SaracensAviva1213Now then what happens when you take a winning formula and change it? An afternoon that proved to be less than entertaining!  Rotation for a team like Saracens is something that is a feature here to stay; if only because we have so many internationals in the squad. However I think some of my fellow Saracens fans were slightly over excited before the game yesterday in predicting a bonus point win; for me that was never likely. A much changed team took the pitch to face the team from High Wycombe with Ben Ransom one of my ones to watch taking his place at Fullback, not because Alex Goode wasn’t available but because he was starting at 10? A strange move that one, been tried and proved not hugely successful in previous seasons. Two popular players returned from injury, Joel Tomkins who must surely have rushed home to see his brother Sam taking the field for Wigan for the last time as he heads South. The other Will Fraser a very welcome sight after a long term injury, a natural 7 I would expect Will to make his mark for England at some stage. The rest of the team looked very different to the one that beat Harlequins with such grit and determination a week ago.
The start to the game was delayed by the linesman not being properly prepared?? Not sure that would have happened if the TV people had been running the show! The main theme for the first half was pretty much who would make the most errors! I take notes on my iPad as the game’s going on and the words most typed in the first half when looking at the Saracens attack were … Knock On. The guy sitting next to me pointed out I also really need shortcut keys for collapse and reset!

Saracens took an early lead after Alex Goode converted a penalty after a seemingly endless advantage, those 3 points were to be the only ones scored in the first half. The talking point in the half was what looked like a very bad no arms tackle by Kearnan Myall on Will Fraser, it could be argued that a red card could well have been brandished. This kind of tackle has to be removed from the game, the likelihood of serious injury for the player on the receiving end is so high. Saracens failed to take advantage of the extra man as well as a significant amount of possession; I do feel that if Steve Borthwick had been in the team we’d have been in a many glares situation! Ashley Johnson for Wasps was an awesome presence, he is clearly a noticeable player with his flowing locks but he seemed to be everywhere, and for me was player of the match.

So, what did we get by changing the formula so drastically? A really boring half of rugby! It certainly wasn’t an entertaining prospect, then to add insult to injury Sarrie the Camel wasn’t even able to perform his usual dance routine which always lights up the day,  due to the fact that boring music was played during half time! He did however manage a caterpillar across the pitch! Yes, the first half really was that dull!

The second half started with Owen Farrell kicking off, woohoo, perhaps a more exiting 40 minutes was about to happen! Andy Goode also came on for Wasps and I know I shouldn’t but I do have to copy across my comment…  Andy Goode get your hair cut!!!! Oh my word!!!! Sorry, but someone needs to say it out loud!

Farrell changed the pace of the game almost as soon as he started, a great cross kick to Michael Tagicakibau who then made a lovely pass to Ernst Joubert resulted in a penalty after Joubert was tackles and a ruck ensued. Farrell missed, however it seemed things might be improving from a spectating viewpoint.  So it was to be as Farrell made a great pass to Alex Goode who followed suit to put Will Fraser in for a try on his return; something to shout about at last! Farrell was successful with the conversion to take the lead to 10 points.

I had written in the first half that Christian Wade had been kept quiet, he’s such an exciting player to watch and as he features in my England team I was in a way hoping for more from him. That ‘more’ came in the second half as he made a great run seemingly having a force field round him as tacklers missed him, his skill set up the first of 2 tries for Wasps captain Chris Bell.  Andy Goode missed the conversion and Farrell added another penalty to keep the gap at 2 scores 13 to 5. There were a lots of children at the game and I know this may be old fashioned; but, please teach them to shuuuuuush when a kick at goal’s about to happen!  Joe Launchbury another of my starters for England was led from the pitch looking very groggy, I do hope he’s ok, as a very girly friend of mine once said, rugby’s a very rough game!

Owen Farrell scored a further 2 penalties as Saracens made the most of superior possession taking the score to 19 to 5; it felt as if 4 points were in the bag. Wasps to their credit didn’t stop seeking a bonus point at the very least; with time running out Chris Ashton stuck a hand out to intercept a ball and the play stopped to check a deliberate knock on.  Ashton was lucky earlier in the game that his swinging arm didn’t connect with a Wasps player, not so lucky this time as a soft yellow card was brandished by the ref. The resulting gap left a nice clear run for Wasps captain Bell to run in for his second try. Andy Goode converted successfully this time, to take the final score to Saracens 19 Wasps 12 sending the men in black and yellow home with a well deserved bonus point.

So, in spite of a less than perfect performance and thanks to an almost perfect scoreline at Welford Road; not many draws in rugby! Saracens sit at the top of the league with a 6 point advantage.  Note to BT Sport, might have been nice if you’d pointed that out in the lead up to the Gloucester game. I’ve always felt that a sign of a really great team is a win when they under perform; Saracens go into the Heineken Cup sitting high I suspect most would expect a win in Ireland and hopefully that will be the case. However a top performance will be needed against the men from Toulouse. A review from watching the TV from me for Saracens next week, but Saturday will see me being a Quin for the day; here’s hoping I’m writing about 2 English wins!