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SARRIES STUTTER, SAINTS SATISFIED


By Innings
October 20 2019

  Never late before this game, I missed the fireworks, two minutes walk away, and what seems to have been a well-celebrated penalty immediately after kick-off, whilst walking in from Gate C.  However, I was in time for the next penalty, which took the score to 6-0.  More interestingly, I was there for Will Skelton’s two audition pieces for the World Juggling Championships, a pair of gathers that saw him dextrously passing the ball to himself, hand to hand several times, as he dealt with passes that would scarcely be called accurate.  

I had come to AzP with little by way of expectation; after all I had seen a large proportion of Sarries first team doing the nation proud in a very solid performance in Japan only a few hours earlier.  Saints DoR, Chris Boyd, would have taken this game to open the season as a preferred option, given his need to win at AzP as a statement of intent, and this was his best chance to get it.  Certainly he was shorn of a few key names, including Harrison, becoming a key figure in the Saints’ set-up.  Like many, I was sorry not to see Hartley, not my favourite player in any shirt, but he has been a key part of the spice between the sides for many a year, and I fear that we shall not see him at AzP, or perhaps anywhere in a rugby shirt, again.  Biggar, Lawes, Ludlum and North are strutting their stuff in Japan, but I was not really aware of other key absences.  For Sarries, it is easier to look at key names who actually were there on the day.  Alex Goode, Jackson Wray and Ben Spencer.  Almost no other Sarries starter on the day could, with all goodwill towards them, be considered a nailed-down starter in a fully-fit Sarries squad.  Apart from the international exiles, we need Barritt and Rhodes, especially, back.

Any side coached by either MMC or Boyd is going to offer commitment and a certain style.  We saw that in this game.  Sarries play a predictable game that usually works for them, with periods when there is no attacking benefit in sight, which leads to the kick-chase game that invites the opposition to do better than receive, return or run back at a stifling defence.  Saints are learning, and will profit from, a ball-in-hand game, one that shifts the point of the attack at the first setback, that relies on feet on the ground rather than bodies, and which demands instinctive awareness of where to be if acting as a support runner or receiver, and equally instinctive awareness of the passing opportunity, whether before, during or after the tackle. 

In the end, however, it was a game in which the players of both sides forced the referee onto centre stage.  The error count will be the cause of much discussion on Monday morning, and whilst Boyd will see evidence of players still learning new systems and tempos, MMCV will see youngsters with talent that needs developing into deliverable performance at new levels. 

The game itself seemed to be one in which the lead changed hands with every score.  There were a couple of moments when one side or the other might have pulled away decisively, but mostly it seemed that every penalty kick, of which there were many, was enough to restore the kicking side’s lead.  I thought Rotimi Segun shows promise: he brings the real deal in terms of speed and willingness to work, but needs to read the game better, and protect possession more firmly, if he is to push our existing wing options.  Matt Gallagher was rather good at 15, took some excellent testing kicks, defended sensibly and his individual game was promising.  However, Gallagher and Rotimi together, with a largely subdued Lewington on the other wing, were positionally naïve at times.  If the modern game operates the back three as a pendulum, with the 15 as the fulcrum that allows one wing to be up with the game and the other to be supporting the 15 in back-field, at least one of the back three has to boss the operation.  Yesterday, there seemed to be times when the right side of the field seemed to be empty and uncovered, inviting Saints to swing the ball fast out to the threatening Naiyaravoro.  If he learns to position himself for the attacking run, and gets some defensive skill he will be George North, but at the moment he is Lesley Vainikolo, more threat than outcome.  That is not to denigrate his contribution yesterday, but he should be seen as a work in progress, and doubtless his coaches and he will be working on developing the package.  He will rarely get the open spaces that he was given yesterday.

If Sarries wish to take some comfort from a game lost, I think it should be in the scrum.  Even with some adverse decisions that referee Ian Tempest might have been pushed to explain, I thought Sarries were the better pack.  Skelton and Isiekwe, both too quiet in the loose, delivered the heavy drive that we expect, and the distinctly make-shift front row, with the newly-returned Lamositele as the only ‘name’, were a handful who delivered well, causing Saints often to work with poor ball and under pressure.  Jackson Wray usually plays as though he could win games on his own, but of the back row I thought that Earl was the stand out player this time.  He is very much in the modern breed, fast, good hands, a decisive tackler and an effective carrier. In saying that I thought he was better on the day than any of the Saints back three, including Tom Wood (was he actually on the pitch?), I may not get much agreement, but for me Earl’s game was a highlight. 

