|Bath (9) 12|
|Pens: Priestland 4|
|Saracens (16) 25|
|Try: Maitland Con: Farrell Pens: Farrell 6|
Owen Farrell kicked 20 points as Saracens beat Bath in their first Premiership game since opting not to contest their 35-point deduction for breaching salary cap rules.
Three Rhys Priestland penalties helped Bath edge a scrappy first half hour.
But Sean Maitland’s try and 11 points from England captain Farrell’s boot saw Sarries lead 16-9 at the break.
Farrell kicked a further three penalties as the champions eased clear in the second half to seal victory.
It was a workmanlike display from Saracens, who were buoyed by the inclusion for the first time this season of all eight of their England players who featured in the squad for the World Cup final defeat by South Africa at the start of this month.
But they ended the game with 14 men after forward Maro Itoje was sent to the sin-bin for deliberately putting hands in the ruck to prevent a Bath break.
Despite victory Saracens remain 22 points adrift at the bottom of the table, while Bath stay eighth after a third defeat of the campaign.
Saracens make ideal start to cut deficit
Saracens had sat third in the table after winning 21-12 at Gloucester in their previous Premiership game as they pondered whether or not to appeal against the sanctions handed to them following an inquiry into business partnerships between owner Nigel Wray and some of their players.
But after opting not to contest the points deduction or £5.36m fine they arrived at The Rec on -22 points, 26 behind second-from-bottom Leicester.
The deficit leaves the Premiership and European champions facing a long winter as they bid to reel in the teams above them in the table to secure their place in the top flight for next season.
However, a fourth victory of the campaign and the return to the starting XV of Farrell and England forwards Itoje, Mako and Billy Vunipola, George Kruis and Jamie George, as well as World Cup-winning Springboks prop Vincent Koch coming off the bench, gives them serious firepower and hints that avoiding relegation is their priority this season.
It took Sarries’ stellar line-up time to hit their stride as both sides made a succession of handling errors during a scrappy opening half hour.
Their indiscipline enabled Priestland to kick Bath, who were without injured England back Anthony Watson, ahead three times.
But Farrell kept them in the game as Bath conceded cheap penalties in return, before Sarries’ international players came to the fore in scoring the only try of the game.
Farrell, both Vunipola brothers, Itoje and Kruis were all heavily involved as they powered through the phases and pulled the Bath defence out of position for Maitland to cut inside his marker and score in the left corner.
The second half was all about game management for Saracens as they kept Bath at arms’ length while Farrell punished the Blue, Black and Whites from the tee.
Bath briefly threatened to make it a nervy final few minutes after Itoje was shown the yellow card but the Saracens defence held firm as they ran down the clock.
Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper told BBC Radio Bristol:
“We were very happy at the start of the game but couldn’t really get the points when we should have done and that told in the end.
“Throughout the game we tactically strayed from what we talked about doing and that cost us.
“There were moments in the second half when we got on top but then we slowed down and couldn’t apply consistent pressure and we fell off slightly.”
Bath: Homer; Rokoduguni, Wright, Roberts, McConnochie; Priestland, Chudley; Obano, Dunn, Stuart, McNally, Stooke, Bayliss, Underhill, Louw (capt).
Replacements: Walker, Boyce, Judge, Garvey, Davies, Cook, Burns.
Saracens: Daly; Maitland, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Lewington; Farrell, Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, George, Lamositele, Skelton, Kruis, Itoje, Wray, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Singleton, Barrington, Koch, Isiekwe, Earl, Spencer, Manu Vunipola, Tompkins.
Sin-bin: Itoje (71)
Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)