After the ecstasy of an 80th minute win against Racing Metro it was back to the day job for Saracens, with Leicester Tigers travelling to Allianz Park. Things were tight before this round at the top of the Premiership; Bath had clocked up a 5 point win against a battling Newcastle Falcons the night before, leaving Saracens sitting 3rd to Tigers 4th.
Therefore a lot would depend on the result of the match between these 2 teams. We were treated to an afternoon of glorious sunshine, I’m not so sure that’s good for the players, but it certainly felt rather nice in the crowd.
I’d had a very nice pre-match picnic with a group of lovely friends – they reminded me how incredibly tasty home made food is! Yet gave me not the smallest desire to rediscover what the actual words meant!
The season has been a very mixed one for Tigers – they suffered what has to be one of the shocks of the season early on, being beaten by Bath by a pretty awful (if you’re a Tiger) 45 nil! I saw the repeat game at Welford Road and on a wet and really cold day they turned the tables and won the game. Not quite in the same style, but they won all the same.
The reverse fixture between Saracens and Tigers had been a very unusual draw – with both teams scoring 21 apiece – it was unlikely that would be repeated.
The first half in general wasn’t a thrilling affair, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. Freddie Burns converted an early penalty for the Tigers after the returning Brad Barritt strayed offside.
Saracens were awarded a very early scrum penalty as Dan Cole was penalised – Charlie Hodgson kicked to the corner but his team mates failed to take advantage of the field position as the ball was turned over by Tigers. Those words were a bit of a theme in the 1st half as Tigers seemed to come up with the ball time and again.
Tigers were awarded a 2nd kickable penalty as Jamie George failed to clear the take area, the whistle seemed at the time to be blown very quickly, but George was clearly in the wrong position and he did little to get out of the way. Burns – a very accurate kicker took Tigers to 6.
Saracens looked tired and out of sorts for most of the 1st half, it seemed that their exhilarating Parisienne adventure had taken its toll on them. The referee blew his whistle a lot, but I didn’t agree with a few of my fellow Saracens fans that he was favouring the visitors. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, it always amazes me that people high up in a stand think they can see more than the officials on the ground – oh, or that they’ve had the same training as a referee! Rant over….
So, I would say that the majority of the first 40 wasn’t a good advert for the game of rugby union, it felt that Saracens would go in trailing, but to a degree it was hard to see where a try would come from for either team.
Saracens were awarded a penalty and for some strange reason Marcelo Bosch stepped up – and missed. The wind was against the kick but it looked quite kickable (for an ‘expert’ in the stands :-). A second penalty awarded for a high tackle by Seremai Bai, that really didn’t look that high, was taken by Alex Goode – his kick hit the posts! Things weren’t quite working for the home team.
At last we had a good attacking play from Saracens with Chris Ashton flying down his wing before passing to Richard Wigglesworth, the next pass was to a Tiger with Ashton in pursuit. Tom Youngs was then something of a silly billy (technical rugby term) he took Ashton out off the ball. The cynical professional penalty was spotted by the referee and Youngs was banished for 10 minutes.
Saracens chose to go for the scrum – and then we basically had the yawn fest that is a scrum being set, reset, penalised, reset, penalised, reset, penalised, reset! Now, isn’t that boring to read, in my book it was boring to watch too! the final reset saw Billy Vunipola emerge from a very messy scrum to score! There surely have to be changes to this spectator sport, when scrum are reset time after time close to the try line. Charlie Hodgson, the first choice kicker as a rule, added the extras.
The teams went in at half time with the score on Saracens 7 Tigers 6.
I’m not sure what happened at half time – but an altogether different team emerged from the home dressing room. Saracens seemed to have woken up and soon added to their score with a huge gap appearing on the wing, last weeks’ hero Bosch was sitting out on the wing and he ran in to score. It was great to see the concern of the Saracens players when Marcos Ayerza went down injured – he and Bosch are of course countrymen. Hodgson converted the try with a great kick.
Billy Vunipola seems to go from strength to strength with Saracens and regularly features in the Opta Stats for top carries – I’m sure this game will have been no exception – he seemed to be everywhere!
However it was a back who scored Saracens 3rd try – Chris Wyles who seems to perform no matter where he’s asked to play was for this game on the wing, he took a pass from Hodgson to run in and score his 9th Premiership try of the season.
I must hesitate at this point to say I am rewetting the game and listening to Austin Healey – I’m pleased to report that he must have had lessons in how not to be biased! At last!
There wasn’t too much more that was worthy of a mention in the game – Tigers were kept scoreless for the 40 minutes, they went close through Burns but he was tackled into touch; keeping hold of the ball when Kelly Brown came for it there was a small exchange of handbags. On the whole I’d say Tigers were lacking in imagination throughout the game.
There was one incident that I feel we’ll hear more about – Vereniki Goneva was shown a yellow card as he elbowed/dropped a forearm on Kelly Brown’s head while he was on the floor. He went after Brown after he’d pushed him off the ball, it was a deliberate act and deserving of a red card in my opinion. I’ll be watching for news of a citing during the week.
A bonus point win would have been hugely beneficial for Saracens but they were only to add a further penalty. I wonder if they’ll rue the lack of try bonus points in the season – I believe they’ve scored 3 try’s on 9 occasions.
However a result of Saracens 22 Leicester Tigers 6 was impressive, a result that Saracens fans would have only dreamed of in the past. The win saw Saracens leapfrog over Bath back into 2nd. And an Exeter Chiefs victory over Northampton Saints saw them take 4th place from Tigers. The end of the season promises to be an exciting one – with ‘big’ games in each of the final 3 weeks.
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