The game was not improved by the hooker situation.  With two hookers in Japan, and Woolstencroft presumably injured, Sarries went deep into the cupboard to start with Pifeleti and with Gray on the bench.  The dreaded uncontested scrum disfigured some late minutes, with Pifeleti injured and Gray receiving treatment for a blood injury. 

Our half-backs were useful, and Goode operated adequately as 10.  However, whatever we gain from him as a ten we lose even more with him absent from the 15 role.  That is especially true when the two wings need more leadership than they got yesterday.  Tompkins and Lozowski were overshadowed by Hutchinson and Dingwall.

I think that neither coach nor either team will have gone home totally satisfied.  The Saints bus will have been very happy that they won an important moral victory and four points, but the coaches at the front will have been mulling over the reality that to beat Sarrie’s second XV by the narrowest possible margin is not an indicator if great achievements to come.  The Sarrie’s bus will have been unhappy to have lost, but the coaches will be aware that this team offers much by way of development potential and that whilst October and early November may be difficult, the club as a whole will anticipate a very different set of outcomes as December approaches.

 

Gallagher Premiership

Saracens (16) 25

Try: Gallagher Con: Spencer Pens: Spencer 6

Northampton Saints (21) 27

Tries: Ribbans, Hutchinson, Taylor Cons: Grayson3 Pens: Grayson 2

 

Saracens: Gallagher; Segun, Lozowski, Tompkins, Lewington; Goode (capt), Spencer; Adams-Hale, Pifeleti, Lamositele, Skelton, Isiekwe, Clark, Earl, Wray.

Replacements: Gray for Pifeleti (40), Barrington for Adams-Hale (49), Hunter-Hill for Skelton (76). 

Not used: Wainwright, Kpoku, Whiteley, M. Vunipola, Obatoyinbo.

Northampton Saints: Furbank; Collins, Dingwell, Hutchinson, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Taylor; Waller (capt), Fish, Hill, Ribbans, Moon, Coles, Tonks, Wood.

Replacements: Van Wyk for Waller (54), Symons for Dingwall (62), Sleightholme for Naiyaravoro (62), Painter for Hill (63), Eadie for Tonks (70). 

Not used: van Vuuren, Bean, Tupai.

Referee: Ian Tempest (RFU).

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SARRIES STUTTER, SAINTS SATISFIED
Discussion started by TheSaracens.com , 20/10/2019 17:55
TheSaracens.com
20/10/2019 17:55
Thanks Philip, welcome back



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:11:04:13:26:41 by Darraghgirl.

TonyTaff
20/10/2019 19:15
An insightful report. Thanks!

£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.

SarrieSaint
20/10/2019 19:30
Where do I complain about people turning up late and making me get up from my seat? ... only joking .

Excellent match report. Would certainly echo the thoughts about a disconnect in the back three. All three are talented players but how much they want it will be shown by how hard they try to remedy those positional and communication errors I guess?

Was Goode back too soon? The role of the senior players is even more important when the squad is operating with so many young players and it felt a bit like a lack of leadership on the field.

Onwards and upwards though and thanks as always to yourself; DG and the others who regularly post these excellent match pieces. Feels a bit silly to say this but might be nice to see a bit more recognition from those that use the site of the work done in keeping it alive even if it's just to say "I enjoyed reading that" on these articles.
(Sm128)

Sara'sman
20/10/2019 20:18
More please!

Thanks Innings, interesting detail and analysis, plenty to reflect on. Now you've highlighted it, I'd agree that the pendulum certainly does need work - perhaps the excellent Gallagher's next step if he is to fulfil all that potential. Lewington also needs to support better in attack, and be aware of his support when in possession.

I wrote last year that I rate Goode as our second best10. I also finally came very close to agreeing with what has been the majority view on here for some time - that Spencer was our first choice 9 (though in part influenced by Wiggy's injuries). But I thought neither had a good game. Alex repeatedly took the ball standing still and could only shovel on a hard carry to the industrious Tompkins. But the oft excellent Ben, to me, showed why he's not in Japan. Deprived of regular front foot ball he reverted to his slow, lazy delivery. I'd like to see him more aware of options before he arrives at rucks; he needs to boss games like yesterdays (and the forwards) far more strongly. Wiggy does, even though Ben has pace on top of his skill set.

