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Aviva Premiership: Saracens clinch top seed in play-offs; Bath miss out on Heineken Cup
Saracens confirmed top spot in the final Aviva Premiership table with a 23-14 win over Bath at Allianz Park.
Bath needed to make up a two-point deficit on Exeter to claim sixth and the last available Heineken Cup place - but Exeter's home victory over Gloucester ensured the task was beyond them.
Saracens scored three tries through England internationals Chris Ashton, Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell and, supplemented by eight points from Farrell's boot, that was enough.
Bath managed a try in each half through Rob Webber and Horacio Agulla - both converted by Tom Heathcote - but Farrell's second penalty in the 69th minute gave Saracens the necessary breathing space to close out a win that gives them a home play-off against Northampton next weekend.
Heathcote, a late replacement in the Bath line-up when Stephen Donald had to withdraw with a rib injury, had the first chance for points but he missed with his 30-metre penalty attempt.
After 11 minutes, Saracens took the lead. A lineout take from Alistair Hargreaves on the Bath 22 was driven forward with some pace, putting the visitors rapidly on the back foot. This provided Neil De Kock with a simple opportunity to put Ashton in for the first try.
Bath suffered two more blows when first Guy Mercer was yellow-carded for denying Saracens a clear try-scoring opportunity and then, from the resulting penalty, Farrell extended the lead to 8-0 at the end of the first quarter.
A second try for Saracens soon followed with Vunipola forcing his way over from close range, but once again Farrell was unable to convert.
On the half-hour, Farrell received a yellow card for a dangerous high tackle on Heathcote which coincided with the return of Mercer to give Bath some respite. They first stemmed the tide before taking advantage of their numerical superiority with Webber finishing off a lineout drive for the try which Heathcote converted.
Early in the second half, Heathcote had a chance to further reduce the arrears but badly mishit a 30-metre penalty and Bath were soon made to pay for their profligacy.
De Kock made another defence-splitting break to send Farrell over for a converted try and, at 20-7 with half an hour remaining, Saracens were in control of the match.
Bath did not lie down, though, picking up their second try when Agulla brushed aside some weak defence from the Saracens for a score which Heathcote converted.
Replacement Tom Biggs almost scored another but was narrowly foiled following a splendid kick and chase before a second penalty from Farrell extended Saracens' lead to 23-14 with 10 minutes remaining, and they comfortably held on.Heineken Cup. Click here to bet.
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:45||Northampton vs Newcastle Falcons|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Saracens vs London Irish|
|16:30||Exeter vs Gloucester|
|Sunday 4th January|
|14:00||Wasps vs Sale|
|14:00||Leicester Tigers vs Bath|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Harlequins|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Saracens|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:00||Sale vs Northampton|
|15:00||Bath vs Wasps|
|15:15||Harlequins vs Leicester Tigers|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Newcastle Falcons vs London Welsh|
|15:00||London Irish vs Exeter|
|Saturday 14th February|
|15:00||Leicester vs Gloucester|
|15:00||Exeter vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Northampton vs London Irish|
|Sunday 15th February|
|14:00||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Sale|
|15:00||Saracens vs Bath|
|Friday 20th February|
|20:00||Newcastle vs Wasps|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:00||Sale vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Exeter|
|15:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|15:00||Bath vs Northampton|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Welsh|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||London Welsh vs London Irish|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com