Boxing Day Rugby! Having checked again and again the match was on, Unlike poor Newcastle and Sale fans whose match was ‘covid cancelled’ as Saracens European match against Pau had been. Annoyingly just days after Saracens made their statement around covid cases all games against French opposition where travelling into France was needed were postponed. Leinster, in spite of being prepared to play and being ready to travel, can feel very aggrieved as the EPCR awarded a 20 result to Montpellier. I think we’ll need to watch this space on that one!
In between the disappointment of no European rugby and the elation of Boxing Day rugby news of players signing new contracts had filtered through. There’d been a lot of speculation around 3 players in particular. with Alex Lozowski’s name on the lips of Leicester Tigers fans once news of George Ford’s move had become common knowledge, I breathed a sigh of relief when Handre Pollard’s signature was confirmed and had an even bigger smile when Alex’s re-signing at Saracens was confirmed! The rumours around Billy And Mako Vunipola moving to France had also been gathering some pace, especially with them both having been ignored by Eddie Jones. But those spreading said rumours had failed to account for one of the biggest factors for the brothers, being family, I could see no way, with young children they’d head across the water away from their tight knit family group. Mako in particular has been immense this season, playing late into the second half most games. Billy has been close to his best too, although I think Saracens have more back row options than at prop, but, it was pleasing to see confirmation that both stay.
Add in the signature of the very promising back rower Andy Christie, a future captain I think, Prop Alec Clarey and Winger Alex Lewington and Saracens have given their fans a great Christmas Stocking!
We were back to the co-captains thing this week, with both Jackson Wray and Alex Goode starting, I’m not a fan, but I feel that it was only Wray communicating with Sir, in the shape of Christophe Ridley during this game, although Ben Earl had a go at communicating his displeasure at a penalty decision against him early in the game, he was lucky the team didn’t get marched ten! The TMO couldn’t be heard on ref link and I did wonder for a while if we had one, but her name was mentioned a few times, so she was there. I really can recommend a ref link it makes what’s occurring so much easier to understand!
This game was something of a try fest, with Alex Goode running the show for Saracens, he showed all of his magic for the first try of the game, with a break through before a looping throw over the top of the Worcester defenders to Alex Lewington on the wing, who touched down.
The first try was about the flair of the back line, the second, the power of the pack, as Saracens rumbled towards the try line from a scrum, a simple touchdown for Billy Vunipola, I thought at the time the ball was short, but my photos say differently, having just watched the try on Premiership Rugby TV,, I’m erring on the side of short again, but, a try was given. Lozowski had missed his first conversion, the only time he’d do so during the match, but his kick was good ths time and Saracens were up by 12 after 12 minutes.
Their third came after some bruising encounters as the forwards carried the ball individually, with Earl and Maro Itoje both involved, Lozowski was waiting to get the ball in his hands and he passed a simple ball to Alex Goode who was on his right shoulder, he ran through completely unhindered. A more simple try he will not score this season.
Alex Goode scored the third and made the fourth, with a penalty on offer, he chipped the ball through for NIck Tompkins to score and that was the bonus point try. It was feeling like a Bath type score line was on the way, but, Saracens in 2021, you know………….That being said, Saraens next try was a beauty, as backs and forwards combined as the ball was run down the pitch. Nick Isiekwe showing all the skills as he feinted and ran past a Worcester defender, with 30 minutes on the score it was Saracens 33 Worcester Nil.
Happily for the three Worcester fans sitting in front of me they were next on the scoreboard, the forwards had several attempts, picking and going, before Joe Batley was successful, they were still in the fight!
Alex Lewington got his name on the score sheet again just before half-time, after some muddled play the ball came out to him on the wing and over he went! The teams went in with the scores on Saracens 40 Worcester 7. It had felt rather like men against boys in the first half.
Worcester opened the scoring for Worcester in the first half as Francois Venter seemed to don an invisibility cloak, dancing past at least 3 defenders. Saracens missed 39 tackles in the game overall, at least 3 of them were in the lead up to that try!
Ben Earl was next up, a high box kick was fumbled by a Worcester forward, to be fair one of those pesky backs got in his way, the ball fell perfectly for Earl who scored under the posts. Billy Vuniploa scored his second and Saracens 8th after a catch and drive took the ball over the line, there was no stopping the pack and Vunipola touched down to take Saracens past the 50 mark..
A Saracens game isn’t complete without a Max Malins try, a lovely pass popped out by Ivan van Zyl saw him soar over the line, his 9th fo rthe season so far. He’s a player who shines every time he plays, could he be kept out of England contention by those in front of him? I can’t see Freddie Steward losing the 15 shirt anytime soon for one position.
For all of Saracens try scoring exploits the try of the game was scored by Worcester, the ball was won back by some great work at the ruck and they headed up the pitch from their own half, with forwards and backs, with Niall Annett showing his heels and out running the Saracens defenders, a beautiful pass from replacement scrum half Gareth Simpson putting Venter in foe his second of the game, it was a cracker!
Gareth Simpson scored the next for Worcester after his forwards had battled towards the line time after time. Another storming run from a Worcester forward, Mike Hill took Worcester deep into Saracens half and another great effort was completed by a kick over the Saracens defenders by Fin Smith into the hands of Ashley Beck who scored another beauty in the corner.
The final score was Saracens 61 Worcester 24 – 85 points and not a singe one came from a penalty, that was some entertainment for Boxing Day!