Is the unused Kpoku carrying a knock? I'd like to see Isiekwe at 6 (like you I feel we missed Rhodes) and Joel added to our hard carrying forwards. Earl is still learning and whilst I'd agree he was our best Back Row (Wray took a heavy blow) he needs to lower his error count - a poor No8 break from the base included. I also hope BT's half time view of his clear out is wrong. He's some way to go to compete with Jones' "Twins" or Jack Willis who was outstanding today. I fear you're right re Hartley but hope you're not. Never good to see injuries force a retirement.

My pre-season hope was to get 8 points from the first 4 games and that the returnees won't be too battered. Unfortunately all 11+1 are staying on and won't be available for the next fortnight. Most will then need (at least) a 1 week break before going straight into European games. It amazes me how many contributors on other boards think we'll top the league this year! Patience, pacing the season and picking up points with regularly depleted sides will be key. Great opportunities for the next generation though.

JohnI
20/10/2019 20:55
Few more saints players missing due to a large injury list and RWC call ups than mentioned above and North no longer playing for Saints since the season before last

B. Franks injured returning
Haywood injured
O. Franks not yet joined
Api Ratunarswi. Fiji
Lawes England
Brussow
Gibson Injured
Harrison Injured
Reinach S Africa
Biggar Wales
Tuala Samoa
Francis England
Proctor Not yet joined
Olowofela
Mallinder. Injured
Hartley. Injured

All in all a very good game to watch yesterday with both sides going all out for the win. Have a good season

The Bard
20/10/2019 21:27
We certainly shouldnít kid ourselves this was Saints first team against our reserves. We had enough quality out there to win this and more than enough opportunity to do so.

Connorman
21/10/2019 09:48
Quote:
JohnI
Few more saints players missing due to a large injury list and RWC call ups than mentioned above and North no longer playing for Saints since the season before last
B. Franks injured returning
Haywood injured
O. Franks not yet joined
Api Ratunarswi. Fiji
Lawes England
Brussow
Gibson Injured
Harrison Injured
Reinach S Africa
Biggar Wales
Tuala Samoa
Francis England
Proctor Not yet joined
Olowofela
Mallinder. Injured
Hartley. Injured

All in all a very good game to watch yesterday with both sides going all out for the win. Have a good season

Ludlum. England

JohnI
21/10/2019 12:46
Ludlum. How the hell could I forget him !!!!!!!
Tganks

Jim 55
21/10/2019 18:05
[quote JohnI]Ludlum. How the hell could I forget him !!!!!!!
Tganks[/quote

He is somewhat reasonable I can accept that quite happilysmiling smiley

Aberavon Wizard
21/10/2019 18:32
We fully accept the overall strength of the Sarries squad and the number of those still in Japan. Nonetheless, it is gratifying to see some acknowledgment that Saints are almost a full match day squad short at the moment with RWC and injuries. We will take a narrow victory at AP any time !

jonnybrowne
22/10/2019 11:57
Excellent, very insightful match report - thank you.

One player who concerns me a bit is Alex Lewington, who doesn't seem to have "kicked on" since a good start with Sarries last season.

David@Sarries
22/10/2019 15:31
Thanks for a really insightful match report.

I was disappointed with 2 players performance - Alex G and Loz. Neither seemed to stamp their authority on the game and Loz was certainly overshadowed by Nick Tís performance.

Iím hoping that the error count was simply rustiness and that weíre better on Saturday.

I am more than a bit worried about our back row though; we have no depth at all. We have not replaced the two who left and, whilst the Academy players look promising I donít see a Billy V replacement. If JW is injured or loses form where do we go?

Perhaps weíll see some post RWC signings...

