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SARRIES FLY, OSPREYS' WINGS CLIPPED


By Innings
November 24 2019

  On the way to Allianz Park, a number of thoughts were jostling for prominence in my mind: would anyone turn up to support Sarries, would Sarries be in their own right heads after the last fortnight, not least after the Racing game, and would Ospreys actually be able to field a reasonable team, having in mind their own injury and world cup players’ need to be re-integrated?  And the weather on the road was scarcely encouraging, so would this just be a cold, wet and miserable day?  Would Ospreys even belie their dreadful record on the road in this competition and go one better than their last gasp try for an LBP and try bonus on their last visit here?  

I liked the Sarries selection mix, young guns and wise older heads, with the balance about right.  There was talk about whether Ospreys could integrate their many injury-enforced second-string players into their first team, but one doubt was never in my mind, and that was Sarries’ ability seamlessly to bring players in and out of the squad without disruption to the team’s cohesion and mutual understanding.  Much would rest today on Manu Vunipola’s shoulders.  At just nineteen and a half, his trajectory is a little slower than that of Sarries main man at 10, but his CV, which already has England representative rugby at U18 and U20, is clearly the base on which to build a mature game that will serve him, and Sarries well.  However, there are also the spring-heeled Rotimi Segun – 11.0 seconds over 100 metres as a schoolboy -, Joel Kpoku and Andy Christie playing out of the academy, all selected for today.  The last is a relatively unknown player at this level, but his honours also include dual-nation representation, he having represented Scotland at U16 before joining the England youth groups set-up for U18 and U20 honours.

 

The ground was not totally full, but I can never work out whether a few empty seats are held by supporters who like to watch from the side-lines when it isn’t raining, but to retreat to their seat when it is.  Sitting in the East stand just makes me glad that the West stand eyesore is on its last legs.  The temporary changing rooms and other facilities look very smart, and when we see changing room shots on camera they also look considerably better than hitherto.

 

The game was not a full-bore affair for the first quarter.  Ospreys started quick, and one aspect of their game was the speed of their line defence.  Actually it was a feature throughout, and on 11 minutes it first attracted the attention of Mathieu Raynal, whom I consider to be an under-rated but sympathetic referee who wants the game to flow.  This time he adjudges that Will Skelton’s knock-on was caused by an off-side Osprey hand, giving Elliot Daly an easy opener of what we hope will be a prolific scoring record for Sarries.  Only four minutes later, another over-enthusiastic defensive rush will give Manu Vunipola a similarly simple 3 points.

The Ospreys are finding that Elliot’s speed of thought and movement, coupled with Sarries’ ability to swing from defence to attack is a problem.  Exactly on the quarter-point of the game, he breaks from defence, and making good early ground from his own 22, forcing Ospreys defenders to track him, he times a perfect pass that sends Jackson Wray on a run that splits the remaining Ospreys defenders.  A pass to Ben Earl, also well in support, ends with the move snuffed out just before the line after a desperate covering run.  The line-out is to Sarries, and a drive-over gives Manu a second shot at goal.  Not easy, and the ball slides off just to one side of the posts.  Nonetheless. On the quarter-point 11-0 is looking good 

On 22 minutes, the camera cuts to a shot of a quiet and reflective Nigel Wray in the stands, leading to a ripple of applause, spontaneous and not planned.  His consequent smile of appreciation was all that we could have asked for, a bond between the man and the supporters who know what he has done for Sarries‘ community.  There had been talk of a planned ‘spontaneous’ show of support but that had come to nothing, Thank goodness. 

Soon Ospreys made a visit to Sarries’ 22. A scrum collapsed, one of few when Ospreys betters the Sarries pack.  James Hook took the easy three points, but within a minute or two we were to see the clear evidence of what was wrong with Ospreys.  Elliot has cleared to touch, a good phase has given Ospreys a good attacking platform, but a simple and very obvious forward pass snuffs out the movement,  Sarries have a scrum, Tom Whitely having an excellent game moves the ball out quickly, and then finds the ball dropping loose at his foot, where a tiny fly-tap lofts it into Elliot’s hands.  Daly breaks the gain-line, draws the defence and Rotimi is coming up on the outside at full speed to take the pass, skin the last defender and score his first try at this level. 

