The final home game of the Premiership season, Semi-Final not withstanding, saw London Irish as Saracens opposition. Saracens had lost 4 games this season and London Irish were one of the winning teams. They had Adam Coleman red carded after 15 minutes then Saracens lost Ben Earl to a red card on 29 minutes. Earl’s red card was overturned by the disciplinary panel, I have zero doubt that Saracens would have won that game with him on the pitch. But, the spoils went to London Irish that day. Saracens hadn’t lost a home Premiership match since January 2022 when Gloucester beat them.

A fully loaded Saracens took to the pitch, that is with injuries aside; standing at the side of the pitch were Theo McFarland, Elliot Daly and Billy Vunipola amongst others. The way this match started it looked like Irish would take the points again, they took the lead with a Paddy Jackson penalty after just 4 minutes. Saracens have had a problem with giving away penalties in the ruck this season especially in the first half. The first penalty was awarded against the home team in the first minute when Maro Itoje was pinged for pulling a maul down, The resulting kick gave Irish good territory, but in that attack the ball was knocked on, after a text book tackle from Owen Farrell. A penalty was awarded against Maro Riccioni in the scrum – the result was 3 points for Jackson and his team.

A tough first 20 minutes for Saracens!

A schoolboy error from Farrell saw the kick off sail into touch, the referee spent time chatting to the front rows to try too ensure they got things right in the scrum and this one went well. With Olli Hassle-Collins outside him Ben Loader kicked the ball away and into touch. They had a good attack from the returning box kick, but a forward pass stopped them in their tracks. Saracens won the penalty from the resulting scrum. And with nearly 10 minutes on the clock Saracens had some possession at the right end of the pitch, only for Maro Itoje to drop the ball.

This scrum played out and Irish moved the ball well only for Cinti to lose the ball, with a bit of to and fro Irish ended up with a line out close to the Saracens line after a great 50/22 kick from Rory Jennings. The massive So’otala Fa’aso’o playing at 8 for Irish was standing in the back line and soon showed why, he made ground, before Nick Isiekwe took him down, but it was Matt Rogerson who scored the try. Confirmed after a good look by the TMO. The conversion gave Irish a lead of 10 after 14 minutes.

Another penalty given away by Saracens allowed Irish to clear their lines, another given away close to the halfway line saw Irish deep in the Saracens half again. The line out was a full one this time, and Irish attached well through their backs, but Api Ratuniyarawa crossed in front of the ball carrier and Farrell kicked the ball long, They messed up the line out however – still no joy for Saracens! Mark McCall looked less than amused. Irish won another penalty in the scrum.

After 20 minutes Saracens had made 47 tackles to Irish’s 5, that tells the story of the first quarter. An unusual error from Ben Loader saw yet another from Saracens as Ivan Van Zyl threw a forward pass after the ball came away from the line out. He’s had an excellent season, so, also unusual.

Loader knocked the ball on again, Saracens flew up the pitch but Ben White pulled the ball out of Alex Lozowski’s hands before kicking the ball into touch. I thought there’d was a potential deliberate knock on by Tom Pearson but watching back can see he just ran into the path of the ball. Saracens had an attacking spell before losing the ball but Irish had been off side and in addition a flying arm into the face of Nick Tompkins was penalised. That one I think I take issue with, yes it was an accident, as good old Lawrence Dallaglio pointed out (they usually are) but I do feel another officiating team may have shown a yellow card. At last that gave Farrell a chance to put some points on the board.

20 Points for Owen Farrell in the game

Another Saracens attack was halted by a dropped ball, another excellent kick from Jennings saw the play move right back to the Saracens line. Van Zyl cleared the Saracens line and Ben Earl won the ball back in the Jackal, he’s been immense this season and this game was another when he could easily have been awarded Man of the Match.

Max Malins looked to have scored but the check showed that he didn’t have control of the ball as he went over the line, that was the closest Saracens had been to a 5 pointer. Saracens had however moved to a spell of more possession and Farrell kicked another penalty with 35 minutes on the clock. That closed the gap to 4.

Joy, but no try!

