With the Premiership proper a week away and little or no pre-season for most teams, both of these teams saw an injection of experience. There were players on both sides who might be considered unlucky not to be in Japan. For some that time will surely come, with Harlequins’ Marcus Smith at 20 who has one cap and is very much on England’s radar, 24 year old James Lang’s been capped twice for Scotland.
Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw are at the other end of the spectrum. The self professed ‘best fullback in England’ was in the England camp, but was sent away after a training ground incident with Ben T’eo. Chris Robshaw, who in my opinion is still one of the best back row players in England suffers from a bounty of back row players who’ve emerged in recent years. Having had a dearth of them we now have a choice of two 7’s in Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, who’re taking both the 6 and 7 spots in the England set up. Mark Wilson is there as back up to any of the back row positions. England left behind the other Curry and Zac Mercer to name just two.
Ben Spencer, Saracens’ 27 year old Scrum Half has made 4 appearances from the bench for England, he was involved in the England training camp until they went away to Portugal; he must consider himself very unlucky not to be in Japan. I really hope he gets his chance in the 6 Nations.
The European Player of the Year, Alex Goode, who happens to be a Fullback, has consistently been ignored by current England coach Eddie Jones. Alongside the Premiership Player of the Year, Danny Cipriani, that’s a hard one to understand. Goode played 10 in this match, a position he played in at least twice during the Champions Cup. At 31 it’s unlikely he’ll feature again for his country, but we can hope!
Will Skelton at 27 has 18 Australian caps to his name, he was on Australia’s wishlist, but without their required 60 caps, put in place by ‘Giteau’s Law; he had to return to Australia for 2020 and in spite of Melbourne Reds showing an interest, he chose to stay at Saracens to see out the second year of his 2 year contract. That has very much been Saracens gain, he’s in the shape and form of his life!
There will no doubt be others in both teams who’ll feature for England, and very possibly in the next World Cup. With my biased Saracens’ eyes is one who’s never featured and at 28 and in those over populated back row slots, is unlikely to , Jackson Wray lined up for Saracens at Number 8.
I’d say these 2 teams were fairly evenly matched and realistically the scoreline reflected that. An early penalty from Marcus Smith got Quins on the scoreboard after just 3 mintes but Rotimi Segun opened the scoring for Saracens 3 minutes later, his fourth of the competition, he’s certainly made his mark!
Ben Spencer scored Saracens 2nd after Nick Tompkins stormed his way through the Quins defence, that word will come back big time for Saracens third try. But, Mike Brown went over the line for Quins as they pretty much strolled through the Saracens defence.
Saracens looked to be in some trouble a few minutes later as they Alex Lewington found himself ball in hand on his own line, he chipped the ball over the approaching Quins and the ball landed perfectly in his hands on the bounce. Who should be there to take the ball but Will Skelton, at just under 6ft 7 he’s a sight to behold at the best of times, but, storming down the pitch as he did, must be a horrible sight for any defender! He had Ben Spencer on his shoulder and passed the ball to him rather than running three quarters of the pitch himself. They may just have tried the Saracens try of the season already!
With penalties and conversions added in the score was Saracens 22 Harlequins 13 at half time. Ben Spencer with the kicking duties had 17 of those Saracens points to his name.
It took until the 75th minute for another try to be scored and that went the way of Quins, winger Gabriel Ibitoye, who looks to have doubled in size in the off season, going over on 75 minutes.
With 2 penalties for Saracens and 1 for Quins in the second half, the final score was Saracens 28 Harlequins 21. It was a really well contested game with plenty of fringe players getting a run our for both teams. Both go through to the semi-finals with Saracens facing Sale Sharks away and Quins travelling to Exeter. I’d love to see both contesting the final!