Tries: Not in a month of Sundays!
Pens: Farrell, Hodgson 2
Tries: Scarcely likely either on today's showing!
Pens: Flood 3
Wem-ber-ley he we come (despite the best efforts of London Underground to leave us stranded at London Bridge) for a first ever visit and very impressive it is too. Like Twickenham, it seems much bigger on TV but a cheap ticket for a visit to the national stadium was worth a go and it had to be better than Vicarage Road.
With all the entertainment (aspects of which are well documented elsewhere!) out of the way, we settled down to the game although sadly it became quickly clear that the standard of the game itself was far outclassed by the standard of the facilities (even at half-full).
Two very mean defences met two attacks seemingly limited in ambition and creativity and two sets of kickers decidedly off form – all of which combined to result in a low scoring draw with no tries and a fair result really for both sides. Neither team looked like wanting to win or being capable of doing so. Don't lose seemed to be the order of the day.
And that’s about it really!
Tigers moved into a 9-0 lead thanks to three Flood penalties arising from technical offences in midfield but more importantly Owen Farrell missed four kicks on the day to ensure that for most of the first half, Saracens remained on nil. Some of them really were sitters to be honest – pretty much all of them for a kicker of his quality and international experience. Towards the end of the first period he did land one to bring it back to 9-3. Did red posts against a background of red seats put him off? Who knows but a quick trawl of Google images shows that they have used that combination before.
It must be said that Toby Flood had a day he’d probably prefer to forget when it came to kicking out of hand. He missed touch with two penalties, one of them about a minute from half-time which enabled the home team to storm into the Tigers half and win a penalty of their own. Fortunately, Farrell couldn’t capitalise but it was brainless anyway. Another kick from around the centre spot went dead in-goal resulting in a scrum all the way back and a huge missed opportunity.
Neither team looked like scoring a try and to be honest, Tigers seemed to be relying on a strategy that could best be summed up in one syllable as “bosh”. Tuilagi and Goneva seemed hell-bent on demolishing their oppos which might have worked against clubs with pub-team tackling standards like London Welsh and Worcester but didn’t seem likely to prevail against a better organised defence. I eagerly await Anthony Allen really catching fire and putting these guys into space when I reckon they’ll really do some damage but it didn’t happen on this occasion.
Both teams kept dropping ball left, right and centre and it made for a spectacle (or lack of it) not fitting of its surroundings.
The second half was little different except that Saracens brought on Hodgson and he missed a penalty, then a drop-goal (again, a sitter) before finally edging Saracens level with two penalty three-pointers.
Still not much likelihood of a try and end to end stuff in the final few moments with Tigers having the last word as Flood missed a drop-goal from around 35 metres to end the game with honours (if that’s the right word) even. To be honest, he never looked like getting it... where’s Geordan Murphy to wobble one over at the death when you need him?! Oh yeah, injured in the first half.
Not much analysis really possible. Flood and Allen didn’t play well, defences remained on top throughout and thank God Farrell had a stinker so we could hang on for a draw. It is a little troubling that Leicester seemed like a one-trick pony in the backs with little ambition to go round rather than straight over but maybe that’s as a result of Saracens’ stifling defence tactics of recent times.
I think Tigers will be secretly disappointed that they let a 9-0 lead slip - possibly more chipping over and keeping Saracens in their own half required but see previous comments about Flood's kicking.
The ref seemed patchy and inconsistent, especially in my view in the length of advantage granted before coming back for a penalty or scrum. Saracens seemed to very much get a lot of opportunity to attack on advantage, blow it at a point where you would have thought “advantage over” but still come back for the original offence although maybe I’m just being one-eyed.
Man of the match was Scott Hamilton for me... twice he kept the ball in play defensively on the end of Saracens’ kicks by flicking it backwards then collected to clear. Once he had to flick it back over the try-line. Geordan himself in his pomp would have been proud!
The game was tense rather than exciting and I think (and hope!) we'll see better many times this season.
Onwards and upwards hopefully, still undefeated and not many will be able to say that after a trip to Saracens, but the attack coach has some work to do.
And by the way, the English language lacks appropriate words to describe the awfulness of the “entertainment”. As impressive as Wembley is, I’m not in a hurry to go to Saracens (a) again but that was a view shared with the Saracens fan next to me who is thinking of giving up (h) games for much the same reason.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
"Owen [Farrell] has not had much practice recently.
"He's had a small groin injury which has stopped him practising as much as usual and it's very rare he has a day like this.
"He's a magnificent player for us but every man has the odd bad day at the office and I know he has the strength of character to come back.
"He's the sort of player who will use a day like this to bounce back stronger so I'm looking forward to that.
"I think it's definitely a case of two points dropped here as we missed plenty of opportunities."
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill:
"We could have won it at the end, they could have won it at the end. These games tend to be close between the two of us.
"In the first half, the lack of them kicking their goals helped us out a little bit but we need to look at our discipline in our own half.
"But that is two points we didn't have before the game, so that's 12 points from three games and it was a tough game away from home so we will take it and move on.
"There will be a lot of teams who will play Saracens and get nothing. We have two points and we will take that, which is a positive."
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Tomkins, Barritt, Short; Farrell, de Kock; Vunipola, Brits, Nieto; Borthwick, Botha; Brown, Wray, Joubert.
Replacements: Wyles for Short (60), Hodgson for Farrell (52), Wigglesworth for de Kock (52), Gill for Vunipola (66), Smit for Brits (66), Du Plessis for Nieto (48), Hargreaves for Botha (65), Fraser for Wray (71).
Leicester: Murphy; Hamilton, Tuilagi, Allen, Goneva; Flood, Harrison; Mulipola, T. Youngs, Cole; Kitchener, Parling; Mafi, Salvi, Waldrom.
Replacements: Smith for Murphy (15), Stankovich for Mulipola (64), Chuter for T. Youngs (71), Castrogiovanni for Cole (50), Crane for Waldrom (62).
Not Used: Andrew, Phibbs, Ford.
Referee: Martain Fox (RFU)
Great pictures can be seen on Zimbio