With 2 season ‘proper’ games remaining in the Premiership Saracens had, I imagine, something of a balancing trick to perform. With the Champions Cup Final in 2 weeks and a top slot to keep hold of team choice must have been a conundrum.
The choice for fly half was dictated by a 2 week ban handed out to Owen Farrell after he was deemed to have made a dangerous tackle playing in the Champions Cup semi-final. But of course Charlie Hodgson is no shoddy second choice and I imagine that Owen would have been unlikely to be included.
One player who was always going to be in the line up was Jacques Burger; having announced his retirement from rugby during the week he was given the opportunity to receive the plaudits and good wishes of the Saracens fans. That he was included was a sign of the true nature of this club.
Newcastle Falcons came to Allianz Park with a record of 20 games played, only 5 won, they were sitting 11th in the table with only London Irish below them. I’ve seen a fair few games of the proverbial 2 halves in recent weeks, and had in fact seen 2 at Judgement Day in Cardiff, this game was to be another.
Taking nothing away from the Falcons first half performance I think it might be fair to say that the home team didn’t turn up in the first 40. The Falcons seemed to ‘want it more’ and they certainly went about their work with determination and no small amount of skill.
In looking at the stats for the whole game on the attacking front the Falcons made 9 clean breaks to Saracens 2, they beat 17 defenders to Saracens 4. Their first half work meant that Falcons went in at half time ahead by 14 to Saracens 3. Marcus Watson, older brother of Anthony, scored 2 highly entertaining tries both of which were converted by Craig Willis. A single penalty for Charlie Hodgson was all that Saracens had to show for their efforts.
Now, it’s always a fact that people love an underdog and in this scenario Newcastle Falcons were certainly that, it also seems to have become a wish for many rugby fans to see Saracens beaten, whoever they’re playing. One Tweet I saw after the fact had the often touted – Same Old Sarries – line. And one thing about this club? Same Old Sarries so often means – They Keep On Winning.
The second half of this game did indeed see a Saracens team seeking victory and on this occasion they didn’t achieve it through flowing rugby – they did what they needed to do with the team they had at their disposal.
Three strong mauls saw three tries scored – Jackson Wray scoring 2 and Maro Itoje 1, unusually Charlie Hodgson wasn’t in form with his boot, only converting 1 of the 3 tries, he did however add a further penalty to take the final score to Saracens 23 Newcastle Falcons 14.
Exeter Chiefs had beaten Wasps ensuring that this win for Saracens gave them top spot along with the home semi-final that goes with that feat.
For those who enjoy the ‘Boring Sarries’ tag a few facts – one reason they finished 4th last year was the lack of try bonus points, this year they’ve achieved 7 so far, that’s seen them score 537 points, second only to Wasps on 560 – who it has to be said scored a huge number against this team!
Those who read my blogs or follow me on Twitter will know that I don’t just watch Saracens, although I am a season ticket holder at Allianz Park I’d say I’m a rugby fan first and foremost. I can honestly say that I have rarely been bored watching Saracens in recent years, there’s always the odd game in mid-winter that’s far too scrum focused, but this is a club that deserves the success that is possible in the next month, this group of men want to win for each other as much as for the trophy on offer.