Having been in Paris for the last Saracens him game it felt like ages since I’d made the journey to Allianz Park. I set off in what was grotty weather it has to be said! It was clear the ball would be slippery and maybe the pitch too, but it certainly wouldn’t be muddy! The journey was trouble free in spite of huge volumes of water on the road. I got there nice and early so treated myself to a Costa to warm me up before the game.
The day was to be not only a Premiership Rugby game but also a fund raising day for the Saracens Sports Foundation. The Foundation do amazing work with various groups including children with special needs, many of them autistic, young offenders and local school and clubs. I plan to write a more detailed piece about how their work is touching and changing so many lives.
London Irish have been a bit of a bogey team for Saracens in recent years and they were very unlucky to lose in Reading earlier in the season. The year hasn’t been going too well for the men in green so far and they will have travelled in the hope of upsetting the apple cart.
I feel that this match report isn’t going to be the novel I usually write, rugby through these winter months can at times be difficult to get too excited about – but, here goes!
We had the 1st scrum within the 1st two minutes of the game as the ball was knocked on by Saracens; a free kick to Irish was the result of the 1st attempt. The 2nd scrum worked but not too well for Irish but at least we didn’t have a free kick or penalty! The scrum goes that way far too often these days, with the constant setting and resetting the whole scrum scenario is really in need of some sort of overhaul! It’s ruining the game as a spectacle at times.
Saracens were awarded a penalty early on and rather worrying Owen Farrell missed touch, that really shouldn’t be happening with a first class fly half taking the kick!
Tim Wigglesworth was the man with the whistle for the game, and I have to say he made good use of that whistle, well he used it a lot anyway, tends not to help with the spectacle.
Tom Homer had the 1st opportunity to kick at the posts, the penalty was from the halfway line and had the legs but not the direction. Shane Geraghty who had put in a couple of kicks well taken by Ben Ransom learnt about the bounce of the ball on the Allianz pitch, Ransom left the ball and it went tumbling off the end of the pitch. A penalty was awarded to Saracens from the resulting scrum. Farrell kicked to touch successfully this time.
Saracens were awarded a penalty with the whistle being blown moments before Alistair Hargreaves dropped a goal! A Second Row! Owen Farrell stepped up and scored the first 3 points of the game after 23 minutes.
Shane Geraghty hadn’t learnt from his mistake and again kicked the ball off the end of the pitch, taking play all the way back for a Saracens scrum. Another scrum another penalty and 3 points for Farrell and Saracens.
Saracens went on the attack ad surged up the field en masse, Josh Lewington kicked the ball off the pitch giving Saracens a scrum on the 5m line. Billy Vunipola picked the ball up from the base of the scrum drawing in defenders, the ball made its way out to David Strettle – after a snazzy little pass from Billy’s big brother Mako and he leapt over the line to score. Farrell missed the conversion.
We had a couple of very odd kicks, 1st from Farrell then from Neil De Kock – it looked like a competition to see who could get the ball the highest! No damage done but it was a strange passage of play.
The teams went in at half time with the score on Saracens 11 London Irish 0. The half had been largely forwards dominated which doesn’t produce the most entertaining fare, but the home team will have been happy with their lead.
Saracens left London Irish waiting at the start of the 1st half, a small display of gamesmanship. Something that wasn’t all that obvious from the stands were the concussion monitors worn just behind the ear by the Saracens players. The club are piloting a new system to monitor the impact of knocks to the head; with the aim of ensuring that no player suffers a life altering injury.
A penalty given against George Kruis as he lay hands on his opposition jumper was successfully converted by Tom Homer to put 3 points on the scoreboard for Irish. He added another 3 as Saracens gave away another soft penalty, the gap was closed to 6.
Owen Farrell suffered the fate of the bouncing ball, it looked to be a dead cert for touch but went over the goal line, Saracens however turned the ball over for the put in to the scrum. Ben Ransom made another of his great breaks and wasn’t allowed to regain his feet as he was tackled, a kickable penalty for Farrell and he duly added another 3 points.
Saracens won a penalty in the scrum again, Billy Vunipola had picked the ball up from the base again, he was really looking back to his best in the game. Owen Farrell kicked the penalty successfully. Another scrum penalty gave Saracens good field position, Petrus Du Plessis received the plaudits from his team mates; he’s having a great season so far! Neil De Kock moved the ball quickly after the grabbed it from the back of the maul. The ball made its way out again to David Strettle who literally danced his way to the try line – he really is a master of the art of wing play!
The try was to be the last score of the game, a non flashy clinical win for the home team. But I’d say there were also positives to take for the visitors. The score finished on Saracens 22 London Irish 6