I have photos to share and a little to say about both the Saracens match and the England match, so here I go. (Photos to follow – WordPress isn’t co-operating)
I set off to Allianz Park with 2 England losses to contemplate, Scotland had run amok at Murrayfield on Saturday, with England seemingly forgetting one key element of play when talking rugby union – I looked up a definition
The breakdown is a colloquial term for the short period of open play immediately after a tackle and before and during the ensuing ruck. During this time teams compete for possession of the ball, initially with their hands and then using feet in the ruck.
John Barclay in particular repeatedly stepped into the play area and simply picked the ball up, England barely competed! Add to that the fact that the ball was kindly returned to Scotland by those kicking for England and the fact that Finn Russell was outrageously good at times. Huw Jones scored 2 great tries and Sean Maitland 1, after an outstanding pass from Russell, whereas Owen Farrell scored England’s solitary try. With a few kicks added in that all made a scoreline of Scotland 25 England 13. Scotland were good for their win and fully deserved to life the Calcutta Cup.
Without being too harsh, England looked for large parts of the game, clueless, and in my opinion very weary. I have had a bit of a Twitter rant, but I’m going to go again here – why do Professional rugby players in the midst of their season need exhausting physical training? Is Eddie Jones saying that the Premiership rugby clubs and their Strength & Conditioning coaches have no idea what they’re doing? A heavy session against the Georgian pack on the Wednesday before the match can’t have seen the players in peak condition. I know this man has brought success, but this aspect of how he operates along with his stubbornness around key positions is a real concern for me.
So, Saturday saw England lose at rugby, Sunday saw England lose at cricket, I was really hoping Saracens could bring some good news.
It had been a mixed season for Tigers, but they arrived at Allianz Park on the back of a win against Harlequins, Saracens had suffered during the Autumn International period but fared quite well during the 6 Nations spell.
In a way what unfolded during this Premiership match wasn’t too dissimilar to what happened at Murrayfield. Tigers lost Gareth Owen after 2 minutes with what looked like an arm or shoulder injury, Matthew Tait was his replacement.
That didn’t seem to unsettle Tigers at all, as disappointing as it will have been for Owen. I am a fan of stats and am going to quote some very interesting ones. Sam Harrison made 93 passes, Ben Spencer 55, that’s a huge difference! A sign of the fact that the Tigers won more ball, but also a sign of the tactic Saracens so often deploy of the box kick. That often works, but during this game it really didn’t, the ball kept going straight to one of the Tigers speeds backs and as a rule they made the most of the ball when it was in their possession.
Manu Tuliagi, looking in good shape, scored Tigers first try after just 10 minutes, Greg Bateman scored their second after 33, with a run that any back would be proud of, the score was against my team, but it was a sight ti behold, there’s just something about seeing a free running prop! Telusa Veainu scored a third try just before half time, leaving a rather shell shocked Saracens trailing by 6, two Ben Spencer penalties to Tigers 21, three converted tries. Matt Toomua showed his class and ran the show for Tigers, it’ll be interesting to see what happens there when George Ford returns from England duty.
Saracens had lost Calum Clarke after 17 minutes, with the lively Sione Vailanu replacing him, he lasted a whole 11 minutes before succumbing to injury to be replaced by Scott Spurling, a Hooker. The cupboard is sparse when it comes to back row players for Saracens with international call ups and long term injuries.
Things didn’t get much better in the second half from the perspective of a Saracens fan, Tigers were the first to strike with a Jonah Holmes try on 65 minutes Toomua added the conversion to take Tigers to 28 points.
Saracens Hooker for the game, Schalk Brits, was substituted by Mark Flanagan a second rower, with Scott Spurling moving into his own position. But it was the replacement scrum and fly half that made a difference to the home team. Things livened up with the introduction of Tom Whitely and Max Malins, although I should mention that Nathan Earle had 2 tries, rightly, disallowed.
Max Malins backed himself twice as Saracens attacked, scoring two tries, Tigers had lost Michele Rizzo to a yellow card after 2 penalties awarded against him, but they were noteworthy tries for the young Saracen, and game the scoreline a hint of respectability that isn’t really an indication of the match, Saracens 20 Leicester Tigers 28, a deserved bonus point win for the visitors.
Along with Max Malins’ tries there was a glorious sunset to brighten the day!