Watching Premiership Rugby really is so much better when people sit in their seats, for one, and when ref link works, for two. I managed not to miss anything vital this week, and there was a lot of good stuff to see. Poor Wasps travelled to the Stonex Stadium with 15 of their players on the injury list, and one banned, including some very classy players such as Joe Launchbury, Alfie Barbeary and Jack Willis. This was going to be an uphill battle for them as they faced a team that had scored 10 tries at the Recreation Ground against Bath.
There were a few changes to Saracens starting line up as Dom Morris started ahead of Alex Lozowski, Nick Isiekwe moved into the second row, giving Andy Christie a start at 6, Tim Swinson, that man who had retired was on the bench. Marco Riccioni and Vincent Kick swapped places with the South African World Cup winner starting.
Wasps had their rest week while Saracens were running amok in Bath, only Thomas Young and Zach Kibirigie has started their last match, a narrow loss at home to Wasps. I was very interested to see Francois Hougaard starting, I’d missed him moving to Wasps, he’s a favourite of mine, Jimmy Gopperth, in his seventh season with Wasps, started at 10.
Max Malins was sporting ‘tights’ – a new directive allowing such things has been passed down in recent weeks, my neighbour wasn’t too sure about them, I explained that as far as I was concerned Max could wear what he likes, if they be pink or purple, so be it! That was before he did what the did.
Enough of the preamble and on to the rugby. Owen Farrell started things off and Wasps won an early penalty after Hougaard had box kicked, Sean Maitland was penalised. Some possession for Wasps but a throw into touch by Thomas Young pulled them up short. A high tackle on Billy Vunipola saw Saracens first penalty kicked for territory. A second penalty in front of the posts was kicked successfully to get the first points on the board. As was a penalty a few minutes later.
Jamie George had scored a controversial try against Newcastle, there were 2 balls on the pitch at the time, the second being under Owen Farrell’s arm; there was nothing cpntroversial about his and Saracens first of the afternoon. He was running on Vincent Koch’s shoulder as he broke through and had an easy run in to score. Saracens were 13 up after 14 minutes.
We’d seen Billy Vunipola kick a 50/22 at Bath and Gopperth kicked a perfect one through for Wasps to give them a line out close to the Saracens line. Maro Itoje gave away 2 penalties firstly pulling on the arm of the jumper then jumping too soon. Gopperth took the 3 points for the second penalty; experience showing I feel.
A crazy pass from Alex Goode, out of the back of his hands, saw the ball go back to Davies on the bounce, the dancing feet of Nick Tompkins soared down the pitch, with Maitland taking the ball on. Goode was involved at the other end as the ball was passed out and across to Max Malins who went in for his first and Saracens second try.
It was interesting to see Maro Itoje tapping on Ben Earl’s back to remove him from the ruck at one point, his presence really is felt across the pitch. Wasps errors, passing the ball into touch and dropping it in their own half certainly wasn’t helping their cause.
Depressingly for Wasps Tom Cruise left the pitch for an HIA on 27 minutes and didn’t return, he cab be added to their injury list. A high tackle on Billy V saw Saracens win a line out close to Wasps line, the 9 lost line-outs at Welford Road were long forgotten, but Wasps turned the ball over as they did after Malins rushed forward moments later. Vincent Koch made a lovely break in the midfield but this time couldn’t quite find Mako Vunipola’s hands with the pass.
Saracens third try was scored after Billy V picked the ball up after a scrum, a penalty had been awarded to Saracens as the scrum wheeled round, that gave Billy V a short distance to go for the touch down, The score at half-time was Saracens 27 Wasps 3.
Wasps absorbed a lot of pressure in the middle of the pitch early in the second half, but once the ball came out to the wing, a pass from George found Malins who scored his second. The kick went to the left of the posts, but Saracens had the bonus point try.
A bobbling ball caused horrors for Kibirige and Hougaard grounded the ball as he picked the ball out, Moments later Dom Morris was held up by Gopperth leading to a goal line drop out (all very rugby league that!) We had a comedy of errors when Saracens were awarded a penalty close to the Wasps line, Davies went too soon, then Billy V threw the ball into a retreating Farrell. Wasps came away with the ball and Kibirige threw a lovely dummy, eventually kicking the ball, Malins saved the day in a race with his former team mate Ali Crossdale, touching the ball down just in time.
Saracens changed their whole front row and their scrum half as Wasps had a line out close to the Saracens line; there was an inevitability to Gopperth being on the end of a great pass from Crossdale, a fact as he’s taking the kick as I re-watch on the TV, he has 8 more first team appearances than the whole of the rest of his back line colleagues.
A lost ball from Saracens was kicked forward by Crossdale and in a race down the pitch between Farrelll, KIbirige and Crossdale, there was only going to be one winner, Kibirige gave the ball another kick and collected it to score a great try. It was huge credit to Wasps that they were fighting with all of their might.
Malins third, his second hat-trick in 2 games came after a Saracens line out, with a penalty waiting The ball was moved to Farrell who threw a huge pass out to Malins on the wing, the kick went wide of the posts to the right this time. Malins wasn’t finished he and Farrell had a one-two as Malins had taken a clearing kick from Wasps, Malins took the ball back to run in for his fourth of the day, that was Malins last piece of work as Alex Lewington took his place on the wing.
The two Alex’s – Lewington and Lozowski on as replacements combined after Tompkins had passed the ball across with barely a touch, Alex passed to Alex who passed back to Alex and Lozowski had a try to his name. Farrell had broken a 22 successful kick run with 3 misses, but he made no mistake this time.
Wasps carried on fighting with the clock in the red,but Saracens weathered the pressure and won the ball back, Another huge floating pass from Farrell found Lewington before the ball made its way back to the right of the pitch. Ben Earl, who’d had an excellent game went through the middle of two defenders to score his teams 8th try. The final score was Saracens 56 Wasps 15. Saracens sit third in the table with 5 games played, they have a points difference of 125 and face Harlequins at the Stoop next week. Wasps travel to Bath next week, a key game for both teams. Wasps never gave up in this match, both teams have suffered at Saracens hands in recent weeks, which team will have the fight and nous to get the win?