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By OldMarovian
April 16 2018

As the clocked ticked 3 the spring sunshine bathed my empty seat in the east stand. 5 miles away in an A&E waiting room I waited with my Mother who earlier that day had managed to fall UP the stairs (as she explained it "by treading on a stair that wasn't there") and fracture her wrist. Whilst I bought coffee and made reassuring noises I hoped that at Allianz Park there would be no similar missteps.

Last night I caught up with what looked like an excellent performance at Allianz Park.

The match started with Chris Wyles and his young son taking a moment in the spotlight to acknowledge his 250th cap for the club. A fantastic achievement from a player who has been exceptional for us. With little Finn returned to his Mother and Sarries having won the toss and elected to play into the wind the game could start.

Priestlands kick was fielded by Wray who just out-jumped a Tigger-like Alex Brew. A Wiggle clearance was fielded by Wilson. Bath than ran through a number of phases of possession but having gradually lost field possession Priestland aimed to pin Sarries in our 22. Williams, having shown Priestland the space, was as quick to close it down and called the mark. Williams clearance kick was claimed by Wilson who threaded a kick deep into Sarries 22. From the lineout clearance Bath ran through a number of phases until Day secured a turnover. In something that would become a theme Sarries moved the ball across half the width of the field in a couple of quick passes but unfortunately despite numbers the play was a bit lateral and Wyles was run into touch.

A good series of Bath possession ended when Tapuai threw the ball into touch. Sarries in marked contrast were rumbling forward over the gainline. Even when Mako was rocked in his tracks by a double hit from Ellis and Dunn he retained possession, presenting the ball well and allowing a series of quick passes to the opposite wing where a Brits offload out of a crunching Banahan tackle looked destined to find Wyles on the wing before being deflected by Faletaus lazy running line. Somewhat charitably Dickson decided that it was a knock-on by white rather than a penalty. From the ensuing scrum the ball was lost forward.

Both teams were finding some space but ultimately making mistakes when in possession. Barritt straightened the line and took contact with numbers outside him. Williams took a great line between Ellis and Knight but was hauled down beyond them and Brew turned the ball over. Faletau lost the ball in contact and a Burger offload could only find Louw. Bath then went through a few phases in which they manufactured a 4 on 2 out wide but Sarries defensive press caused a series of mistakes that shut it down as Stooke threw a pass behind Wilson. Louw ended up getting the ball at the same time as Farrell hit him he threw a hugely speculative pass vaguely towards Banahan on the wing. Sarries pounced on the ball and Lozo raced away but a combination of excellent defence from Banahan and huge work from Stooke to get back and make the tackle on Lozo halted the move. Only Dunns poor discipline at the breakdown handed the ball back to Sarries.

Sarries then had a series of Lineouts and maul collapses which eventually earned Bath a warning. Brew blitzed magnificently from his wing to shut down Williams and an overlap and under advantage Farrell tried a nice cross-field kick that was maybe a touch short AND optimistic give the 6'7'' Banahan was stationed on that wing! On the third time of asking the maul with added impetus from Barritt and Lozo made the line and a beaming Brits emerged from under the bodies as the first try-scorer. Farrell converted from out wide into the wind and the score was 7-0

After the restart we saw possession swapped back and forward through kicks with Day running a lovely line off Farrell and Wilson showing good skill and courage under the highball having been taken out in the air by Maitland earlier in the game.

Bath them had their best passage of play as Banahan tackled and striped Brits of the ball and Priestland and Wilson moved the ball to the opposite wing where Tapaui got the ball to Brew who beat Maitland but delayed the return pass to Tapaui and the opportunity of a 1v1 with Williams and instead got enveloped in a covering tackle by Farrell.
Bath recycled but Louw overran Priestland and when the ball bounced off him Isiekwe was on the ball like a seagull on a chip and as Fotuali'i came across to tackle him he put a lovely ball inside to Williams who ran the length of the field to score Sarries second try. Faletau chased back and keep Williams honest and the wide conversion was missed. 12-0

In what was a hugely impressive performance Brew managed to get himself between Kruis and Wray at the restart and stripped Kruis of the ball. Having secured the turnover Bath went through a series of attacks in the Sarries 22 but despite strong carries from Obano and Ellis the attack was well contained until Burger went off his feet whilst trying to turn the ball over and Bath got a penalty in front of the posts. 12-3

