Saracens first match of this new season was at The Stoop, where they went behind Harlequins by 17 points to come back and get the win. Their first home match saw Gloucester travel to The Stones Stadium, winners by a point last season in a toughly contested match. The return match at the end of the main season was far from a close match with Gloucester winning against a depleted team by 54 points to 7. I was at Kingsholm and it wasn’t fun!

Was today’s game fun? Well, that probably isn’t the word that comes to mind, highly entertaining, infuriating, nail biting, exciting, and eventually exhilarating! I can only feel sorry for any Gloucester fan who was at this match, for them exhilaration will have turned to devastation and disbelief very rapidly!

Things started well for Saracens when last seasons’ top Premiership try scorer, Max Malins scored the first try of the match, The forwards had driven the ball forwards and one of several floating passes saw the ball make its way out to Malins on the wing, this is a man who knows his way to the try line. Owen Farrell had his kicking boots on today, having missed a couple at The Stoop, he added the extras and Saracens had a 7 nil lead.

The Forwards did the grunt work after Malins had been involved earlier in the attack and with a penalty pending the ball was spun out to Max Malins, he had an easy run in to score.

Gloucester lost 2 of their starting XI on 13 minutes with both Ollie Thorlay and Prop Harry Elrington being replaced by Billy Twelvetrees and Val Rapava Ruskin. Ruskin had therefore been on the pitch for just 3 minutes when he scored Gloucester’s first try, this one was all about the strength of the forwards. Adam Hastings added the extras and the scores were level.

Ruskin certainly made an impact from the bench!

Saracens regained the lead with an Owen Farrell penalty on 23 minutes, while I’m mentioning penalties I’m going to talk Saracens and penalties. we had the unedifyting sight of the team being marched 10 for chat to the referee, that seemed to be Chat from Vunipola Junior, AKA Billy, that happened several times during the game, the chat that was. Looking back at the Premiership rugby coverage Mako can also clearly be heard questioning the referee’s decision. I’m a huge fan of both players but absolutely not a fan of getting on the wrong side of the officials. Saracens had a problem with that as a team last season and it was never helpful. There seemed to be a run of penalties awarded against Saracens and I was expecting to see a massive positive (well negative) in the penalties awarded column, but in fact they only conceded one more than Gloucester. Saracens gave away 12, Gloucester 11, so pretty even overall. I’d hate to see the chat continuing again this season. As an aside the odd Gloucester player did it too.

Saracens next score came from the hands of Ben Earl, who has started well again this season. I was chatting to my neighbour who didn’t know the game and she noticed a forward with a head band in the second half and asked if he was a player who’d left the pitch in the first half, a player who was a back. I explained they were 2 separate sets of players who didn’t mix, but It came to my mind that Earl could easily be a Centre, he has the ball handling skills and the speed. This try combined both as he took an aside pass from Elliot Daly, who had taken a lovely pass from Owen Farrell to break the line, it has to be said Jamie George was all in the position to take the ball. Daly took the conversion as Farrell recovered from a late hit that could easily have resulted in a yellow card. Saracens had a 10 point lead.

Will Ben Earl keep apace with Max Malins try wise this season? This Saracens fan hopes so!

Saracens stole Gloucester’s line out ball close to their line and then Gloucester conceded a penalty, Billy V may well have gone over the line had a member of Saracens medical team not entered the pitch causing Sir to blow his whistle. Farrell kicked the 3 points instead.

Saracens conceded a penalty in the scrum just before half time, that was on their 22 and Hastings had an easy kick to the corner. Gloucester have become known for their rolling maul and this one rolled right over the try line with Amber Tuisue in possession of the ball, Hastings rarely misses a kick and this was no exception. The teams went in at half-time with the scores on Saracens 20 Gloucester 17

Things went awry for Saracens/well for Gloucester in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Saracens failed to roll any from a ruck giving Hastings the opportunity to kick to the corner, the maul was halted this time, but not without another penalty being given away. Gloucester didn’t need the penalty as the ball was passed out to Chris Harris who was out on the left wing, unusually Hastings hit the posts but Gloucester had a 2 point lead.

At this point Jody Reid entered the fray, he was a man mountain at Stonex last season so I can only imagine he was being eased back in after injury. With yet another Saracens penalty pending Gloucester got the ball out to Hastings who was close top the right wing, he just about squeezed in to score, he also converted that was a difficult kick. That lead was now 9 points with 7 minutes of the second half played. Saracens looked shell shocked!

Saracens couldn’t seem to get their hands on the ball and keep them there, great 50/22 kick form Ben Meehan, the Gloucester scrum half saw another line out in dangerous territory, the maul again got nowhere but there was another penalty awarded against Saracens as Gloucester spread the ball. This time the Gloucester maul did its thing and Ruskin broke free to go over and score his second of the game, the Hastings conversion gave them a 16 point lead 13 minutes into the half, It was almost as if Saracens had stayed in the dressing rooms at half-time!

A second try for Ruskin and a 16 point lead!

Centre Duncan Taylor had left the field with what looked like a knee injury just before half-time and his replacement Josh Hallett gave a very good impression of being a forward using all of his strength to go over the line to score his first Premiership try. Farrell converted the try and the gap was back to 9. It seemed Saracens had remembered they were in a game!

Hallett was playing for Ampthill last season, not a bad effort on his return to the fold.

With 70 minutes on the clock Alex Lozowski gave away a penalty with a blatant side entry, the penalty was just inside the Saracens half, no problem for Hastings, he extended the lead to 12, it looked like Saracens would.t even get a losing bonus point!

However Ton Woolstencroft had other ideas, Saracens can work the rolling maul thing too, and with 5 minutes remaining Woolstencroft threw the ball in after Farrel had placed the ball perfectly from a penalty, he then took his place at the ball of the maul and they rumbled over, could Saracens rescue this match?

With less than 2 minutes on the clock Gloucester stole Saracens line out ball inside their own half, surely that was game over? With a minute to go and with Saracens attacking a Gloucester player failed to roll away. Farrell kicked to touch and the photos tell the story, much the same as the previous line out in Gloucester territory Saracens rolled forwards but this time it was pulled down and we had another Saracens line out, with the clock now in red. Woolstencroft again took the ball and I’d say with most of the Saracens team in the maul they rolled over the line and the scores were even! The kick wasn’t an easy one, but Owen Farrell, to the delight of the home crowd, kicked the ball between the posts and Saracens had the win, something that looked highly unlikely to happen half way into the 2nd half. This was the definition of daylight robbery! Saracens face champions Leicester Tigers next week, I can’t imagine going 16 or 17 points behind at any stage will prove to be a good plan!

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