, and stays down, with any head or neck ailment.
The player in question in this game was Bath scrum half Chris Cook. Cook slipped on his way in to make a tackle, crushing the top of his head against a Sarries player’s hip. It looked awkward in real time and it looked even worse on the replay. Thankfully, he was up after five or so minutes treatment, but when a player doesn’t move, it is very easy to think the worst in this day and age.
Kahn Fotuali’i is as wily as they come
There was one moment in this game from Bath scrum half Kahn Fotuali’i that made the headlines. We will get to that shortly. Even before that though, the Bath replacement #9 had altered the game with his wily, veteran ways. Fotuali’i is a scrum half who has back rower ability around the breakdown. He is so strong over the ball when trying to poach it away; it is like having three flankers on the pitch at times. He stole a ball early when Saracens were attacking and was a threat to do the same throughout the match.
The Samoan international also bought the penalty at the end of the first half that saw Bath take a 14-0 lead into the break with a piece of quick thinking. By drilling a retreating Schalk Brits with the ball – something that he is entitled to do within the law – he showed that he is aware of what is around him and how he can make a move to alter the flow of the game. It was a veteran move, and one that incensed Brits, but it was also the right move to make.
Bath is the real deal
With wins over Leicester at Welford Road and now Saracens, this Bath side has made a huge mark after two weeks of the Premiership season. It has been a long, long time since Bath won anything, but fans at The Rec were quietly confident coming into the season that this year would be different.
The Bath back line is studded with international players at the top of their game and their pack will only get better as injured players return, especially in the front row. Their defensive line speed gave the north London side trouble all day long and they now have wins over two of their chief rivals for the title before we even hit October.
Sarries had no business losing this game
In the first half, this one was all about the home side. Bath built a 14-0 lead off of the back of some pinpoint kicking from Rhys Priestland and a try from flanker Francois Louw. Louw – playing in the wide channels where he is especially dangerous – powered through a couple of tackles to go in for the score.
The visitors, however, had a trick or two up their sleeves. A bench loaded with international talent paid dividends for Sarries as Liam Williams, Owen Farrell, and Mako Vunipola, all came on and made a difference. A penalty try, penalties, and a Ben Spencer score had Saracens ahead late, and they just needed to close out the match. Add in the fact that Bath were only playing with 14 men after Anthony Watson went off win a shoulder injury and Saracens only had to hold on to the ball to win the game.
Unfortunately, they found themselves undone and they only have themselves to blame because…
Semesa Rokoduguni is a freak of nature
At 21-17 down with two minutes to go this one was over. Bath – as mentioned above – only had 14 men on the field and the one missing was a world class finisher in Watson. Thankfully for Bath they have another ace on their squad.
Rokoduguni is one of those players that changes a game on his own. His try to put Bath ahead came out of literally nothing. A first receiver is not supposed to break the line and score at this level, let alone when there are just a couple of minutes left in the game and everyone knows who the danger men are. Rokoduguni is just too good though. As demonstrated by his two tries in the last couple of minutes to steal a win for his side.
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