An evening event in Bradford meant an early morning and a long journey on the A1 to get to Allianz Park for this final pool game between Saracens and Glasgow. Both teams were assured a place in the final 8, this game was to decide where each would finish, Saracens were looking to remain the only team unbeaten in the competition this season, Glasgow for a least a point to keep them away from 8th place and a potential match up with Saracens, a win and potential home quarter final would’ve been even better.
Saracens had a last minute blow as Owen Farrell was counted out with a hand injury, time will tell if that’s a blow for England too as I believe he had an operation on his thumb today. Alex Goode, a more than worthy stand in took his place at 10. I was very interested to see the opposition 10, one Adam Hastings, son of a Scottish legend, Gavin Hastings. One huge positive for Saracens was Brad Barritt making his return, he’s been missed in recent weeks.
Neither fly half disappointed, this was a great game of rugby, (which I’m now watching back on the TV) with Glasgow’s speed packed back line showing their wares in the first half. It was Saracens who struck first however with a penalty from the boot of Ben Spencer followed by a try scored by Spencer and made by David Strettle, he breezed through Hastings.
The commentary with Saracens at 10 nil up had awarded the game to the home team, but, Glasgow had something to say about that. David Strettle was struggling with his left arm out on the wing as Saracens defended, it seemed sensible that Glasgow might attack his wing, but some very sharp passes took the ball to the other wing and Tommy Seymour went over for the try.
A charge down of a Ben Spencer kick , after a line out, saw the ball land well for Ali Price, he took his opportunity and scored a great individual try, the kick from Hastings put Glasgow ahead. The Glasgow fans were in the stand I sit in predominantly so I did hear them singing on their team, but they can definitely be heard loud and clear on the TV. During the TMO process David Strettle left the fray to be replaced by Alex Lozowski, a player who seems to be taking over the utility back role where Chris Wyles left off for Saracens.
Saracens had a penalty in waiting and went for touch, they then went for one of those much maligned ‘boring’ tries, see my last piece, that put 5 quite key points on the board, extended to 7 by Ben Spencer. That took the score to Saracens 17 – Glasgow 12.
Tommy Seymour went close for Glasgow after a wonderful flighted pass by Hastings, he fell just short, but the ball came out to Ryan Wilson who powered over through both Schalk Burger and Liam Williams, Hastings added the extras and Glasgow were ahead again. With 22 minutes gone we’d been treated to 5 tries.
Saracens started to take some control in the forwards and George Kruis stormed through, as he was running forward Jamie George was in a key position to run in, but Kruis kept the ball. Unfortunately he grounded the ball too early and then had the ball punched out by Hastings. It was really disappointing to hear boo’s when the try was rightly disallowed, it was very clearly the right decision. I can suggest to those who did boo that they might benefit from a ref link to hear the decision making process.
The ball was touched down by a Glasgow player so the scrum went to Saracens, Billy Vunipola looking in fine fettle picked the ball up from the base of the scrum to score Saracens’ 3rd and the games’ 6th try. Spencer converted giving Saracens a 5 point cushion.
We had 43 points in the first 30 minutes and the teas went in at half time with the score on Saracens 24 Glasgow 19 with all to play for.
The first match between these 2 had been an ill tempered affair, we didn’t see any signs of handbags until well into the second half, Callum Clarke always makes me nervous when he comes on, so it was interesting to see him pulling Maro Itoje and Jamie George away from the potential aggro.
The second set of handbags came when Glasgow pushed Saracens off the ball in the scrum, winning the penalty. I have no real idea of the reasoning behind the hassle, but interestingly Adam Hastings came rushing in to confront Richard Wigglesworth who’d previously tapped him on the head when he lost the ball, it was all something and nothing.
Having had a points fest in the first half we had to wait until the 70th minute for the next points. The French referee had a good game overall I thought but he did call advantage over very quickly a couple of times, one such was when an offence was committed in the Glasgow 22, cue more booing, not good. It also wasn’t good seeing Wigglesworth shouting at the referee.
Some very fine play from the home team saw Will Skelton running down the wing, after a great pass from Jamie George, a neat pass to Maro Itoje saw him score the bonus point try for Saracens.
Saracens had another ‘no try’ when Richard Barrington was clearly held up over the line, the booing theme continued, again the decision was spot on. However a 5th try did come for the home team when Will Skelton powered over the line, the conversion took the score to Saracens 38 Glasgow 19. That all adds up to a home quarter final for Saracens and we’ll have to wait and see if their opposition is Glasgow, it could well be!
Maro Itoje was awarded the Man of the Match accolade, for the second wee running that could easily have gone to Nick Tompkins who’s been highly impressive. Alex Goode was superb at 10, but hey Eddie why consider that sort of flexibility! Saracens bench was very strong today, a big reason for the score line stretching as it did in the second half. A very good sight for England fans was Billy Vunipola back to his best. This for me was one of the best Saracens performances of the season so far. Adam Hastings was as good to watch as I’d hoped he’d be and many teams must be quaking at the thought of Stuart Hogg in the Exeter Chiefs team, he’ll be a big loss to the Warriors. A mention for the XVIth Warriors – they did their team proud!