The fall out from the Owen Farrell tackle in Gloucester kept many busy on social media as far too many chose to throw hate both his and, by way of a change, Saracens way. All Disciplinary Hearings Findings are available online and several snippets were shared on social media. I thought it might be interesting to share the ‘Findings of Fact’
The Charge was put to the Player. He admitted that he had committed an act of foul play. He also
admitted that he had made contact with the chin of the Gloucester 20. He denied that his actions warranted a red card.
This Panel concluded that whilst the decision to tackle high up the opponents body was intentional the contact with the head or chin was not intentional but instead reckless. In the circumstances the Player had the opportunity make a choice as to how he tackled, he chose to strike the player to the top of his torso and his execution of that tackle went wrong.
This was not an upright tackle. The Player did hinge at the hips and at the knees.
The Player made direct contact first with the chin of his opponent with the back of his shoulder. The shoulder led into the tackle, followed later by an attempt to wrap his arms. The initial contact caused the opponents head to be forced back and up.
It was after the initial contact had occurred with the chin that subsequent contact was made into the oppenent’s chest as the Player drove upwards to continue the tackle.
Although the tackle was not made at high speed the Player managed to stop his opponent in his tracks, something which in the circumstances required significant power. The tackle can properly be described as a dominant tackle.
The Panel accepts the Player believed he had primarily struck his opponents chest. The footage, in our view, demonstrates he was wrong.
The circumstances created a high degree of danger to the Gloucester player. There was no mitigation available in relation to the circumstances of the tackle.
As I often put in a word for ref link I really can recommend reading the judgements of the Disciplinary Panels, they make for interesting reading. Farrell basically got a ban in line with any other player for the tackle and with a previous incident taken into account. All of that added to Saracens starting these 2 key European games without their Fly Half and Captain. In his place was Alex Goode, a man who enjoys playing 10 in Europe.
The ‘first round’ of this double header saw a scoreline of Lyon 20 Saracens 28 in France. I’m pleased to say ref link was working and all in all that helped me realise that the officiating team did a really good job overall. I did hear the start of the commentary to hear that the visitors had only won 2 games in the competition. I would have been surprised if this was to be their third.
I’m disappointed to hear Sonia Mcloughlin trying got get a rise out of Mark McCall on the Farrell situation, as I rewatch the game, she can’t know the man very well, he did not rise to the bait! Inappropriate I’d say, in spite of her giggles after the fact. Cue more discussion over the fact that the RFU have informed Saracens that Farrell is available to them for January 28th. Thus making him available to play in the Calcutta Cup, controversial, but nothing to do with Saracens.
On to the game, it was interesting to see Jamie George as captain rather than Ben Earl, a role both have carried out for their team. Joel Kpoku a former Saracen started for Lyon.
Goode started with an excellent 50/22 early in the game, Lyon transgressed in the line out, Saracens were pinged in the next, with Billy Vunipola being penalised. Lyon faced an early blow when Dylan Cretin threw an arm out and knocked the ball on, although this was in the Saracens half, there was not defence behind him and 2 Saracens attackers outside of him, he was shown a yellow card with just 6 minutes on the clock.
Saracens took full advantage of the extra man scoring through an Alex Lozowski interception, the Centre who looks just as at home at 10 or on the wing, flew down the pitch at speed to score under the posts. Goode duly converted. Just as the time for Cretin’s card was up Elliot Daly seemed to don an invisibility cloak, he took a pass from Goode in Saracens half, he ran through a hold in the defence in mid field where 3 defenders had their eyes on Ivan Van Zyl, he ran through untouched to score under the posts. Back to full numbers Lyon had conceded 14 points.
Playing with a penalty advantage, Saracens moved the ball across the pitch, with a pass from Lozowski to Elliot who ran through to score his second and Saracens third, that was a 21 point lead with 20 minutes on the clock. That lead was extended bye you know it, Elliot Daly, a penalty from the scrum saw Saracens work their way up the field, doing the hard yards. 3 excellent passes first from Goode to Billy Vunipola on to Hugh Tizzard, then on to Daly on the wing, he scored by a whisker, diving sideways to touch the ball down. It’shard to imagine that the watching Steve Borthwick won’t have added Daly to his Wishlist.
