After a wonderful weekend in Paris visiting my daughter; which strangely coincided with France playing Australia at the Stade De France I’m watching this game on delay; which means BT Sport commentary! I’m hoping in advance it isn’t one Mr Healey!
A little about Paris before the game starts! My 5th visit since my girl’s lived there and my 3rd visit to The Stade De France; I decided his time to take Alex and her rugby appreciating boyfriend Gautier. Her 1st live rugby union game; we’d watched the England game in a Sports Bar. Alex? Read her book! It didn’t bode well!
I’ve been to the Stade 3 times and for 75 Euros we had one of the best views in the house. The atmosphere was wonderful and the game exciting enough that it kept my non sporty daughter engaged for virtually the whole 80! I would recommend a trip if you haven’t been, a great stadium with a crowd who actually sit and watch the whole game, bar the odd Mexican Wave!
A quick tip as the game is about to start, if you have a smart phone, download Uber and travel in style in taxis who pick you up from your door and don’t rip you off! Oh, and the photos included are of the game in Paris! I just couldn’t resist!
Right, here we go, and it’s back to Premiership Rugby; a visit to Welford Road is never easy; the fans are wholeheartedly behind their team and make the ground a difficult place to visit. In spite of a difficult start to the season, Tigers are never an easy team to take on, especially at home.
The legend that is Brad Thorn lead his new team out, looking a giant amongst little kids as he posed for a photo. I’m hugely pleased to say Ugo Monye provided the ‘pundit’ commentary! It’s always a worry to see Mr Wigglesworth with the whistle however; he tends to like to use it a lot, as he does his cards! That and bad weather leads me to suspect I’m not going to be watching a classic!
The teams traded play in midfield until Alex Goode put in a huge kick to put his team in a good attacking position. Alistair Hargreaves was however penalised in the line out. Jacques Burger left the field early after a crunching tackle by Thorn, the man just excels on and on! A dual code wonder! I’m pleased to say Burger returned in one piece.
Charlie Hodgson was given the 1st opportunity to kick at the posts as Tigers were penalised in the scrum after Anthony Allen had knocked on. Hodgson cooly slotted the ball over the posts. He remains one of the very best Fly Halves in the Premiership.
The 1st controversy of the game came after a Tiger box kick was returned by Richard Wigglesworth with a box kick of his own. Blaine Sculy took the ball and was met by Marcelo Bosch and David Strettle. Strettle somehow got his arms between Scully’s legs, lifted him, then Bosch lifted his legs too! He went into the ground in a dangerous manner; Bosch saw the yellow, it was debatable which player should have gone; I suspect the wrong man saw yellow, but hard to tell even on a replay.
And here I’m going to have a crowd rant; many boos ensued; I imagine because the crowd wanted red. The offence was a card no doubt, but not a red. I’m getting more and more concerned about the tendency of some members of the crowd to seek cards. I’ve sat in too many crowds where people are in effect baying for a team to be reduced. In all honesty that’s never a good thing for any game and feels very Wendyball like! But that I feel is a whole new article. After my trip to the Millennium next week I feel.
A dubious penalty went the way of the visitors after Julian Salvi was deemed to have blocked Chris Ashton as he was chasing a kick down field. Salvi didn’t step towards Ashton, in fact he had his back to him so I’m not sure how he can have deliberately blocked him? Hodgson missed the resulting penalty so, justice done in this instance.
Hodgson showed the kicking form missing in the England set up moments later however as he put a huge kick into touch. His knowledge and sight for the game gives him superb game management skills. And he was able to right the missed penalty after Dan Coles was penalised for side entry after a line out.
Just before Bosch returned Saracens were penalised in the scrum as it collapsed. Owen Williams kicked a sweet penalty albeit from in front of the posts he was just the other side of the 10m line. Saracens had scored 3 and conceded 3 while down to 14.
Blaine Scully had something of a mix up as they both went for a high kick; I’ve never played the game but it never ceases to amaze me when players don’t call for a ball. Thorn had it covered and Scully came flying in from behind him; poor from a pro.
Richard Wigglesworth was penalised as he allowed the Mele to take the ball from a Saracens scrum; never a plan to grab someone by the neck and pull someone down! Williams took the scores to 6 apiece with the resulting penalty.
Thorn gave away a penalty as he came at the side of a maul; 3 points added to both Saracens’ and Hodgson’s haul. Add another 3 as Tigers were penalised for failing to roll away Saracens stretched their lead to 6.
Owen Williams went slightly awry unusually as Tigers were awarded a penalty, a lie wide of the posts is a slight exaggeration but, not so good. It has to be said the 1st half was less than thrilling. The teams went in with the scores at Tigers 6 Saracens 12. I would note however that it’s been refreshing listening to unbiased commentary in the absence of an ex Tiger!
Owen Williams came back after half time with his kicking boots on, converting a penalty from 45 out and at a nasty angle a great kick!
Strettle and Kelly Brown repeated the let’s both go for the same ball error Scully and Thorn had gone for, but didn’t knock the ball on somehow. That was awarded against Tigers who then gave a penalty in the scrum; the penalty wasn’t in a kicking position; however the next one as play progressed was, Hodgson took his team to 15 points as the rain teemed down.
David Strettle made an error as he took the ball from the kick off, hitting the line as he caught the ball. Unlike the incorrect call against Brian Habana against England the official was spot on. Saracens went offside as Tigers rolled into a maul; the suspicion is that other referees wouldn’t have given a penalty. Teams have to know the officials they face as well as the teams. Williams closed the gap to 3.
I must confess at this time – 53 minutes I’m struggling to watch this game, the word thrilling doesn’t come to mind – so you’ll have to forgive me if I rush the next 17! Another scrum penalty, another 3 points for Saracens, as Richard Barrington did his thing – this thing I can never hope to fully
Saracens gave away the next penalty as they failed to deal with the kick off, Williams looking ice cool kicked another great penalty. Tigers put on a multi man rolling maul, highly impressive but Jackson Wray won a very clever penalty close to his own line.
Fraser Balmain entered the fray in some style wining his team the scrum penalty as he drove forward with huge strength! Hargreaves was very upset to concede a penalty from the lineout, converted by Williams to even the score, he may have had a point. But, again everyone knows how pedantic this referee is!
I have another 8 minutes to endure here – and I accept fully that the conditions played a part but oh my, not a good spectacle! I have no photos of the game as I was on my way back from Paris so I’ve included some photos of the cracking game that was France v Australia. Very random and weird I know! But it has to be done methinks.
The game finished at Tigers 21 Saracens 21 as each team were awarded a further penalty, with 2 minutes to go it looked like the visitors may win but they conceded a penalty in their own half after a kick by Strettle flew off the the end of the pitch. A close call on the scrum penalty as Balmain again succeeded in the scrum. Williams with great composure assured his team a share of the spoils.