Ospreys’ heads go down for a minute or two, and within that period, the ball’s whipped across the field, through several hands and into the path of a fast-moving Alex Lewington, for him to dot down comfortably, helped by the speed with which the ball has crossed the field to reach him.  Manu has missed a couple of kicks, but he’s on the radar now, and at 23-3, looking for the fourth try, Sarries are settled and looking ominously hungry.

Titi Lamositele has had to go off, injured, and is replaced by Joshua Ibuanopke.  Joshua’s first touch will be an unfortunate knock-on, but he will spend the next 40 minutes as a willing and effective ball-carrier, another player proving that you can never have too many good props.

The Aber Valley Male Voice Choir entertained us at half-time.  They represent something special about Welsh and Celtic singing tradition, and enjoyed their offering, as much as the stands enjoyed hearing it.  If Welsh clubs can bring travelling singing support like that, we should play them more often.  However, the uplift had not reached the Ospreys dressing room, and with stragglers still reaching their seats, the Elliot-Rotimi show put on their own encore, a stunning break by the former, blistering pace by the later.  30-3, bonus point and a reminder to supporters that the game is played over 80 minutes, not just the 70 that exclude the five minutes before and after half-time.

For the next period, replacements turn the game into a bit of a procession.  With both sides making changes, half a dozen off, similar number on, multiply by two, for two teams, and in the space of twenty minutes a round two dozen players have either departed or arrived.  Too many, IMHO.  Only one change really attracts attention, the crowd applauding the first time out for Jamie George. 

The last acts are yet to run, and one sub-act is the rare sight of Jamie actually giving a turn-over through a crooked throw-in.  Jack Singleton had been 100% on the money until now, so it really was a surprise.  Even Jamie and his own forwards were surprised into laughter about it 

Sarries are by no means resting on the bonus point cushion.  This game has its own agenda; We may be in a spot, but so will be everyone who plays against us.  Heavy lifting gives a penalty try, it was a certainty anyway and Ben Earl will feel he should have his name on it.  Four minutes later another drive will see Richard Barrington last man up under the posts.  The game will fizzle out a bit after that 65th minute, Ospreys still wanting respectability from another score, still making easy errors at critical moments, Sarries still playing with something to spare. 

On the way home I met a degree of traffic.  A good crowd at Ascot was leaving the course after seeing one great horse, odds-on favourite, lose to another.  Like Altior, Sarries had also been odds-on today, but unlike Cyrname, the Ascot winner, Ospreys had never looked like overturning the odds.  However, for me, the important thing, beside the win, was that Sarries played with freedom, with a smile on their faces, and we know that the integration of the young, old and bold and all in between is a Mark McCall skill that is as honed as ever.  Should Sarries avoid the GP drop, I think that the spirit shown reinforced today will be a large part of that happening.

Elliot Daly was man of the match, and certainly deserved the accolades that came his way.  But we do need a second award today.  So many young players played with character and effect that we should nominate them collectively for something.  I’m not sure what.

M. Raynal was excellent today, and was well supported by his team.  The weather gods held off the rain, and although I usually enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at half-time on days like this, I found that Bovril was better.  Like the competition sponsor’s lager, it reached the parts that others don’t.

 

Heineken Champions Cup Pool Four; Saracens v Ospreys

 Saracens: (23) 44

Tries: Singleton, Segun 2, Lewington, Penalty, Barrington Cons: Manu Vunipola 3 Pens: Daly, Manu Vunipola

 Ospreys: (3)

Pen: Hook

Teams

Saracens: Daly; Segun, Taylor, Barritt, Lewington; Manu Vunipola, Whiteley; Mako Vunipola, Singleton, Lamositele, Skelton, Kruis, Isiekwe, Earl, Wray.

