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Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Saturday, 25 April 2009 17:01 UK

Bath 33-18 Saracens

Bath (13) 33
Try: Higgins, Short, Banahan Cons: Davis 3 Pens: Davis 4
Saracens (8) 18
Tries: Wyles, Cato Cons: Jackson Pens: Jackson 2

Andrew Higgins scores the first try of the match with Noah Cato in pursuit
Higgins scored the first try of the match in the first half

Bath secured a Premiership play-off semi-final against Leicester after a three-try win against Saracens.

The visitors took the lead with a Chris Wyles try inside 26 seconds, but two penalties from Ryan Davis and an Andrew Higgins try saw Bath take control.

Two penalties from Glen Jackson reduced the gap but a Davis penalty and a Peter Short try ensured Bath were on top.

Sarries responded with a Noah Cato try but Bath's Matt Banahan crossed late on to seal third spot in the league.

The victory ensures Bath will meet league leaders Leicester for the fifth time this season at the Walkers Stadium on 9 May.

The home side went into the game without South African World Cup-winning fly-half Butch James and winger Joe Maddock.

That meant a recall for Ryan Davis and Higgins, along with full-back Nick Abendanon, recently recovered from injury.

But it was Saracens who got the dream start, scoring the fastest try of the Premiership campaign.

After Bath centre Shontayne Hape had been turned over in the tackle, Sarries scrum-half Neil de Kock made a sniping run that ended with American winger Wyles touching down in the corner.

Bath's problems were further compounded when captain Michael Lipman was forced off with a hamstring injury.


But they got their first points of the afternoon on 16 minutes, when Davis landed a penalty after prop Tom Mercey had been shown a yellow card for throwing a punch at opposite number David Flatman.

Sarries were reduced to 13 men minutes later when Hugh Vyvyan was sin-binned for an offence at the tackle, with Davis kicking the resulting penalty to give Bath the lead for the first time in the match.

That advantage was extended when Higgins touched down on the right after a wonderful break from Abendanon.

A Jackson penalty reduced the deficit to five points on the half hour - and he kicked his 237th point of the season with another penalty, reducing the arrears to just two points six minutes after the restart.

A mistake from Census Johnston at a ruck on Sarries' 22m line allowed Davis to extend the lead to five points with his third penalty before more indiscipline then saw Sarries reduced to 14 men again.

Flanker Andy Saull was sin-binned for a cynical tap-tackle on Abendanon with the full-back chasing down a grubber kick.

James Scaysbrook bundled over from the resulting penalty, only for referee Rob Debney to disallow the score for crossing in the build-up.

However, the home fans were celebrating their second try a minute later when subtle offloads from lock Justin Harrison and prop Duncan Bell set up fellow forward Short, with Davis once again adding the extras.

The fly-half extended the lead on 60 minutes with his fourth penalty, this time following a crooked throw from Sarries hooker Alex Walker at the line-out.

But the visitors responded with their second try when a wonderful bullet pass from Andy Farrell found Cato on the left wing to touch down on 64 minutes.

Bath had yet another try, this time from Davis, correctly ruled out by referee Debney for obstruction.

But they wrapped up victory when a long pass from Sarries replacement scrum-half Justin Marshall was intercepted by Banahan, who raced from inside his own 22m line to touch down.

Davis rounded off the scoring with his third successful conversion of the match.

Another try would have given Bath a bonus-point win, which would have set up a last-four encounter against Harlequins.

But they will now face league leaders Leicester, who knocked them out of the Heineken Cup two weeks previously.

Bath qualified for next year's Heineken Cup by virtue of their league position, while Saracens can reach Europe's premier competition if they win this season's European Challenge Cup.

Bath boss Steve Meehan on meeting Leicester in the play-off semi-final:
"We were at Leicester not so very long ago, and the memory of that game is still very much alive.

"There is something special about Leicester v Bath, and it is not difficult to get immersed in that history between the clubs.

"We weren't expecting anything to be easy today, but you can't afford to be down to 14 men at any stage in a competition like this one."

Saracens head coach Richard Graham :
"I thought we ran Bath pretty close.

"Seventh spot was up for grabs today, and we now have an opportunity to play in our first final for 11 years if we win next week.

"I thought the boys were outstanding today - I was delighted with their efforts".

Bath: Abendanon; Higgins, Cheeseman, Hape, Banahan; Davis, Claassens; Flatman, Mears, Bell; Harrison, Short; Beattie, Lipman (capt), Hooper.
Replacements: Hawkins, Ion, Faamatuainu, Scaysbrook, Bemand, Berne, Stephenson.

Saracens: Goode; Wyles, Powell, Farrell, Cato; Jackson, De Kock; Mercey, Walker, Johnston; Borthwick (capt), Vyvyan; Jack, Saull, Skirving.
Replacements: Cairns, Visagie, Ryder, Barrell, Marshall, Ross, Haughton.

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see also
Boks' James to miss Lions series
24 Apr 09 |  Bath
Newcastle 14-15 Bath
19 Apr 09 |  English
Ulster bring in hooker Kyriacou
22 Apr 09 |  Ulster
Saracens 13-16 Leicester
19 Apr 09 |  English

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