Lyon then had their own Mr Invisible as they played from the kick off, the crowd were unhappy that Max Malins had been tackled late as he kicked the ball away, the officials were happy the tackler was committed. Josiah Maraku jinked his way past the 2 Saracens props to run in and score. The tackle and a shoulder in Malins direction may have warranted a closer look, but booing really is not the thing. The score was Saracens 26 Lyon 7 after 26 minutes.
Saracens Fifth try came from a rolling maul after Daly had kicked a penalty close to the Lyon line, Marco Riccioni scoring his second Saracens try. Watching the re-run I very nearly missed Saracens sixth try, this was one using the muscle of the forwards, with Andy Christie reaching out to touch down as he had 2 defenders attached to him. The conversion took Saracens to 38 to Lyon’s 7.
With half time closing in Lyon closed the gap with a try for Ethan Dumortier as the time went into the red, Lyon broke from the scrum after being awarded a Free Kick, Billy V was deemed to be offside as Lyon had broken away. Lyon went for the scrum again, which felt a bit odd, but they moved the ball quickly, with quick hands from the replacement scrum half Doossain in particular. !1 passes in the ball went to the Lyon full back who ran a great line to score a fairly straight forward try.The teams went in at half-time with the scores on Saracens 38 Lyon 14.
This was the proverbial game of 2 halves and it was Lyon who scored first in the second half, Dumortier scored a fabulous try, running the ball from deep in his own half he jinked round Malins, kicked the ball forwards which bounced nicely for him, he scored a lovely try! He’s the top try scorer in the Top 14 for a reason! Fletcher Smith pushed the time of the conversion but kicked it successfully.
After all the excitement form Saracens in the first half they picked their next point up 13 minutes in to the second half with a penalty from the boot of Goode, giving them a 20 point lead again. It was amusing to hear an Italian referee telling the 2 front rows ‘My bad” as his timing wasn’t right in an earlier scrum. The penalty came from an amazing drive from Ben Earl who pushed Dumortier back towards his own line, isolated the penalty went against him. It was superb from the Saracens 7, who is surely in the England reckoning too!
Lyon scored their fourth try as their Number 8 Arno Botha took a lovely pass, from the one hand of Tuisova, that was a bonus point and the gap was closing, a 13 point gap with 22 minutes remaining.
There was a good intervention from the TMO on 77 minutes as Goode went down hard after Tuisova seemed to go through him, he went through him with a high elbow however. Goode had Indicated to the referee and the TMO cut in. The officials took plenty of time talking the actions of Tuisova through and deemed that it started on Goode’s chest. He was lucky for the rest of his season that it was only a yellow card shown, but there was plenty of discussion and the right decision no doubt. Happily Goode was ok after what was a nasty hit.
With an extra man again Saracens had the final day of theme, Ben Earl thought he’d scored as Saracens were playing with an advantage, but Alex Lewington had juggled the ball on the wing. However Earl did scored from the ensuing line out after Goode kicked to touch. Saracens rolled over the line and Earl touched down, The final score was Saracens 48 Lyon 28. A really good game of European rugby, that results sees Saracens qualified for the round of 16 as they travel to Edinburgh for the final game of this round.
It was particularly good to see Tom Woolstencroft come on after his horror hit by the London Irish captain, a tackle that got Adam Coleman a 4 week ban. It was worrying to see Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly limping off. As things stand Saracens half 2 Hookers on the replacements bench. her Dan is great in the loose, but he’s far more familiar with the front row than the back.
Elliot Daly was unsurprisingly awarded the Star of the Match award, but Alex Goode ran the show, he could easily have revived the accolade too. It was refreshing listening to an appreciative commentary team rather than those who seem to have axes to grind, more of Topsy Ojo please BT!