After a busy day of rugby watching England play both codes; one in the mighty Twickenham Stadium, one on the TV, Sunday morning meant a return to ‘club’ rugby. Having decided my satnav is a little liar I set off to Mill Hill by the most direct route to find no 2 hour delay! The journey did give me an hour to listen to a Radio5 programme involving chatting to James Anderson and Graeme Swann about the Ashes and various bits of nonsense; had me laughing in an empty car this time! I am worried I might be a tad simple; but I learnt more about the Ashes. Who knew they use a different make of ball in each country and that they behave differently! Before I actually move on to the rugby I may need you to think about how I can blag some space on InTheLoose to write about cricket! Yep, I love that too!
The Autumn Internationals sees a mix of league rugby and LV cup rugby; with both sets of games at such a time giving fans an opportunity to see the depth within their clubs. There was little reported about Saracens first LV Cup game about Wasps and High Wycombe was too big an ask after a week sick from work, so I had little idea who would be in the team today. It turned out that a mix of experienced first team picks and young players taking an opportunity took to the field. The last time I saw Scarlets play was when they beat Quins fairly easily in the Heineken Cup it would be interesting to see how they would fare without their stars. One piece of prep for the Welsh team was to train on the Cardiff Blue’s 4G pitch to ensure they had an idea of how the surface behaves. (another inanimate object that has behaviours!)
My first impression of the Scarlets was that they were big! Oh and that a couple (props of course) looked like they’d eaten a few too many Welsh cakes. Ben Spencer was making a first start at home this season at scrum half and he set about controlling the game along with the experienced and it has to be said at times sublime Charlie Hodgson. Saracens scored a forwards try as they drove the ball across the line; Matt Hankin playing at 6 placing the ball down; Ben Spencer with kicking duties converted. Charlie Hodgson combined with Jack Wilson as he did several times during the game with a neat pass that saw Wilson run into space and over the line to score Saracens 2nd try. Again Spencer converted from virtually the touch line to take the score to Saracens 14 Llanelli 0.
Scarlets played some good rugby with their winger Chris Knight in particular running some great lines, the story of their afternoon was however one of errors and solid defence from Saracens. They were the next to score though as Josh Lewis kicked a long range penalty from the half way line, Ben Spencer kicked a penalty for Saracens to wipe out those 3 points as Scarlets were pinged for offside. Some strong forwards play saw the men from Wales score a try with flanker Dan Thomas touching down in spite of what appeared to be a dropped ball. Josh Lewis proved he could do anything that Ben Spencer could and scored a difficult conversion. The score at Saracens 14 Scarlets 10 gave no real idea of how things were to finish.
Ben Spencer carried on with his great kicking display and scored another 6 points converting 2 penalties; one cleverly won by Saracens as they held the ball in the scrum and tempted the Scarlets scrum half into an offside position. Saracens took the scrum option after yet another penalty close to the Scarlets line and after the scrum was reset Jackson Wray scored a text book No 8’s try as he ran in from the base of the scrum. Spencer converted again to see the teams go into the changing rooms with the score at Saracens 30 Llanelli 10.
As is my want I’m going to veer away from the rugby for a moment to Sarrie the Camel; it has to be said Saracens have one of the funniest mascots (I know it’s a man!) I’ve ever seen. In fact at times he can be very distracting as he goofs about on the sidelines during the game, during the half time break today we were treated to an incredibly funny dancing display. If you ever need a pick me up, have a look at Sarrie the Camel dancing Gangnam Style on YouTube – it is laugh out loud funny!
Back to the rugby – Saracens started as they meant to carry on and we had the delight of watching Jamie George run through a big gap to score yet another try; Schalk Brits will be looking over his shoulder, as Ben Spencer and Charlie Hodgson combined again. I do have to say something now and hope Jamie never reads this review; oh my word his choice of music is very girly! Ben Spencer as expected converted the try. Saracens made several changes including Nils Mordt and Neil De Kock taking the place of Hodgson and Spencer.
Scarlets played some good attacking rugby in the second half but were thwarted by their own mistakes and Saracens strong defence. Saracens appeared to have scored as the forwards surged over the line, but the referee judged that they were held up. A refreshing feature of the game was to see an official who was prepared to make his own decisions rather than refer them (presuming he had that facility). Saracens went on the play some free flowing rugby and a great long pass from Nils Mordt into Ben Ransom’s hands followed by a neat short pass on to Nathan Earles on the wing saw him run in for the home team’s 5th try. Nils Mordt converted from the touch line carrying on the theme of fine kicking. Tim Streather seemingly carrying an injury – they must have magic sponges in union as well as league – added insult to injury for the Scarlets as he ran under the posts to score Saracens 6th try; Mordt converted again to take the score to Saracens 51 Llanelli 10. It must have been a relief to the Scarlets when the final whistle was blown.
So the rugby was clearly won by the home team; the singing honours however went to the men from Wales both during the game and in the bar after the match. It was great to hear both the singing before and the good tempered banter during the man of the match presentation to Matt Hankin and the player of the month Billy Vunipola; especially bearing in mind Billy’s Welsh twang. This sort of thing is of course one of the reasons we all love this great game of rugby! Saracens travel to Exeter next Saturday but host the USA v Russia; this InTheLoose writer will be at Wembley watching that the semi finals of the World Cup of that other code.