Replacements: George, Barrington, Ibuanokpe, Kpoku, Christie, Wigglesworth, Lozowski, Gallagher.

Ospreys: Evans; Dirksen, Watkin, K Williams, T Williams; Hook, Davies; Smith, Otten, Fia, Beard, B Davies, Orie, Cracknell, Morris.

Replacements: Phillips, Thomas, Botha, Ashley, Cross, Venter, Price, Thomas-Wheeler.

 

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SARRIES FLY, OSPREYS' WINGS CLIPPED
Discussion started by TheSaracens.com , 24/11/2019 20:17
TheSaracens.com
24/11/2019 20:17
Thanks Philip - impressive performance, ospreys weren't much of an opposition but you can only beat what's in front of you!
Was very impressed with Daly - class!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:12:01:07:25:28 by Darraghgirl.

JL904
25/11/2019 00:19
Great report Innings, thank you.

I watched on telly, as last week - and couldn't help thinking that had we played the Ospreys last week, the young team may have got a win (maybe not a BP hiding, but a solid 4-pointer), and that it's not too outlandish to imagine a losing BP against the Frenchmen at the very least - if not sneaking a win had that match been yesterday. Pure musings about what if's of course - and yes, we've seen plenty of those recently.

The improvement in the line-out was hugely significant. I'm so pleased for Jack Singleton, he will have had a great confidence boost after the travails against Racing - although they were not all down to him alone.

Elliot Daly - looks to me like he can play FB in the same manner as Goodey (only with a longer clearing kick) - attacking from deep when the chance arises. I've seen comments after England matches questioning his positioning/ability to de-fuse bombs, and his last man defence 1 v 1. I'd be surprised if Mark & Alex don't improve both those aspects of his play before next years 6N.

Finally, I was encouraged by the post match interview given by Jamie G. I got the impression that the whole squad have got their heads around the situation and have a quiet determination to overcome the challenges ahead.

Sully08
25/11/2019 09:46
Great report as ever. Think you subconsciously named the second award - The cup of Bovril for reaching the parts that others don't!

TonyTaff
25/11/2019 10:48
Another splendid report. Thanks.

Supporters of the Welsh regions are up in arms that they weren't given the option of reintegrating some of their internationals - the WRU having withheld them for next weekend's BaaBaas match.

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

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

Innings
25/11/2019 12:52
The old club v country argument? The Welsh regions have no real support on the ground, are owned and financed by the WRFU. The Principality Stadium is the main income source for the union, but still has over £6 million of building debt to be repaid. The WRFU forecast in June 2018 that they would make a trading and accounting loss in 2019. All in all, the priority is therefore to put bums on seats for a Barbarians game rather than give Ospreys their chance, however remote, of getting out of the pool where they have been expected to be the whipping boys ever since the draw was made.

Innings

Points win matches: tries win hearts and minds.

derbyshire fan
25/11/2019 20:02
Innings - thanks for the report; and also for explaining about the WRFU holding on to the internationals; I had missed that.

TonyTaff
26/11/2019 10:58
Quote:
Innings
The old club v country argument? The Welsh regions have no real support on the ground, are owned and financed by the WRFU. The Principality Stadium is the main income source for the union, but still has over £6 million of building debt to be repaid. The WRFU forecast in June 2018 that they would make a trading and accounting loss in 2019. All in all, the priority is therefore to put bums on seats for a Barbarians game rather than give Ospreys their chance, however remote, of getting out of the pool where they have been expected to be the whipping boys ever since the draw was made.

Aye, the regions have loads of supporters on the keyboards but few in the stands!

Scott Williams was available for Ospreys, but they decided not to risk him. Willis Halaholo was released by Wales to play Challenge Cup rugby, for Blues, against Leicester Extra B and got crocked. Wales called up ...

... Scott Williams!

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

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

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