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By King Zak
October 29 2017

After 50 minutes this seemed to be a closely fought contest, on the scoreboard at least. The reality was brought home starkly by the mercurial skills of Alex Goode. In a game where so much effort bought such little reward, generally as a result of 'skill error', the Saracens fullback was a beacon of excellence.       

The first half stuttered and spluttered, often threatening to burst into life but without ever really approaching 'full life'. In blustery conditions, it was the visitors who drew first blood with the impeccable Tommy Bell converting a penalty opportunity. Saracens hit back through a wonderfully worked try as loose head prop Mako Vunipola showed exceptional skill to 'drift off' (allow the ball to do the work!) to create a gap in the Irish midfield. His 'fade' to the left enabled him to run unopposed for 22m to score to the left of the uprights. Farrell converted to give Saracens a lead that they would not relinquish. 

The first half largely consisted of Saracens possession and territory, followed by an error of some sort. Even when they gained a penalty advantage, of which there were several, Farrell seemed unable to cope with the blustery conditions, sending three successive kicks at goal wide of the uprights. During this time Bell added another penalty for the visitors, leaving just a four point gap as halftime approached. Yet another infringement by the visitors, this time a tackle off the ball, led to Filo Paulo being sent to the sin bin. It seemed certain that Sarries would end the half with their second try but further inaccuracy and poor decision making meant that they were restricted to one final penalty attempt at goal. Farrell made no mistake from 10m out, giving a halftime score of Saracens 13-6 London Irish. It was a far from satisfactory performance from the home team and the visitors were very much 'in' the game. 

The start of the second half saw the introduction of Will Skelton in place of Nick Isiekwe, giving the forwards a much needed weight advantage. It proved significant as the added ballast enabled Saracens to drive deep into Irish territory. The men in black continued to play at pace but, significantly the errors were greatly reduced. Farrell may not have had the best first 40 minutes of his career but he was still pressing the line hard. In the first half he had generally passed the ball, not always with great accuracy; in the second he looked for gaps to run through. It was his initial break which led to him scoring Saracens second try, courtesy of a wonderful dummy pass – even I thought he’d passed the ball!! He added the conversion to give a comfortable 14 point lead. 

However, Irish showed great resolve, as they did all game, and claimed a score of their own as David Paice touched down from a driving maul. Bell again converted to bring the game back to one score. Unfortunately for the visitors, that was to prove to be their final score of the game. Saracens, as so often seems the case, just increased the tempo, became far more direct, and were thus able to create gaps in the defensive line. 

I would suggest that the introduction of Wigglesworth for Spencer was largely responsible for this. Spencer shows great promise but still, at times, seems unable to read the game in the way Wigglesworth does. The latter seems to know where the next breakdown will be, before it happens; gets there and gets the ball moving, having already worked out the next phase of play. Spencer seems to make the decision after he arrives at the breakdown, losing valuable time and space. This was epitomised in the first half as Saracens pressed 10m from the try line. Wyles made an arching run to the left, designed entirely to distract defenders but no real intention of taking the ball. The plan worked perfectly as two defenders drifted to the blindside in response, creating a huge gap on the openside. Unfortunately, Spencer actually passed to the unsupported Wyles and he was easily bundled into touch. In the context of this match it made little difference, but it highlighted the difference between the two scrum halves. 

With Wigglesworth and Farrell now dictating play, and a tiring Irish defence, opportunities were created – and taken. Liam Williams claimed another try, converted by Farrell, before we were treated to a moment of pure class from Goode. 

There are few, if any, better ‘footballers’ in the Premiership than Goode. His balance, vision and decision making are a delight to watch. Immediately after the Williams try, Goode took the ball in his own half; having left a couple of would-be tacklers grasping at thin air, he produced the deftest of chip-kicks over the head of the next one. He reclaimed the high bouncing ball with admiral dexterity before passing to Wyles on his left, giving the American a 30m run to the line. It was a moment to savour for the capacity crowd. Farrell again converted and Saracens now had the bonus point try and a lead of 34-13. 

Nathan Earle came on for Williams and was quickly on the score sheet as a regulation backs move saw Wyles loop round into right mid-field from the left wing before passing to the speedster to score in the right corner. Irish continued to try to find a way through the Saracens defence and managed a couple of line breaks, but each time they were chased down by the Saracens defence – two notable occasions by Clarke & Farrell. They did finally work a four man overlap and seemed certain to score, but Josh McNally inexplicably chose to run into contact rather than pass the ball on and the opportunity was lost. 

