Sunday 4th October was the last time Saracens Men played a meaningful game of rugby, that being a 17 all draw against Bath rugby, they’ve had one warm up match against a Leicester Tigers XV but the club and its fans have been without rugby for nearly 4 months. We have to go back to Friday 28th February for Ealing’s last Championship game, a 8 – 17 win at Coventry. They played 2 games against both Newcastle and Bristol in November and December preparation for the new Championship season.
This cup is a warm up competition with the hope that the Championship, now split into 2 leagues can start on March 16th; both teams featuring at Vallis Way have ambitions for Premiership Rugby; Ealing had won all 15 of their games with a points difference of 333 when Covid demanded the end of the season. As a long term London Broncos fan I’ve spent many a sunny afternoon at the ground watching rugby league, it’s good to see the improved facilities at the ground, and great to hear about the £4m investment in the training facilities during the match build up, especially the cricket nets, as a big cricket fan, I look forward to being able to visit again.
I wrote a pre-match article so have listed the teams from there:
- 1 Kyle White – SA,Scottish Qual, Played for Western Province, Edinburgh & London Scottish – Age 26
- 2. Alun Walker – Scottish, Edinburgh, Nottingham – Age 30
- 3. Elliot Millar Mills – played for Yorkshire Carnegie, Edinburgh – Age 28
- 4. Bobby de Wee – SA Golden Kings, Southern Kings – Age 26
- 5. Simon Linsell – Hartpury College, Gloucester – Age 26
- 6. Kieran Murphy – Scottish/Wales Qual, Llandovery RFC, Brive, London Welsh – Age 32
- 7. Adam Korczyk – NZ, Aust Qual, Queensland Reds – Age 25
- 8. Rayn Smid (c) – SA Western Province, Cavalieri, Bristol – Age 28
- 9. Craig Hampson – Leeds Tykes, Bristol, Wasps – Age 30
- 10. Craig Willis – Newcastle Falcons – Age 25
- 11. Dean Hammond – SA, Worcester Warriors – Age 28
- 12. Pat Howard – SA, Western Province, Munster, Stormers, Northampton Saints, Dragons – Age 28
- 13. Fraser Strachan – Northampton Saints – Age 26
- 14. Angus Kernohan – Irish, Ulster – Age 21
- 15. David Johnston – Irish, Munster – Age 26
- 1. Eroni Mawi – Fijian, Fijian Drua, Fijian Latul, Age 24
- 2. Tom Woolstencroft (c) – Bath, Rosslyn Park, London Irish – Age 26
- 3. Josh Ibuanokpe – Hartpury, Harlequins – Age 24
- 4. Jon Kpoku – Saracens – Age 21
- 5. Ollie Stonham – Saracens – Age 20
- 6. Jaco Venter – Namibian, Welwitschias, Western Province, Jersey Reds – Age 26
- 7. Andy Christie – Saracens – 21
- 8. Billy Vunipola – b Aust, Eng Qual – Wasps, England – Age 28
- 9. Aled Davies – Welsh, Llanelli – Age 28
- 10. Will Hooley – Moseley, Northampton Saints, Exeter Chiefs, Bedford Blues – Age 27
- 11. Rotimi Segun – Loughborough Students – Age 24
- 12. Duncam Taylor – Scottish, Bedford Blues, Scotland – Age 31
- 13. Dom Morris – Saracens – Age 23
- 14. Ben Harris – England 7’s – Age 20
- 15. Elliot Obatayinbo – Saracens – Age 20
It’s clear that Saracens face a lot of experience during their first game in this new era.
Ealing kicked off and Saracens started with a knock on followed by a penalty giving Craig Willis a chance to kick for goal and put 3 points on the baord. Ealing gave away a penalty from the kick off and Will Hooley kicked to the corner. A second penalty in front of the posts saw Hooley even up the scores.
The first scrum collapsed before a free kick was awarded to Saracens, they chose to go for the scrum which collapsed and resulted in a penalty for Ealing – a small victory for them. A lovely wide pass from Willis to Angus Kernohan, in space on the wing, saw that victory converted into the first try of the game. An excellent kick from Willis took the home team to 10.
Another scrum collapse and a free kick for Saracens, who didn’t take the scrum option this time, a charge down by Jon Kpoku saw Saracens go on the attack. Ealing turned the ball over after Billy Vunipola took a quick tap close to the line; enabling them to clear their lines. Hooley added 3 points to `Saracens score after another penalty, taking the score to Ealing 10 Saracens 6 after 19 minutes.
A certain sign of respect for their opposition saw Hooley kick a 3rd penalty on 25 minutes, Ealing were being as tough an opposition as their experience suggested they would be. A Saracens player yelling at the ref saw a penalty awarded and more territory for Ealing, a totally unnecessary penalty. A further penalty in front of the posts saw Willis take another 3 points.
A couple of penalties close to the Ealing line for Saracens resulted in the ball finding its way into the hands of a Saracens back and Elliot Obatayinbo scored Saracens first try of the game to put them ahead for the first time in the game. Richard Barrington was proving himself to be as good on commentary as he is on the field – a future career maybe?
Ealing were playing a great kicking game and found themselves with an attacking scrum on the stroke of half time; but hey were unable to make the most of the territory. A half of rugby Ealing will have been happy with, they definitely matched Saracens physically. The teams went in with the scores on Ealing 13 Saracens 14.
Harry Sloan came on for Duncan Taylor just after half time, a concern for the Scot who’s had a terrible time with injuries, hopefully this isn’t a serious one. I’m not keen on moaning about the officials, but the team seemed to be missing a few things, including the grabbing of legs from the floor, on the wrong side for Sir, but the Assistant Refs should be policing the area.
A great maul from Ealing after a line out saw them inches away from the line, a knock on relieved Saracens, or should have, but Vunipola dropped the ball at the back of the scrum to give the attacking scrum to Ealing. A penalty for off-side gave Ealing the line out, another penalty and another line out and Ealing forced their way over for a try to take the lead again. The kick from Willis was successful and on 54 minutes the score was Ealing 20 Saracens 14.
Tom Whiteley entered the fray after 56 minutes and Saracens seemed to liven up, they remembered they had Rotimi Segun on the wing for one thing! A knock on, on the Ealing line then saw Ealing get the put in then a free kick at the scrum, sending Saracens back down the pitch.
Saracens did however get over the line moments later as replacement Kapeli Pifeleti dived over the line, a missed kick meant Ealing kept a 1 point lead. That replacement saw captain Woolstencroft packing down as flanker in the next scrum, a man of many talents!
The game was becoming something of a penalty fest against Saracens, giving key territory to Ealing time and again. Saracens were lucky to avoid a card as the referee missed the ball being played on the floor, singling out the wrong player and incident for the penalty. A team warning was issued after numerous penalties close to the line. Another penalty and the yellow card was shown to replacement Sam Wainwright. Ealing drove, easliy over the line, a second try for Alan Walker. Well deserved for the home team who’d had Saracens under a lot of pressure. The score was Ealing 27 Saracens 19 with 5 minutes remaning.
A yellow card for Ealing on their line, with under 2 minutes on the clock saw Saracens go over the line, but it was too little too late. The conversion was good and the final score – Ealing Trailfinders 27 Saracens 26. A deserved win for the home team, lots to work on for Saracens.