An awesome first half display was enough for Saracens to secure their second Premiership title beating Bath 28-16. Here are my 5 talking points after the Aviva Premiership Final.
5 Talking Points after the Aviva Premiership Final
1: Should Owen Farrell Have Been Sent Off?
Owen Farrell was vital to Saracens victory scoring 18 of their 28 points and this was enough to earn him the man of the match award. However, there is an argument that he should not have been on the pitch after an early high tackle on Bath full back Anthony Watson.
Referee Wayne Barnes deemed that a penalty was all that was warranted from the tackle but Watson didn’t recover and left the game soon after Farrell scored the game’s opening try. It was a bitter pill for Bath to swallow and head coach Mike Ford was furious that the tackle went unpunished.
“It was an illegal challenge square on the nose and we lost one of our best players. The other guy stayed on and got man of the match.” After the game citing officer Mike Rafter was of the opinion that the tackle merited an official warning. Effectively half way between a yellow and red card not that this mattered to Bath after the game.
2: Sarries Defence was the best form of Attack
It was hardly a surprise that Saracens win came on the back of a solid defence but what was surprising was the ease by which they coped with Bath’s much vaunted attack. Saracens are the king of punishing mistakes and Saturday’s game was no exception.
Sarries scored the game’s opening try capitalising on George Ford’s failed clearance kick for touch. Farrell eventually got over after some fine work from Alex Goode, David Strettle and Billy Vunipola. The next try came from a Kyle Eastmond misplaced pass that Jamie George capitalised on and ran in from 35 metres for a stunning try.
Their third try also came on the back of Bath trying to force the game and another midfield mistake and an outrageous piece of skill by David Strettle with Chris Wyles scoring in the left hand corner. Big defences clearly have the ability to win big games.
3: Strettle Skill the Standout Highlight of the Game
In truth this year’s Premiership Final was effectively over by half time. This was in part to a touch of sublime skill from Clermont Auvergne bound wing David Strettle. He flicked Duncan Taylor’s offload with his boot back into his hands to keep a move that was nearly dead going.
Unlike everyone else in the crowd and at home that saw this ridiculous piece of skill, Strettle didn’t marvel at what he had just done, he went on and broke through another tackle, provided quick ball so that his side could easily score in the opposite corner for the game clinching third try.
The former Harlequins winger has been sensational all season for Saracens and he will be badly missed when he moves onto pastures new next season. Sadly, his participation in England’s training squad might be under threat with the news of his move to Clermont.
4: Set Piece Dominance Laid Platform for Sarries Win
When Saracens are at their best they do the simple things well. They defend to a high level, make their tackles and take advantage of opportunities that their opponent’s give them. On top of this the Sarries game plan revolves around a very strong set piece.
In the Premiership Final against Bath the achieved dominance in the set piece and especially at the scrum. Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Petrus Du Plessis eviscerated their opposite numbers and this made the rest of the team’s job much easier.
Jacques Burger and Billy Vunipola did not have as big a games as usual at the breakdown and this was mainly down to the fact that Saracens were on the front foot for effectively the whole game. Set piece dominance was vital to Saracens win.
5: Bath’s Future is Bright despite Final Defeat
Bath fans need not worry too much after defeat to Saracens. It often takes losing a final to learn how to win one and I have no doubt that Mike Ford’s side will have plenty of opportunities to win more titles in the next few seasons.
They perhaps need to find a variation to their game plan when plan A doesn’t work but that is achievable with the quality of players at Bath’s disposal. Add Rhys Priestland, Niko Matawalu and Jonathan Evans to the existing squad and it is easy to see that Bath are building.
Mike Ford has done a great job to get Bath to where they are today but he will be keen to add silverware to their cabinet. A strong showing in next season’s Champions Cup will also be a must for Bath if they are to continue to rise back to the top table of English and European Rugby.