I made the decision not to travel to one of my favourite away grounds after a 4 hour drive in the snow, a bit random, but a lucky decision as I went down with the Nast couch doing the rounds after Christmas. My last visit to Kingsholm saw a men against boys game of rugby with Saracens roundly beaten. This was would be a far more even contest.

My heart dropped a bit as it always does when I heard Mr Dallaglio on commentary, he struggles to see anything good in Saracens in Premiership Rugby, you could have knocked me down with a feather when he told us Owen Farrell was one of his favourite players after last weeks match!

The first 7 minutes all went Saracens way, and their possession culminated with a try for Max Malins, his 9th of the season. Cue the inevitable booing from the Shed then the cheers as Farrell missed the conversion, some things never change. The take from the kick off didn’t go to plan for Saracens but Aled Davies, making his first start this season cleared the Saracens lines. A Saracens knock on saw the first scrum penalty awarded to Gloucester, who chose to kick to touch, you just would if you had Santiago Carreras kicking! Saracens knocked on again in the line out and the scrum was completed this time, with Ben Morgan making a strong surge forwards. The ball moved to the other side of the pitch and Saracens conceded a penalty.

Gloucester have taken over as the maul try scorers and it was Ben Morgan who got the ball down. Austin Healey called a dummy throw into the line out and the try was disallowed. Did BT have a say in that? I’d judge they probably did, interesting to hear Dallaglio objecting to the law being properly applied.

Gloucester did get their try however with a fabulous response from Ollie Thorley,he took a lovely pass from Chris Harris to break through, he was lucky he got the ball down as he had Jonny May yelling for the ball outside of him. Carreras is a great kicker of the ball and he added the extras. We are 18.5 minutes in and Dallaglio is already driving me insane! Every single decision is getting a moan from him.

A great cross field kick from Farrell was well taken by Malins, Jonny May knocked the ball on as he tried to win it back. Billy Vunipola did a Morgan and got the ball away quickly, Carreras who would grace any team put in a huge tackle on Vunipola, showing his value in every facet of the game. The ball was ultimately lost forward but Saracens had a penalty in the bag, duly converted by Farrell and Saracens re-took the lead by a solo point. I had a discussion on a Quins post today about the value of managing the game and taking points when on offer, combining running rugby with kicking the penalties on offer.

Some good work from Lewis Ludlow won Gloucester a penalty at the kick off, they failed to win their line out ball however. Then a poorly judged kick from Thorley gave Saracens some good field position. A wonderful piece of work from Val Rapava-Ruskin to turn the ball over then a might kick from Lloyd Evans saw the ball back in Saracens half, a penalty given away by 100th appearance man Alex Lewington gave Gloucester a line out in good territory.

Moments later Jonny May put a big hit in on Alex Goode, who dropped the ball, May rather worryingly went down with concern for his shoulder, but happily carried on. More of a concern was Rapava-Ruskin going down injured after the scrum. He has to be a shout for an England cap for the Six Nations. Saracens gave away a penalty in the scrum and Carreras re-took the lead for Gloucester. I would agree on one with with Dallaglio this was a very good game of rugby! Farrell pulled back the lead 3 minutes later with a Saracens penalty.

Jamie George caused a penalty to be overturned on the verge of half-time as he decided to pull Ludlow away when he was actually nowhere near the ball, it was stupid on the part of the Saracens Hooker. Farrell questioned the decision and I truly hoped that wasn’t going to be the start of Saracens being on the wrong side of the referee.

Going back to the earlier injury concern Rapava-Ruskin didn’t emerge for the second half. I truly hope he’s fit for the 6 Nations, it seems he was hit by one of his own players to hurt his back.

Carreras scored the first points of the second half with a penalty, this was a cagey affair, Gloucester had a 2 point lead. The Argentinian then made a great break, Alex Goode stood his ground, yet also put his shoulder into Carreras, that prompted a speedy yellow card, the right decision for me sadly. The resulting penalty was an easy one, but bizarrely missed. (I’d already typed it was converted, that had to be undone!).

Owen Farrell then missed his own penalty, from a slightly different position, but a kick which would usually have been a given. Saracens had a fair few attacking phases to no avail, but an astonishing kick from Ben Meehan virtually the length of the pitch gave Gloucester a line out virtually on Saracens line, an amazing kick! T hat kick really deserved a try but the ball was lost and Alex Lewington stormed uo th epoch with Alex Lozowski in support. Thorley tracked Lewington who took the ball back from Lozowski but Gloucester had conceded a penalty. Farrell kicked this one wide too. Gloucester kept their 2 point lead.

Saracens took the lead after an 18 phase attack, a spiral kick was left/missed by Meehan, Saracens attacked and we saw a lovely pass from Billy Vuniploa to Ben Earl, Earl made a lot of ground as is his way so often, replacement scrum half Ivan Van Zyl scored the try. Farrell missed the conversion, badly. But Saracens had a 3 point lead.

An unfortunate penalty given away by Saracens when van Zyl ran into prop Marco Riccioni, saw Carreras bring the scores level with 7.5 minutes to play.

It was interesting to hear Karl Dickson telling the TMO that he wouldn’t look at some alleged foul play (no arms tackle) by Owen Farrell as it wasn’t in the same phase of play. BT had made sure it was replayed several times, I imagine Farrell will be receiving an invite to the Disciplinary Panel, which is of no help to Gloucester but could have big ramifications for Saracens in Europe.

Saracens found themselves on the attack in the final minute of the game and Farrell kicked a very unusual drop goal which sailed over the posts to win the game. As a Saracens fan I’m always happy with a win, but on this occasion a draw would have felt like a fair result. Saracens will be celebrating the win, but if Farrell is cited for the hit there will be some very unhappy Gloucester fans. Ben Earl was awarded Man of the Match, again showing his future captains’ credentials in his interview, Lewis Ludlow could easily have received the same accolade. This was a cracking game of rugby, the definition of hard fought!

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