Mid May sees me getting into the swing of the cricket season, but there’s just a bit of the rugby union season left and the last regular season game saw Saracens play Gloucester at Allianz Park.
That’s a game I wouldn’t want to miss, even though Essex were playing Yorkshire in Chelmsford, my daughter Alexandra was visiting from Paris and won’t entertain cricket, but she is something of a Saracens fan. So, a morning of cricket alone was followed by a dash to Allianz Park with Alex.
The final match has traditionally become Foundation Day when funds are raised for the Saracens Sports Foundation, an organisation that carries out amazing work across many sectors. This really is a case of rugby changing lives in action.
I walked in with a Gloucester supporter who told me his team was a variable one, the suggestion was we could be seeing a cricket score, I did mention that I’d seen Yorkshire bowled out the day before for 50, and that match didn’t quite go as expected!!
Saracens had made a few changes to the starting team, but were fielding a strong 23. I was very interested to see Ben Vellacott starting for Gloucester, he’d been in the England squad for Argentina last year but hadn’t featured since. I really hope Eddie Jones introduces at least one, if not more, young scrum halves into the England set up and quickly. He could of course do worse than Saracens own Ben Spencer.
To facilitate sitting with Alex our seats were in the Lower West Stand, I hadn’t checked out which side they were so got caught waiting for the teams to go onto the pitch. I also missed the first try, The cheers that went up were from the visiting Gloucester fans, and having seen a re-run they were cheering a great try scored by Tom Seabrook. That was followed up by another scorcher from David Halaifonua.
Saracens responded promptly with a try from Sean Maitland, the speed merchants were in good form and Liam Williams, of the incredible legs followed Maitland in. A piece of brilliance from Owen Farrell, having one of his best season in a Saracens shirt, saw him score Saracens 3rd and the score was Saracens 22 Gloucester 12 at half time. My Gloucester sporting neighbour was pleased his team weren’t’t being heavily beaten.
However he maybe hadn’t seen the following figures, in their last 3 matches Saracens had scored 155 points and conceded 33, with many of their points being scored in the second half and this game was to follow the same pattern.
Saracens scored 6 unanswered tries in the second half, with Juan Figallo, Maro Itoje, Chris Wyles, someone called Penalty try, and Ben Spencer with 2. I missed Liam Williams leaving the pitch with an injury, yet somehow spotted Ben Spencer coming in without Richard Wigglesworth going off. I didn’t miss the announcement that Will Skelton was replacing Sean Maitland!! That’s Second Row BIG, BIG Will Skelton! I can only imagine the response of an opposing winger should they find Will running at them! Horror I imagine! Will, of course, took his place in the scrum being set, young Saracens star Ben Earl went out onto the wing, he didn’t look out of place at all. News has come through today that he’s signed a long term contract with the club, that’s wonderful news!
Ben Spencer has surely done enough to convince Eddie Jones he should be on the plane to South Africa before this match. his brace of tries added weight to his case. Gloucester had lost Jeremy Thrush to the sin bin, but this Saracens team are relentless when they’re in this frame of mind. This was another perfect warm up for their semi-final against Wasps on the 19th May.
The match was in itself a warm up for the evening, with the Awards Event following on the pitch. It was great for any who wanted to stay to be able to share in the event and see some great people honoured at all levels; including volunteers out in the 3 counties Saracens cover.
The evening was also an official farewell to those leaving, with the most prominent being Chris Wyles and fans favourite Schalk Brits, I make no apologies for the number of photos of Schalk, I’m taking the opportunities while I can!
Fans Player of the Year and also Players Player of the Year was unsung hero Jackson Wray, week after week he puts in a Man of the Match Performance and deserves all the plaudits he receives! The light was fading when Jackson took to the stage, so apologies for the paucity of photos.
A special mention has to go to a special man I’m lucky enough to call a friend, Steve Cummins was awarded with Fan of the Year. His work with the Supporters Association has helped to change the away day experience and he’s been a major contributor to the wonderful evening events held throughout the season. On top of this Steve put his body on the line last summer to raise valuable funds for the Foundation, taking part in a monster walk. This year he goes again adding cycling to the torture. It was brilliant to see Steve’s efforts recognised.