No photos for this one, I messed my camera settings up and those I took are really poor 😦
London Irish had been involved in 2 draws before their visit to the Stonex Stadium, the first of those being against Sale, when they trailed by 17 points at half-time, Sale had 31 at that point and failed to score a point in the second half as the game finished at 31 apiece. They then lost away to Northampton Saints by just 2 points and at home to Leicester Tigers by 5. Those games were followed by the second draw, this time Irish led by 8 points at the halfway point against Gloucester, the game finished as a 25 All draw. That was followed up by a really good win away at Exeter and a loss at home to Bristol Bears. That all added together should have forewarned both fans and the team that this would be a challenging game.
An early try for Tom Woolstencroft set Saracens off well, unusually Alex Lozowski missed the conversion, Paddy Jackson converted a penalty 10 minutes later and Lozowski shortly after, An incident that surely should have given Saracens a huge advantage. Adam Coleman led with his shoulder into Jackson Wray’s head, the officials took a decent time to make their decision, but, a red card it was. London Irish would be playing nearly an hour with 14 men.
To add to Irish’s woes they lost Paddy Jackson to injury 2 minutes later, Woolstencroft’s part in the game had also come to an end as he left the pitch for an HIA, he didn’t pass, which is a concern for upcoming games. Rotimi Segun making his first start since October 9th showed his dancing feet for the first of his 2 tries after 28 minutes, he jinked past several defenders after the ball came away from a scrum. Another missed conversion for Lozowski but Saracens took a 10 point lead into half time.
A second try for Segun stretched the lead, we saw his absolute speed this time as he stormed across the line to score, Alex Goode and a returning Duncan Taylor had spun the ball out to the wing; the conversion was good, a difficult kick near the side line. Ben Earl was next on the score sheet, anything the wingers can do, he can too, his speed is a sight to behold at times. He took the ball from a great pass from Andy Christie, who’d juggled a similarly good pass from Mako Vunipola, Earl went in under the posts.
Irish responded well to the pressure with their first try of the game, Scottish international Kyle Rowe out on his wing going over at speed, a good try, it took Irish to 8 points, Saracens were on 27.
Mako Vunipola has been immense since he’s been back in a Saracens shirt and this game was no exception, having helped make Saracens fourth try, he scored their fifth, this one was all about power as he backed himself and charged through several defenders to touch down between the posts. At the 61 minute mark the score was Saracens 34 London Irish 8 – just take that scoreline in with just 19 minutes of the match remaining. Bear in mind that Irish had been playing with 14 men since the 21st minute.
So, at 34 to 8 – The game should really have been secured for Saracens! Cue Kyle Rowe again, he collected the ball close to the half-way line to score a superb individual try, bypassing several defenders as he went! The try was converted by Rory Jennings as with 63 on the clock Irish had 15 on the scoreboard.
Irish had their tails up and NIck Phipps, who had a great game, profited from a break by Ollie Hassell-Collins to add another 5, Jennings added the extras and the gap was closed to just 12, with 12 minutes remaining.
At this point I’m going to bring you a stat from the game; Saracens missed 38 tackles, it would be no shock to me to discover that most of them were in the final quarter of the game! They also conceded 16 penalties in the game.
A series of those penalties saw a forwards driven try as Matt Rogerson drove over the line, in what would be a crucial moment the conversion went wide of the posts. But, the gap was now down to just 7.
The 14 men of London Irish were determined to leave with more than a try bonus point, having had a good attack stopped by a tackle into touch, the TMO called things back for a late tackle by Elliot Obatoyinbo. There were 90 seconds on the clock, and rather than Saracens having a line out that would have allowed them to clear their lines, Irish had a penalty, that was followed by several more and on the 84th minute Rowe scored his hat-trick try, Jennings duly converted with a great kick and Saracens 26 point lead had quite simply been blown away! A well deserved Draw for the visitors, who in all honesty based on the final 15 probably deserved the win!
Sarcens maintain second place in the table, with Leicester Tigers at the top with 8 wins from 8; Premiership Rugby takes a break for a few weeks now as the teams play a couple of Premiership Rugby Cup games, Saracens are in Group C with Harlequins, London Irish and Northampton Saints. Several of those involved in this match will need to take the opportunity to redeem themselves!