Having been enjoying the delights of my new grandson for a week this Champions Cup match between some of the best of English rugby and some of the best of Welsh rugby was too good to miss. Especially when such with another 21 fellow Saracens fans in the Metro Restaurant was pre match ‘entertainment’. An Italian attached to the driving range next to the ground, the food is sublime, I can highly recommend a visit!
On arrival at the ground I made my way to my seat, it takes me an age with creaky knees. Team news for Saracens saw a late replacement Nick Tompkins replacing Brad Barritt with Owen Farrell taking over the role as captain. I was concerned to see Barritt missing as the opposing centres included Jonathan Davies, I had no idea how wrong I was to be feeling that.
We had a well respected minute’s silence to honour Anthony (Axel) Foley who sadly passed away in Paris the week before the game. It really was a credit to the game of rugby union to see the tributes paid to a fine man.
Mako Vunipola who’s been in amazing form for the last few weeks scored Saracens’ first try, showing the skills of a back he threw a dummy to evade one defender before running through another two to touch down, anything his little Bro can do, Mako can!
This was a very strong Scarlets team but their defence was porous at times, going to the stats for the game Scarlets made 2 line breaks and Saracens 13, one of those was made by Nick Tompkins who scored a superb individual try between the posts. He was a livewire throughout the match and was I’m sure responsible for more than a few of those line breaks. At just 21 Nick has represented England at all age levels as well as the Saxons, a dynamic young centre I imagine he’ll be heading towards the senior team at some stage.
Rhys Patchell converted four penalties for the visitors and Owen Farrell had converted the two tries and added two penalties of his own. The teams went in at half time with the score on Saracens 20 Scarlets 12.
Saracens third try was a combined Backs/Forwards effort with the ball passing through the hands of Owen Farrell, Jackson Wray and Mako Vunipola before a floating pass to Marcelo Bosch out on the wing. Three internationals involved and one unsung hero in Wray, he puts in a great shift for Saracens every time and this was no exception. Farrell scored the conversion virtually from the touch line.
Saracens’ bonus point try came in the 53rd minute when a loose ball as pounced on , it went through several pairs of hands before finding its way to Chris Wyles out on the wing, he touched down in the corner, Farrell added the extras. Rolling out another Stat, Saracens made 590 metres to Scarlets 266, the figures do tell the story of the scoreline.
Scarlets did however get the next two tries, Aaron Shingler powered over coming round the front of the lineout, Patchell matched Farrell with a kick from the touch line. Their second came from a blip from Saracens in the scrum, the ball popped out and Joshua Macleod raced for the line, the ball ended with Jonathan Davies who scored the try. The conversion closed the gap to 11.
That position didn’t last long, Michael Rhodes who’s settled in well at Allianz Park benefited from a Pathchell error to score Saracens’ fifth try. The home team had been playing with 14 men after Ben Spencer had been sent to the naughty step for a deliberate knock on, it was disappointing to see a couple of Scarlets fans shouting ‘cheat, cheat, cheat’ at the referee in the build up, then the standard ‘off, off. off’ before the card was brandished to Spencer. It was no shock to see one involved leap over the barriers as the players were leaving the pitch before it’d been opened up. A full day of drinking involved I imagine.
The final whistle went and the score was Saracens 44 Scarlets 26, an emphatic win for the European Champions. I was if I’m honest expecting a Saracens win, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite in this manner. Nick Tompkins was awarded the Man of The Match award and rightly so, one downside was the Maro Itoje left with a hand injury that has since been confirmed as a break, he’ll be out for 6 weeks at least, which is a big blow for Eddie Jones and England.