A game of rugby on Christmas Eve? All a bit odd, but oh so good too, my daughter Alex, who’s becoming a proper little Saracens fan had arrived in England from her home in Paris the night before. We were due to meet a group of friends at the Metro for Brunch at 11:30, I’m notorious for being late but by some major miracle we managed to arrive early to the shock of those arriving after us!
One of the best things about the move to Allianz Park has been having our own ‘home’ as fans, it’s allowed many true friendships to be formed, Alex and I had the pleasure of the company of Alun and Sharon, Steve and Clare and Bill for a delicious pre-match meal. Watching Saracens play rugby has become about so much more than the game.
Christmas has been a busy time and has intervened meaning yet again that this is going to be a summary more than a long ramble. Newcastle had made the long journey to London having won 5 of their 10 games played, Saracens were topping the table having won 8 from 10.
Had I been asked to say which team was which with no prior knowledge I’m not so sure I could have picked out the current Premiership and European Champions. The first half wasn’t memorable to say the least, the teams exchanged penalties with the Falcons edging into the lead after their superior possession; before Owen Farrell, captain in Brad Barrett’s absence opted to kick for touch when awarded a further penalty.
In what I imagine was a training ground move Marcelo Bosch ran through the Falcons defence at speed after his colleagues had secured the ball from the lineout, 5 points were on the board, Farrell who hadn’t had his kicking boots on in Sale converted the try from close to the touch line.
I’m a big fan of Ben Spencer, but it has to be said I’ve seen him have better halves of rugby, he intercepted a kick and had a free run ahead, but dropped the ball just as he was getting started. It was one of the only other score trying possibilities for Saracens in the half. It was great to see Nathan Earle making a start on the wing, he’s an exciting young player ready to make his mark in the Premiership.
As the photos below show Saracens are lifting Will Skelton in the lineout, that’s something I didn’t think I’d see, I can image the gym might be hard work after lifting this huge man above your head!
Nicky Goneva had proved that class is permanent, during the first half he showed his heels several times as well as proving his mettle in defence. Farrell scored a second penalty before half time, meaning the teams went in with the score on Saracens 13 Newcastle 6 which was a poor return for the visitors after their first half performance.
As is so often the way Jackson Wray had a great game for Saracens and could easily have been named Man of The Match, but then I often think that when this man plays.
Chris Ashton was in the match day squad, a popular man at Allianz Park and a man I’ve liked when I’ve had the chance to meet him, however I’m not sure the cheers he received was the right response to a player returning after a 13 week ban. He was due the plaudits when he scored Saracens’ second try having charged down a ball earlier though. Owen Farrell had added a penalty but the ball fell off the tee as he was about to kick the ball and his quick drop goal didn’t make the posts.
It was an error strewn performance and Newcastle’s performance certainly wasn’t a good indication of their position in the table. But, the sign of a champion team is one that can win when they aren’t at their best. Saracens are facing Leicester Tigers on New Years Day and although they haven’t had the best of seasons it’ll be a tough trip for the Champions.
Newcastle are playing Wasps as I type and they ran them very close, gaining 2 bonus points as the game finished Newcastle 30 Wasps 34 shooting them up the table and closer to safety, with the brand of rugby they’re playing I can’t see them being at risk in 2017.