Some more back and forth as Brew blitzed from out wide to shut down an overlap and Jospeh was injured in a tackle as his ankle was trapped underneath Burger. From a Bath scrum Faletau exploited some cute play from Ellis who held Isiekwe in to allow Faetau an unopposed run at the blindside of the scrum. Whilst the Saracens covering tackling was good we were treated to some beautiful offloading and support play from Faletau and Brew to Fotuali'i who looked to have a run in for the line but was tackled into touch by Isiekwe who has tracked back. On the 5M line we saw a very bold long throw beyond the tail to Burger who carried out of the 22 and a clearance kick which was regathered when Maitland beat Faletau in the air. A further kick returned possession to Bath

Another promising phase from Bath saw Louw offload from the deck and Faletau lay a lovely ball off to Banahan running from deep who bisected Isiekwe and Days defence to be hauled down 5M beyond by Farrell. As the ball was recycled Louw knocked on in the tackle.

Brits cleared up some loose ball at the lineout and after beating Obano and stepping Dunn he looked somewhat frustrated when Burger failed to catch a nice offload. Strong carries from Banahan saw Bath deep into Sarries 22 but Williams was penalised when he secured a turnover as Dickson said the ruck had already formed. Priestland slotted the penalty from straight in front. 12-6.

At this point we lost a couple of minutes for an excited Mullins to tell us about the wind-app that BT rugby have. I can only assume that the hot-air app didn't survive in he same room as Dallaglio.

Williams tapped back from the restart and Sarries took the ball into Baths half. Priestland fielded a kick but was penalised for holding onto the ball and Farrell converts the penalty. 15-6

Bath surrendered possession but Farrell looked oddly hesitant a couple of times with decent options outside and Brew yet again cut off Sarries width by blitzing Williams. Louw turned over Figallo to end the half.

As the second half commenced sp did the rain by the look of things.

Priestland had failed to adapt to the wind and the restart kick was caught in the wind and brought back behind many of the chasing Bath players. Sarries were quicker to react and Mako batted the ball back to Wiggle who released Maitland who stepped Brew and passed to Williams who committed Louw then passed to Wiggle for Sarries third try converted by Farrell. 22-6

From a Bath scrum they are forced to scramble as Louws pass to no one had to be salvaged by Fotuali'i who under pressure from Wray shipped a pass onto Priestland who couldn't see Farrell who appearing on his blindside for the intercept. Farrell raced the length for Sarries fourth and put it under the sticks to ensure the conversion is easy. 29-6

Burger secured a turnover 5M from Sarries line and Williams tapped and went to take the ball out of our 22.

On about 50 minutes Brits leaves the field to spontaneous and noisy applause from both sets of fans. He truly is an ambassador for both the sport and our club.

At a Sarries ruck Kruis picked and went through the middle, fending Dunn and slowing his run to wait for Lozos support. Wiggle ran a good line for Lozo but its missed and when Mako rushes in to play scrum half he knocks-on.

With over a quarter of the game still to go there are a raft of changes including Rhodes, Spencer, Taylor, Barrington, Longbottom, Goode.

A great break out of Sarries 22 is halted when Goode got isolated and Williams is penalised for clearing beyond the man. He makes amends after the ensuing lineout when Louw loses the ball forward under pressure from him.

Taylor makes an impact as soon as he's on with two massive tackles. A tip-tackle on Priestland that thankfully only results in a penalty and a huge hit on Banahan.

We then see some aerial ping-pong between Burns and Goode where ultimately like Priestland before him Burns has what should have been a great kick over Williams head caught by the wind and instead dropped neatly into his lap. A beautiful chip over by Williams effectively takes out three defenders including Faletau who can only grasp at shadows as Williams regathers and races through. Unfortunately, Williams lacks support and when Priestland tackles him his pass from the floor doesn't make it to Rhodes. Bath secure the ball but then knock it on.

Rhodes marmalises Ellis in the tackle and he loses the ball backwards. The clearance from Bath is knocked on by Goode. Burn tries a chip through which Goode regathers and runs a mazy line back through the defence finding Earl on the cutback. Rhodes took a hardline but gives a soft pass to Taylor who steamed through a gap and got the ball away to Spencer and then to Barrington who handed off Priestland and crashed through the Bath defence. Quick recycling to Goode and then onto George saw the ball fall to Burger for the fifth Sarries try out wide. The wind was tricky and Farrels kick pulled to the right of the post. 34-6

Priestland loses the ball in the tackle then throws a horrible pass back at Wilson who received it at roughly the same time as Lozo arrived but he shows a matadors grace in avoiding him and passes to Priestland who ran a wrap-around. Priestland then ran between Lozo and Williams and got the ball out to Wilson, unfortunately, Bath young scrum-half showed his inexperience and was far too wide to support. Wilson tried to get the pass away but Green under pressure from Taylor lost the ball forward. Jamie George gathered and kicked away ... hurrah!! to Faletau ...uh-oh! who promptly ran into a wall of Maitland and Rhodes ... phew.