TonyTaff
22/10/2019 17:01
Quote:
Connorman
Quote:
JohnI
Few more saints players missing due to a large injury list and RWC call ups than mentioned above and North no longer playing for Saints since the season before last
B. Franks injured returning
Haywood injured
O. Franks not yet joined
Api Ratunarswi. Fiji
Lawes England
Brussow
Gibson Injured
Harrison Injured
Reinach S Africa
Biggar Wales
Tuala Samoa
Francis England
Proctor Not yet joined
Olowofela
Mallinder. Injured
Hartley. Injured

All in all a very good game to watch yesterday with both sides going all out for the win. Have a good season

Ludlum. England

While the two lists of absentees are similar in length, they differ vastly in quality.

The Saints list contains only Lawes and Biggar who are world class; Reinach at a push.

The Sarries list has Vunipola x2, George, Itoje, Kruis, Farrell and Williams - all Lions; Kock and Figallo would get in most international squads.

I remain of the view that it is a travesty of greed that has seen Premiership matches scheduled While the World Cup is still being played. sad smiley

£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.

The Bard
22/10/2019 20:39
Iím with you on that by and large, harsh when you have to be compared to Williams/Maitland/Strettle but thatís the price of joining a big club

Saint Stokey
23/10/2019 09:17
I would also consider Owen Franks to be World Class, same with Matt Proctor, both current All Blacks at the time of signing.

And whilst they may not be good enough to make the Saracens starting side, they will not doubt improve ours. Sadly, we don't have the resources to build as impressive a squad as you do.

I fully admit that on another day, the result could have been different, but I will certainly take it.

jonnybrowne
23/10/2019 12:02
Quote:
The Bard
Iím with you on that by and large, harsh when you have to be compared to Williams/Maitland/Strettle but thatís the price of joining a big club

Very fair comment.

Alex doesn't lack the talent to aspire to be bracketed in that rightly exalted company - we certainly saw glimpses of it last season - and clearly Mark McCall saw enough in him to bring him to Sarries in the first place.

TonyTaff
23/10/2019 14:48
Quote:
Saint Stokey
I would also consider Owen Franks to be World Class, same with Matt Proctor, both current All Blacks at the time of signing.
And whilst they may not be good enough to make the Saracens starting side, they will not doubt improve ours. Sadly, we don't have the resources to build as impressive a squad as you do.

I fully admit that on another day, the result could have been different, but I will certainly take it.

I admire your spirit! Matt Proctor gained one cap, as a makeweight in the All Black touring team; it was the Japan match, when the established ABs caught a later plane! He didn't figure in the European matches, and may even have gone home! Hardly World Class.

Franks the younger has a great pedigree, but has lost out to Ta'avo and Laulala, with Tu'ungafasi covering both sides at RWC. I imagine that the ABs had already told him that he was yesterday's man when he signed. He's only 31, so could play 4 seasons, and may prove to be a mentor to other props (not least Hill, who promised much more than he has achieved), in the manner of Adam Jones at Quins.

£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
23/10/2019 16:47
What does 'world class' actually mean? Would make the 23 for a World v Mars fixture? Nailed on starter for a Tier 1 nation? Played a couple of times for a Tier 1 nation in a top-level tournament? Bench warmer for the same? Starts regularly for a club in one of the three top club tournaments? Played or is about to play for same, but recognised as world class ?

IMHO the player has to be generally recognised as one of the world's top three or four players in their favoured position, based on current playing standard. That would exclude the majority of players, even internationals, who are regularly touted as world class, but only by their club supporters.

Innings

Points win matches: tries win hearts and minds.

TonyTaff
23/10/2019 16:59
Quote:
Innings
What does 'world class' actually mean? Would make the 23 for a World v Mars fixture? Nailed on starter for a Tier 1 nation? Played a couple of times for a Tier 1 nation in a top-level tournament? Bench warmer for the same? Starts regularly for a club in one of the three top club tournaments? Played or is about to play for same, but recognised as world class ?
IMHO the player has to be generally recognised as one of the world's top three or four players in their favoured position, based on current playing standard. That would exclude the majority of players, even internationals, who are regularly touted as world class, but only by their club supporters.

You are entitled to infer my definition from my exclusion of Maitland, Taylor, Daly and Carrť.

£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.

myleftboot
23/10/2019 19:48
Innings, I would reckon you would have to be in the discussion for inclusion in the World 23 to be World Class, tieing it down to a number for each shirt is problematic, if say top 4, you would be naming the best 8 locks, but best 4 tens.

