Six kicks from Charlie Hodgson and Richard Wigglesworth's try see Saracens beat Bath 22-0 at the Recreation Ground

A Charlie Hodgson masterclass ensured Saracens came away with a 22-0 victory in a match of mud and attrition against Bath at the Recreation Ground.

The veteran fly-half, who returned to the starting line-up after being left out against Munster the week before, was on target six times from tee as well as setting up Richard Wigglesworth's first-half try.

On a wet and muddy surface, the game's battle lines were drawn in the opening five minutes with both teams exchanging several punts downfield looking to utilise the conditions and force their opponents into a mistake.

It was a pattern that was repeated throughout the first half but Saracens were more intelligent with their kicking and more ruthless when capitalising on the home side's errors.

Hodgson was at his precise and incisive best, starting the day as he meant to go on with a splendid 45-metre penalty after quarter of an hour.

It wasn't all crash, bang, kick though from Saracens who smelt blood in an unusually frantic Bath defence.

In the 25th minute Hodgson skipped past Michael Claassens with a convincing dummy pass before slipping in David Strettle who in turn fed Wigglesworth to dive through the standing water and over the line.

Hodgson drove the conversion home to put Saracens 10-0 up with less than half an hour gone.

Bath had chances to make a game of things but their fly-half Stephen Donald was out of sorts and failed to convert any of three penalties he had in the first period.

And Donald's failings were made all the more obvious as Hodgson compounded Bath's misery with two more splendid penalties to put Saracens 16-0 to the good.

Bath - and Donald's - torrid half was summed up when the hosts' number ten skewed the ball over the dead ball line from kick off, drawing a collective groan from the home support.

The weather perked up after the break and so did Bath, dictating the tempo with an aggression and purpose completely absent from their play in the first 45.

The first 15 minutes after the interval saw Sarries largely camped in their own 22 but Bath, for all their endeavour, were unable to break down the visitors' stubborn defence.

With 16 points in their pocket, the Men in Black obstructed Bath's rhythm wherever possible - often conceding penalties in the process - and frustrating the hosts' attempts to get back in the contest.

Hodgson notched his fifth successful kick on the hour mark and as the ball sailed through the posts, the home crowd's enthusiasm and Bath's momentum was extinguished.

There was still time before the end for the Saracens fly-half to kick one more penalty and the clockwork brilliance of Hodgson's afternoon was perhaps best illustrated by the ironic cheers that greeted the number ten's miss with five minutes left to play.

The cheers at the final whistle though belonged to the Men in Black as a 22-0 victory keeps their Premiership title challenge very much on the right track.

A tougher test surely awaits next when they take on Northampton Saints at Stadium MK.

Bath Rugby: 15 Nick Abendano 14 Horacio Agulla 13 Kyle Eastmond 12 Ben Williams 11 Tom Biggs 10 Stephen Donald 9 Michael Claassens 1 Paul James 2 Lee Mears 3 David Wilson 4 Stuart Hooper (c) 5 Dominic Day 6 Francois Louw 7 Guy Mercer 8 Simon Taylor

Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn 17 Charlie Beech 18. Anthony Perenise 19. Dave Attwood 20. Will Skuse 21 Mark McMillan 22 Tom Heathcote 23 Dan Hipkiss

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles 14 Chris Ashton 13 Joel Tomkins 12 Owen Farrell 11 David Strettle 10 Charlie Hodgson 9 Richard Wigglesworth 1 Mako Vunipola 2 Schalk Brits 3 Matt Stevens 4 Steve Borthwick © 5 Mouritz Botha 6 George Kruis 7 Will Fraser 8 Kelly Brown

Replacements: 16 Jamie George 17 Rhys Gill 18 Petrus du Plessis 19 Eoin Sheriff 20 Andy Saull 21 Neil de Kock 22 Duncan Taylor 23 James Short

Attendance: 12,200

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