Bath surrendered possession after a double tackle by George and Rhodes and Taylor quickly switched play to the numbers on the blindside with a pass to Farrell who found Goode who isolated Priestland committed two defenders and put in a great offload to Earl running support on his outside. Earl drew Homer and offloaded in the tackle to Spencer who ran under the posts to record Sarries sixth try and Farrell converts. 41-6.

There are no scores in the last minutes but the game is still furiously contested. Rhodes claimed the restart and went to ground but an elemental counter-ruck by Brew which cleared Barrington AND Kruis almost allows Bath a turnover in Sarries 22 before Kruis counter-rucked a Bath player back over the ball and Day plucked the ball from the ground and passed to George who fended Priestland then the break was on from Farrell to Goode, from Taylor to Lozo back to Taylor and to Goode who raced downfield. Banahan showed some great defensive skill. Backing other players to make the tackle on Goode whilst he ran a line that obstructed any pass Goode could make to Lozo and Williams outside. Goode is tackled and Wilson got a turnover.

From a Bath lineout Day gave away a penalty and Dickson cards Taylor when Green picked and went before he had retreated properly. A Bath lineout ends in a knock on from Philips and the game ends.

Overall I am gutted that I wasn't there as it looked like a great game despite the weather in the second half.

Bath actually look like they are not that far off being a decent side. Faletau looked classy and Wilson spent a lot of time both clearing up others mistakes and adding some width and when needed directness in attack. Brew was something else though. We continuously caught Bath defending narrow and yet time after time he timed his blitz right hit the attacker before they could make use of the men outside. He comfortably stopped a couple of run-ins that way. All round it was a magnificent performance and one of those were on the day in a well-beaten team I almost felt he deserved MotM.

As for the actual MotM it could have been almost anyone of 23. It really was a team performance and it was a delight to see how sharp the team looked in counter-attack. Also brilliant to see Rhodes and Taylor back and both showed very well and without wishing to make light of it I know myself and my Sarries supporting friends were probably almost as relieved as Taylor that he wasn't immediately injured as soon as he came on as has seemed to be the case too often in recent times. Great to see Williams at fullback again and I look forward to proper rotation their next season.

So a fantastically timed "rest" week with Nick Isiekwe turning twenty (many happy returns) and I hope he and the team have almost as much to celebrate then as in a months time or so.

* Just realised that the slightly random headline might not make sense here. Bed, Bath and Beyond is a shop in the States smiling smiley


Williams, Maitland, Lozowski, Barritt (Taylor), Wyles (Goode), Farrell, Wigglesworth (Spencer),  M Vunipola (Barrington), Brits (George), Figallo (Longbottom), Day, Kruis, Isiekwe (Earl), Burger, Wray (Rhodes)


Wilson, Banahan, Joseph (Homer), Tapuai (Burns), Brew, Priestland, Fotuali'i (Green), Obano (Paz), Dunn (Walker), Knight (Delmas), Ewels, Stooke (Phillips), Ellis, Louw (Grant), Faletau

SARACENS (41) Tries: Brits, Williams, Wigglesworth, Farrell, Burger, Spencer; Conv: Farrell (4); Pen: Farrell

BATH (6): Priestland (2)

Attendance 10,000

Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)

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16/04/2018 21:53
Thanks so much for doing this OM especially given your problem - hope your mum's OK! At least you've buried your jinx!

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2018:05:02:17:32:50 by Darraghgirl.

OldMarovian (IP Logged)
16/04/2018 22:09
All good thanks. Now I know it's not me I'll be more confident to do more if needed smiling smiley

Waldo (IP Logged)
17/04/2018 09:45
A most comprehensive write up - Nice work (Sm128)

Darraghgirl (IP Logged)
17/04/2018 19:21
All good thanks. Now I know it's not me I'll be more confident to do more if needed smiling smiley

yes please
I'm worried all my reporters are leaving!

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