Duckonstilts
24/10/2019 08:35
World class as mentioned has a different meaning to different people. Some say, Have you got a world cup winners medal. Well there are some quite average players who can claim that and then some exceptional players who just happen to be Italian for example ( In my opinion Sergio Parisse is one of the best players I have ever seen but he couldnt carry a whole country).

I think Best 23 is a reasonable shout but Rugby is also about combinations, So two decent players can turn into world beaters when together but cant reach the same level independently.

Then you have to consider how much easier it is to look good in a winning team, Almost anyone would look good playing for the All Blacks. And they hand out caps like sweets.

There is probably no easy answer but you would think it involves somewhere around 50 international caps.


As for the game, I thought we (Saints) had bottled it in the second half. Saracens were wise to keep kicking the points as it kept you in touch when it was clear your attacking game was not up to its usual standard (understandably of course). I know in theory that was not our best team but our success last year was built on the backs of our young Academy graduates so to see so many do well again was not too surprising. I would say that our injury issues are no worse than last year and its worked out ok. This time next year a big chunk of these players could be considered first choice.

TonyTaff
24/10/2019 10:04
I would qualify "50 international cups" with "in a country with meaningful competition for places."

It's possible to get to 50 caps with Scotland or Italy, without approaching the best in the World. I have a Scottish friend who is convinced that the only reason there were so few Scotsmen on the 2017 Lions tour is that there was no Scottish Coach. His wife is building a padded cell to accomodate his delusional episodes!

£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.

mksarrie
24/10/2019 11:52
Oi , Tony - be careful. I resemble that remark ☺
Jock Mcsarrie!

Innings
24/10/2019 13:54
TT, you would rule out Itoje as being world class? He is probably one of the very few players in the world who would be an automatic starter for whichever country he represented. Jamie George might disagree as well, just to name two Sarries with fewer than 50 caps. Hard rules make harsh judgements.

Innings

Points win matches: tries win hearts and minds.

SaintsAsh
28/10/2019 13:54
Quote:
TonyTaff
Quote:
Connorman
Quote:
JohnI
Few more saints players missing due to a large injury list and RWC call ups than mentioned above and North no longer playing for Saints since the season before last
B. Franks injured returning
Haywood injured
O. Franks not yet joined
Api Ratunarswi. Fiji
Lawes England
Brussow
Gibson Injured
Harrison Injured
Reinach S Africa
Biggar Wales
Tuala Samoa
Francis England
Proctor Not yet joined
Olowofela
Mallinder. Injured
Hartley. Injured

All in all a very good game to watch yesterday with both sides going all out for the win. Have a good season

Ludlum. England

While the two lists of absentees are similar in length, they differ vastly in quality.

The Saints list contains only Lawes and Biggar who are world class; Reinach at a push.

The Sarries list has Vunipola x2, George, Itoje, Kruis, Farrell and Williams - all Lions; Kock and Figallo would get in most international squads.

I remain of the view that it is a travesty of greed that has seen Premiership matches scheduled While the World Cup is still being played. sad smiley

Owen Frank's might be considered on par with with Vunipola, Proctor is as good as Williams, Lawes gets in ahead of Kruis for England, Biggar has been Wales best player at WC, Hartley would get in most international teams when fit. Question is, how do Saints manage to fit so many World class players in our squad and stay under the salary cap?

myleftboot
28/10/2019 18:06
Quote:
SaintsAsh
Question is, how do Saints manage to fit so many World class players in our squad and stay under the salary cap?
Sssh. Keep it down! Believe me, you don't want our trolls!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:10:28:18:07:58 by myleftboot.

SaintsAsh
28/10/2019 18:40
Quote:
myleftboot
Quote:
SaintsAsh
Question is, how do Saints manage to fit so many World class players in our squad and stay under the salary cap?
Sssh. Keep it down! Believe me, you don't want our trolls!

Lol

TonyTaff
29/10/2019 08:40
Quote:
Innings
TT, you would rule out Itoje as being world class? He is probably one of the very few players in the world who would be an automatic starter for whichever country he represented. Jamie George might disagree as well, just to name two Sarries with fewer than 50 caps. Hard rules make harsh judgements.

Innings, I was qualifying the statement by another poster, namely that the 50 cap criterion is, in some cases, not a sufficient condition. I agree with you that there are some circumstances where it is not a necessary condition.

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

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