In November Saracens were given a £5.4 ish fine and a 35 point deduction, having been found to have breached the salary cap for 3 seasons. As a Saracens fan that’s felt pretty awful, but more was yet to come!

There’s been a sense of glee around any negative news around Saracens from some quarters, I was loathe to believe what I was reading, surely the news that Saracens were to be relegated at the end of the season wouldn’t come from leaks? But yes, it would appear that was how the rugby community as a whole was to hear such momentous news.

And that community includes those whose mortgages and families depend on the club, they too will have seen the ‘news’ on Thursday evening. I believe a meeting was held at Allianz Park on Friday morning, which will have been a small blessing for the players and the rest of the staff.

The rest of us waited with baited breath, then at last, on Saturday evening, the night before the biggest game of Saracens’ season, the statement came from Premiership Rugby.

Premiership Rugby confirms that Saracens Rugby Club will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-2020 season.

This action follows the conclusion of dialogue between Premiership Rugby and Saracens over the club’s compliance with the Salary Cap Regulations, which began in November 2019 after the club received a sanction in respect of breaches in past seasons.

Darren Childs, Chief Executive of Premiership Rugby, said: “Premiership Rugby is prepared to take strong action to enforce the regulations governing fair competition between our clubs. At the conclusion of dialogue with Saracens about their compliance with the Salary Cap Regulations, it has been decided that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season.

At the same time as enforcing the existing regulations, we want to ensure a level playing field for all clubs in the future, which is why we have asked Lord Myners to carry out an independently-led review of the Salary Cap. As part of this process, we will soon be announcing an open consultation so that everyone involved in the game has the opportunity to contribute to its future.

The actions that we have taken – dealing with breaches of the current regulations and reviewing the system for the future – will help us to build a stronger league and uphold the confidence of supporters.

Following the decision over Saracens’ relegation, the club will continue to compete in Gallagher Premiership Rugby through to the end of the 2019-20 season.

Neil Golding, chairman of Saracens, said: “As the new Chairman of Saracens I acknowledge the club has made errors in the past and we unreservedly apologise for those mistakes.

I and the rest of the Board are committed to overseeing stringent new governance measures to ensure regulatory compliance going forward.’’

It wasn’t until 10am the following day that a short statement came from Saracens themselves, another brief statement. It seems stakeholders all round aren’t going to get eyes on any detail. Today I listened to a podcast with Lord Dyson, the architect of the initial report, he seems to be flabbergasted that his findings haven’t been published.

The enormity of this latest bombshell has been dropped with a pre-emptory statement, there seems to be nothing in the regulations to allow such a punishment. I’m going to add a link to a great article written by someone I follow on Twitter @rugbyandthelaw http://rugbyandthelaw.com/2020/01/20/saracens-relegation-premiership-rugby-salary-cap-governance-transparency-regulations/amp/?__twitter_impression=true&fbclid=IwAR09v5PMbtnsrBzl0gejrYI-wgmhVGuHtZnmCrhzUc5eTrw_q_MuAr0dON8

I hold out the hope that we will get some detail, and along with the rest of my fellow fans wait to see what’s going to happen player wise at the end of the season. We have some new away trips to look forward to next season!

And so, on to the actual rugby, I have photos to share!

In spite of starting this Champions Cup campaign in Paris with an inexperienced team Saracens were playing for a place in the quarter finals in the final group match against the same opposition, Racing 92.

Racing themselves would be group winners no matter what transpired, and were through, but they were fighting for a home semi-final. I can recall watching the Paris outfit in 2013 at Harlequins. On that occasion they were a team of superstar individuals and were poor. Harlequins won 17 to 3.

While this Racing team does still contain more than a few overseas superstars of the game, the likes of Juan Imhoff, Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan and the sublime Finn Russell; they seem to have the balance right.

It was hard to imagine just how the 23 Saracens included in the matchday 23 were feeling, but it became very clear they were in the mood for winning.

Maro Itoje was the first name on the score sheet, Owen Farrell duly converted and the home team were 7 ahead. There were 2 minutes on the board, 3 minutes later Billy Vunipola left the scene, he looked disappointed but walked off unaided, it’s since been announced he’s broken an arm, the third time he’s suffered such an injury I believe, devastating news!

This was an eventful match, 5 minutes later Teddy Iribaren, Racing’s scrum half was deemed to have deliberately knocked on in the red zone, 10 minutes on the naughty step for him. It was interesting to watch Juan Imhoff the Argentinian winger taking his place at 9!

Saracens made the most of the territory with Mako Vunipola going over for their second try, Smooth Operator he certainly is! The following photos aren’t of the try, but they are of Mako, you can almost see the thoughts going through his tackler’s mind!

Racing came back with a delightful try from Virimi Vakatawa, he took a kick from Russell, who on a good day can be a thrilling rugby player, to run in and score.

As is so often the way the scrum half, the absent one in this case usually takes the kicks, Finn Russell stepped up and converted this try.

Louis Dupichot a home grown Racing man benefited from a speculative pass from Owen Farrell, he stormed down the pitch after intercepting. Another thriller of a try! Iribaren back on added the conversion.

Farrell added 3 points with a penalty, but it was Racing who went ahead finally with another stunner of a try from Vakatawa. We were 30 minutes in and we’d seen 5 tries! Iribaren added the extras. The score was now Saracens 17 Racing 21.

The drama wasn’t over for the half however. Nigel Owen, who was Sir for the game had his attention drawn to a late ‘tackle’ by Will Skelton, who’d replaced Billy Vunipola. His shoulder clearly hit high and in spite of the height differential it was a red card offence, his match was over too, he lasted a but longer than Vunipola, at 39 minutes Saracens were down to 14 men. They ‘d found themselves in the same position after 5 minutes against Opsreys!

The resulting penalty was missed, but Iribaren converted another early in the second half. Saracens then laid siege to the Racing line, there were a couple of possibles but the confirmed try came via that man Maro Itoje, he was in man mountain mode! The added conversion took the sccore to 24 apiece. Saracens really had to win this one to progress.

A yellow card for Bernard Le Roux on 68 minutes certainly helped Saracens cause. Elliot Daly missed a penalty before Saracens again camped on the Racing line. With just 5 minutes remaining captain Brad Barritt took the option of a kick at goal and Owen Farrell duly slotted the ball over.

Those 5 minutes went by without too much drama and Saracens had secured the win. They had to wait on the result between Toulouse and Gloucester, an unlikely bonus point win away for the English team would see them through. That wasn’t to be and Saracens will now travel to Dublin to face the top seed Leinster in the quarter final.

Relegation means this game was the last meaningful game for the First XV at Allianz Park this season. But I’m sure every game will be both well contested and well supported.

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