An exciting Saracens attacking effort was foiled by another knock on. Simmons was penalised however after tipping Tompkins on the floor after he dropped the ball. The ball was dropped again by Saracens and Irish kicked the ball into touch, it looked like Alex Goode had made a mistake with a quick throw in that Malins wasn’t expecting. Malins fell to the floor to be surrounded by Irish players, but his fellow backs kept the ball in Saracens hands. The ball went out to Earl on the wing, who else! Earl passed inside to Goode who ran in to score a very welcome try. Dallaglio was adamant that the ball had gone forward when the ball was in the ruck, but the referee then TMO saw that the ball went off the leg of Farrell rather than the hand van Zyl, and Mr D changed his mind too Saracens went in at half-time with a 3 point lead. That had looked highly unlikely in the first 20 minutes. Its was a half of 2 halves!

Things started badly for Irish in the second half when Rob Simmons went high across the neck of Theo Dan, lucky to just see Yellow? Maybe. Saracens made the most of the extra man in the next attack, Going through the forwards the ball was spun out to Sean Maitland on the wing who ran into the gap in front of him. There is no news of a contract for Maitland next season, we wait on that, but it’s clear he can still do a job, Farrell had his kicking boots on and converted the try from wide. Saracens had a 10 point lead.

Sean Maitland still has it

An Irish penalty pulled 3 points back, Hugh Tizzard took part in a great tackle but rolled away into Ben White, the penalty was in front of the posts so a no brainer for Jackson. He added another 3 a couple of minutes later after a massive tackle on Tizzard by Fa’aso’o, it was a text book tackle and resulted in Saracens holding the ball. Words were also penalised with a march forwards and Irish had closed the gap to 4. Fa’aso’o was rewarded for his tackle with a seat on the bench as another massive player replaced him.

Consecutive scrum penalties in Saracens favour sae Farrell take the 3 to extend the lead, the first had been near the halfway line the second close to the posts.

The seconds out bell was heard for the 2nd time in the game, this was a game with some angst! A real concern to me was the fact that Ben White and Marco Riccioni bumped heads in the build up to the next Saracens attack, he was looked at on the pitch for several minutes. In the words of Ben Robinson’s father – If In Doubt, Sit Them Out – he should surely have gone for an HIA?

Theo Dan was next on the scoreboard for Saracens, the maul was rolled over the line with the 22 year old Hooker in possession, he’s impressed every time he’s played this season. Farrell had his kicking boots on and converted the try.

T heo Dan is at the bottom of that pile!

Ben Earl also had his kicking boots on, he put a lovely grubber kick in, which probably luckily hit the post before trickling out. Eroni Mawi had come on for Mako Vunipola. Nick Isiekwe won the line out and Mawi, with his first touch of the ball went through the middle of the crowd to score, perfect on his 5oth Saracens game. Farrell unusually in this game hit the post with his conversion.

A great first touch for Eroni Mawi!

Maro Itoje put in a hit on Chandler Cunningham-South to no avail, he got his head in the wrong side and looked groggy as he got up, again no HIA, his shoulder was given some attention and he carried on, I presume the groggy was from the pain, nit a knock on the head.

I am going to have a moan about Lawrence Dallaglio here, Jennings put in not only a high tackle but it was also on a player not in possession of the ball, but according to him, a hard one. Um no, you can’t take out a player off the ball! Farrell kicked the resulting penalty.

Eroni Mawi scored his second in some style after a line out from a penalty given away in a line out (if that makes sense?). A lovely inside pass from Itoje after some of the backs had taken the ball forwards saw the big Fijian dot the ball down after raising it to the sky. Farrell added the extras taking his personal tally to 20. He was awarded the MOM accolade, he showed all of his leadership skills in this match.

Eroni Mawi scoring his second try – good job he didn’t drop it!

London Irish had the last say with a try for Mike Willenmse , he took the ball back from a line out close to the Saracens line to run in and score a simple try. The final score was Saracens 45 London Irish 21.

A fellow Saracens fan Kelechi Asika provided me with a great fact to finish off this report, Saracens have taken 49 points from a potential 50 at home this season, some record! They now face Northampton Saints in their semi-final, Sale Sharks play Leicester Tigers at home. Tigers have found some great form at just the right time, they should both be good games!

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