A Friday night under the dazzling lights at the Rec in what promises to be a game full of great intensity, drama and exhilaration, these are games Bath fans live for.
Prior to kick off, Terrace Walk is filling up with crowds of fans outside the Huntsman Pub in exuberant spirits as they hope to see Todd Blackadder’s men claim a famous victory and resurrect their ambitions of securing a top four finish.
Mark, a lifelong and devoted Bath, spoke to me beforehand:
“This is a crucial game for us, we need to win after last week’s defeat to Harlequins. We’re missing big Joe (Cokanasiga), but I feel like we can cause Saracens problems with a dangerous back three of McConnochie, Wilson and Homer”
Making my way into the Stadium, you can sense the anticipation, with fans knowing only a win will keep hopes of achieving a top-four place alive.Embed from Getty Images
Within the Dyson Stand, fans are in touching distance of the likes of Rhys Priestland practicing a variety of kicks with a stern look of concentration as he nets his final penalty before the players make their way down the tunnel.
The players subsequently take to the pitch in the increasingly heavy rain, smashing itself down to the ground. Saracens are first out, wearing their all red strip with an aura of invincibility. Bath players then follow led by captain Will Chudley, with a fierce look of determination ingrained within his eyes as he leads the home side out to a sea of blue, black and white fans.
In a physical first half, Bath have the half time advantage courtesy of three Priestland penalties, with only a solitary Lozowski penalty Saracens only score.Embed from Getty Images
Players are finding it difficult to play expansive rugby in the torrential rain while there are ferocious hits coming in from the Bath defensive line as bodies wholeheartedly collide into one another, with the deafening sound of the collisions echoing around the stadium.
In the second half, Saracens increase their pressure, aggression and line speed following a lacklustre first half but the home side continue to stand firm against the relentless pressure, despite a couple of Lozowski penalties. The scrappy affair is epitomized by late yellow cards for both Saracens back row Ben Earl and Bath Hooker Ross Batty.
As the final whistle blows, Bath’s players euphorically congratulate one another. Manager Todd Blackadder can’t show his elation at his side’s performance for too long though, as he hastily races his way down the tunnel speak to an array of journalists.
Fans are delighted with the result and performance of the home side.
I spoke to general manager Stuart Hooper, who earned 177 caps for Bath in his eight years at the club, who was thoroughly pleased with the home side’s display.
“The lads were outstanding today. We know we needed a good result beforehand to keep in touch of the play off place’s and the boys delivered a great performance full of character in tough conditions”
Meanwhile, Saracens coach Mark Sanderson expressed his disappointment following the game, highlighting his side poor first half’s display.
“In the first half we were poor. We lost the collisions, uncharacteristically gave away a lot of needless penalties.
“Although we applied more pressure on Bath in the second half, our set-piece let us down and ultimately we see it as a missed opportunity”
As fans exited the ground in delirious, there were a sense of optimism within the air. Bath have well and truly ignited their chances of securing a top four finish.