There was still time for one more try from the hosts. A well worked wrap-round by Farrell and Lozowski created space for Earle coming off his wing into midfield. Whatever Nathan Earle is, he is fast! He burst through the gap and, in all probability should have passed to his left as the last defender approached. He managed to break through the attempted tackle but, as with Spencer earlier, it would have been an opportunity lost had the tackle been made. This may seem a bit harsh on Spencer and Earle but it is Saracens ability to make the right decision at the right time that, currently, sets them apart from anyone else in Europe - just ask Northampton! 

Ultimately, a comfortable win, 44-13, which seemed a distant possibility at half-time. Goode was rightly named Man of the Match; he was outstanding in everything he did. For Irish, they worked hard but were unable to cope with the onslaught in the final half hour. Petrus du Plessis was awarded a huge ovation as he left the field in the second half; a sign of how much his efforts for Saracens were appreciated. 

Saracens go into the Anglo-Welsh Cup break sitting top of the table. There is still much to work on and, despite a couple of enticing Premiership games in late November early December, the focus will already be turning towards the back-to-back games against Clermont.  

Saracens: Goode, Williams (Earle), Tompkins, Barritt (Lozowski), Wyles, Farrell, Spencer (Wigglesworth), M Vunipola (Barrington), George (Tolofua), Koch (Figallo), Isiekwe (Skelton), Kruis, Clark, Burger, Wray (Earl) 

London Irish : Bell, Cokanasiga (Ojo), Fowlie (Brophy-Clews), Mulchrone, Lewington, Marshall, Meehan (Steele), Franks (Elrington), Paice (Woolstencroft), Du Plessis (Hoskins), Van der Merwe, Paulo (Northcote-Green), McNally, Cowan, Treviranus (Schatz) 


Saracens:   Tries – M Vunipola, Farrell, Williams, Wyles, Earle (2); Conv: Farrell(4); Pen: Farrell(2) 

London Irish: Try: Paice; Conv: Bell; Pen: Bell (2)   YC: Paulo 

Att: 10,000 

Referee: Andrew Jackson 


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29/10/2017 13:26
Thanks Chris, the memory worked fine!

2 other memories - one was the attempted conversion by Faz in the second half which ended with the ball falling over and him picking it up and running before an attempted drop kick and the second was the Ojo "cameo" where he was only on the field for a couple of minutes, attempted to kick the ball, missed, kicked the turf and limped off with a damaged knee. I have no doubt our artificial pitch will be blamed!

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2017:11:08:17:35:51 by Darraghgirl.

The Bard (IP Logged)
30/10/2017 17:45
Thanks! It wasn't only his fantastic catching, passing and running. Goodey also produced a couple of sublime touchfinder kicks in the first half from narrow angles and a difficult cross-wind.

Sara'sman (IP Logged)
30/10/2017 18:29
Thanks KZ - we're fortunate to have so many posters contributing good reads to keep our site alive. It is always interesting to get fellow fans' perspectives - helps me realise how much I missed!

On DG's point - has anyone ever seen the kicker dummy, round the charger then drop kick before? Could it count had it passed between the posts? What would our resident refs do had Faz been tackled?

Squawker2 (IP Logged)
30/10/2017 23:51
Faz could be tackled, as they were entitled to chase at that time.

As to whether a successful kick could stand - that I don't know but it seems iffy, otherwise a deliberate attempt might make sense in certain circumstances.

Obviously kickers can choose distance out on conversions, but any movement in or out would normally be in breach.

A small variation in any "pick up ball and drop goal attempt" is allowed, but never seen such a movement as Owens


Stuart Barnes is a Cock Womble

TonyTaff (IP Logged)
01/11/2017 15:09
The team list seems to state that Oirish were devoid of a back row.

I know they are depleted by injuries, but...

winking smiley

£721.05 (*) donated to the Saracens Foundation due to visits to the Sarries frontpage []

Please read and submit articles for publication. (*) As at October 31, 2018.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:11:01:15:26:09 by TonyTaff.

Darraghgirl (IP Logged)
01/11/2017 16:00
The team list seems to state that Oirish were devoid of a back row.
I know they are depleted by injuries, but...

winking smiley

All sorted. Got cut in the paste! How could I forget Treviranus.

King Zak (IP Logged)
01/11/2017 17:04
DG, many thanks for adding all the relevant info! It was all a mad rush whilst helping my son & family move out of their flat.

Nous sommes l'armée noir et rouge !

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