Premiership: Saracens snatch 17-17 draw to dent Bath's play-off hopes

Ben Spencer launches a clearing kick for Bath against Saracens
Ben Spencer turned in another influential display for Bath, scoring a try against his old club
Gallagher Premiership
Saracens (3) 17
Tries: Pen try, Swinson Con: Vunipola Pen: Vunipola
Bath (14) 17
Tries: Obano, Spencer Cons: Priestland 2 Pen: Priestland

Bath opened the door for Sale in the race for the final Premiership play-off place after losing a 14-point lead to only claim a draw at Saracens.

Needing a bonus-point win to guarantee a top-four finish, the visitors went 14-0 up with tries from Beno Obano and Ben Spencer inside the first quarter.

Rhys Priestland's penalty took them 17-3 clear but the relegated champions hit back in their final game of the season.

A penalty try and Tim Swinson's score allowed Manu Vunipola to snatch a draw.

It means Sale can overtake Bath, who drop to fourth place, if they beat Worcester in their final game on Wednesday, postponed from Sunday after an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Sharks squad.

If that proves to be the case, Stuart Hooper's side will be kicking themselves at letting such a promising position slip from their grasp.

Their quest for the five points they needed started promisingly with prop Obano driven over in the third minute.

Quick thinking from Spencer, who took a quick tap penalty inside the Sarries 22 before darting between Vunipola and Richard Wigglesworth - playing his 250th and final game for Saracens - to score against his old team, meant Bath were halfway towards their target after just 18 minutes.

Priestland converted both and landed a penalty on the resumption to restore a 14-point lead after Vunipola had kicked Saracens' only points of the first half.

But the fallen champions refused to go quietly in their final Premiership match until at least the 2021-2022 season, showing trademark resilience despite having long known their relegation fate for repeated breaches of the salary cap.

Their forwards squeezed Bath's retreating pack to the point where referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty try after 63 minutes.

With seven minutes left, more close-quarter excellence from the Sarries pack saw lock Tim Swinson plunge over, Vunipola nailing the tricky conversion in sodden conditions to salvage a draw.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:

"We look back on the last 10 months knowing it could have torn other teams apart, but we're as connected as we have ever been.

"We've seen a number of young players emerging. The next seven or eight months is another great opportunity for them to get experience.

"We're hopeful that if we can get ourselves back into the Premiership then we'll have a good group of young players, as well as the ones we've retained."

Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper:

"It's a very strange situation, but one we've got to get on with very quickly. We just need to prepare as if we're playing in the semi and going down to [Exeter's] Sandy Park.

"Before the game we talked about it being in our hands. We had that opportunity, but it's out of our hands now. We need to put our trust and faith in Premiership Rugby and Public Health England. We can't do anything.

"Come Wednesday evening we'll see where we are. We want everyone to have a fair crack and opportunity to play. We're still in it right now."

Saracens: Daly; Lewington, Morris, Socino, Maitland; Manu Vuipola, Wigglesworth; Crean, George (capt), Kock, Itoje, Swinson, Hunter-Hill, Wray, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Woolstencroft, Hislop, Clarey, Kpokut, Venter, Davies, Sloan, Segun.

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Matavesi, McConnochie; Priestland, Spencer; Obano, Dunn, Stuart, McNally, Ewels (capt), Williams, Underhill, Faletau.

Replacements: Walker, Boyce, Judge, Spencer, Reid, Chudley, Redpath, Cokanasiga.