Round 2 of the Championship play offs saw Saracens taking a 60 point lead into the game. With a prize of Premiership Rugby and European Challenge Cup Rugby on the line these 2 matches probably constituted the most important fixtures in Saracens’ history. Failure to make it back into the top league could see the club cease to exist in its current form.
With no relegation from the Premiership after a number of Covid affected matches many assumed there’d be no promotion. But there was no reason not to allow the team winning the lower competition to claim their prize of promotion.
The first play of the match resulted in a penalty try being awarded to Ealing, along with a yellow card for Jackson Wray. My view was blocked by someone late to find their seat, but having seen a replay on the TV, Wray missed the ball then knocked the ball out of play deliberately, so, fair enough all round.
Guy Thompson, ex-Wasps and Tigers, very nearly intercepted the ball, he’s a player I really rate, but I wasn’t unhappy he dropped the ball I must confess.
Saracens got on the scoreboard after 7 minutes with a penalty, again taking the points on offer as they had in the first leg.
Thompson was lucky not to see yellow when he went for an intercept again and was deemed to have made a deliberate knock on. In spite of good possession Saracens didn’t add to their score. Ealing cleared their lines after a penalty was reversed after Tim Swinson was deemed to have entered the ruck from the side.
Ealing extended their lead back to 7 after they were awarded a penalty, there was a fair bit of niggle between the packs, with Bobby de Wee carrying on where he’d left off the week before. A couple of minutes later Jamie George was seen with his forearm across a prone Ealing player, so it was a 2 way thing.
Saracens couldn’t quite string things together in the first half, but we did have the joy of second row Tim Swinson kicking to touch, that kind of goings on always raises a smile!
However ‘marauding Mako’ as the TV commentators called him went over on 35 minutes and drew level for the first time in the game. Mako never ceases to amaze me, he has the body of a prop, the hands of a 10, this was a props’ try.
The teams went in on 10 apiece at half-time, a pleasing situation for Ealing. But as far as being three quarters through the play off the score was Saracens 70 Ealing 10.
In chatting with my neighbour I felt a rocket was needed for the Saracens team at half-time. The crowd of 2500, mostly Saracens had waited a long time to see their team play some good rugby.
It took under 2 minutes for Saracens to score in the second half, we’ve seen just how good Elliot Daly is in his preferred position of Outside Centre since he’s been back at his club. He was on the end of a ball from Alex Lewington after holding his line to allow Farrell to get the initial pass to the winger. The conversion was good and Saracens took the lead for the first time in the game.
Nick Tompkins at Inside Centre never ceases to amaze, the strength from the young centre helped Saracens get close to the Ealing line in their next attack, alongside his forwards of course. A quick tap penalty taken by Billy Vunipola was repelled, but 100 game man Vincent Koch went over and the lead was extended. Both conversions were good and Saracens moved to 24.
Play was halted by Joy Neville on 47 minutes, after a tackle by 3 Saracens players. From what I could see initially on the big screen it looked like Aled Davies was in trouble. But, Mike Rhodes, playing in his final game for Saracens had gone into contact with his shoulder, and in his 107th and final game for Saracens he was shown a red card. Watching on the replay there was no choice for the officials. He looked close to tears as he left the pitch, but still got the standing ovation he deserved as a man who’s given so much to the team. Saracens would play the rest of the game with 14 men.
14 men or not Jamie George is a hard man to stop at the back of a maul and he went over the line after Saracens drove from a lineout. 52 minutes on the clock any 31 points on the board for Saracens. 6 changes were made before play started again. And those involved in the Lions tour left the pitch.
One of the poor Ealing subs, Harry Dugmore, had to go straight off after a particularly hard collision with Jackson Wray as he ran with the ball. Play re-started with a scrum which Saracens new front row were clearly happy to win a penalty on.
Nick Tompkins was on the end of a lovely set of passes to go over for Saracens 4th try of the half. Manu Vunipola on for Farrell missed a difficult conversion.
It looked like Ealing had scored a well worked try, with Ryan Smid going over, Tom Whitely also playing his last Saracens game persisted in his pursuit and Smid was deemed to have dropped the ball.
Saracens 5th of the half saw a mix of forwards grit and backs passing as Tompkins floated a lovely pass out to Lewington on the wing, he stepped inside a tiring defence to score his 8th try of the season. A wingers try and another difficult kick, but this one went over from Vunipola.
Ealing had given away several penalties in the red zone, conceding 6 in just under 20 minutes. The team were given a warning and after another 2 scrum penalties, the prop Lewis Thiede was shown yellow, that was Ealinngs’ 20th penalty conceded. It was good to see him sharing a laugh with Saracens’ Barrington, who’d been water and ball boy, as he went off. The last 10 minutes would be played with even numbers.
The next scrum saw a penalty try awarded and Saracens moved to 50. Tom Whitely had a better final game than Rhodes, he collected a ball from Lewington after a great run from Ralph Adam’s-Hale, a show boat try which he made into something spectacular. The conversion took Saracens to 57.
This had been a much better performance from Ealing in spite of what that 57 seems to say, and they had the final word. A really well taken try for the substitute scrum half Jordan Burns, showing his winger credentials. The final score was Saracens 57 Ealing Trailfinders 15
Bizarrely Saracens initial celebration with this trophy was with their backs to their fans, they soon turned round however to share their delight.
Saracens will play in the 13 team Premiership next season, I have no doubt as a Saracens fan that the criticism of the club will continue, but I imagine most of it will come from keyboard warriors rather than fans in the grounds. Roll on September!