After watching Saracens Storm running in 11 tries against Ealing Trailfinders at the Stonex Stadum I’d been a bit spoilt rugby wise; my mid-week entertainment involved a round ball at the London Stadium as West Ham played Rapid Vienna; it struck me that for all of the superior attitude so many rugby union fans show towards football and its fans, rugby union clubs would love to have such huge and passionate crowds. Then West Ham scored and the very vocal away fans and the West Ham fans near them started going at each other and I remembered why I hadn’t enjoyed the place when I had a season ticket in the first year they moved. That small element damage the reputation of football fans across the country time after time at most grounds. That being said I thoroughly enjoyed the match and the West Ham win.
I’m not going to be writing too much about the game at Welford Road, it was the sort of game that would put a new viewer off. But, I have some photos to share and will keep track of it as a game I attended. It wasn’t even one for the ‘purists’ it was a game that would be won by the team that made the fewest mistakes. I was with my good friends Alun and Sharon and we arrived nice and early after a fairly horrible drive up in some nasty weather. We sat with some staunch Tigers fans, who had a Wasps fan in their midst; it was good to have some friendly rugby chat, we did talk about Saracens wrong doings, but it stayed a pleasant conversation.
Three of Saracens Lions were on the pitch as the players warmed up, the one that could’ve made a real difference in the game, Maro Itoje wasn’t there to play, sadly, from the perspective of a Saracens fan. Saracens had struggled with their line out at Bristol and that continued in spite of Jamie George being back in the fold; they lost 5 and won only 9 to Tigers 25, Tigers only lost 1. For some reason the throws kept going to the back of the line out when it wasn’t going well at all.
A quick look at the stats shows just one clean break and a heady 6 offloads in the whole match, not the stuff of rugby dreams. With Owen Farrell at the helm, Saracens managed the game better than Tigers in the first half and the teams went in with the scores on Tigers 3 Saracens 9 at half-time. Neither team went close to scoring a try.
Tigers made early substitutions, with their talisman and new captain Ellis Genge came on with Van Poortvilet at 9 and Steward on 47 minutes. Saracens had made an early change when Ralph Adams Hale was injured in a scrum on 19 minutes; but further subs didn’t happen until 59 minutes and Owen Farrell went off on 69. Alex Lozowski had played brilliantly at 10 against the Bears; but the changes seemed to unsettle Saracens and their decision making wasn’t the best as the game progressed.
Farrell had added a fourth penalty to stretch the lead to 2 scores, with 10 minutes to play Saracens had a 9 point lead. They’d been lucky not to see yellow after a series of penalties given away in the red zone, as the Saracens defence battled to keep the Tigers forwards out.
Tigers had a try disallowed after a kick through bounced off the posts. the ball was gathered by van Poortvliet, but he’d come from an offside position, naturally the home crowd were upset to see the try wiped off.
George Ford closed the gap to 6 with a penalty kick with 5 minutes on the clock; Saracens had a opportunity to close the game out, but rather than keep the ball ‘up their jumpers’ they lost it in the Tigers half. The Tigers went on the attack as the clock moved into red, Guy Porter was bundled into touch and it looked like the game was done, But, Christophe Ridley took a closer look at how Porter had made it into touch. Saracens scrum half, Aled Davies came in late and his involvement was deemed to be illegal. It took some time to make the decision and the officials missed a late and high hit on Davies by Dan Kelly on Davies, it was a ‘hit’ that would have seen the resulting penalty reversed.
However the penalty was given to Tigers and they made the most of it, Saracens gave one penalty too many away as TIgers drove towards the line. The result was a yellow card for Billy Vunipola and a winning penalty try for Leicester Tigers.
That was three from three for Tigers and they top the table by a point from Northampton Saints. They did their faor share of defending too and no doubt rugby league legend Kevin Sinfield will have been looking on with satisfaction from the side lines. We’re looking at a very competitive Premiership season which can only be good for the game. I noticed a sign in the toilets advertising season tickets for £12 for UNder 12’s – that’s even better for the game!