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March 24 2020

Thanks to Myleftboot for this suggestion Josh Black takes us back to a snowy day in December 2010 when Saracens managed to defeat Racing and the odds in the snow

In previous seasons, Saracens have had little luck travelling across the Channel, and given that their Heineken Cup fate had been almost certainly decided by the loss to Racing Metro last week, it might be expected that the Men in Black would continue this season’s poor European form in the French Capital.

Nevertheless, Mark McCall vowed that the side would not go down without a fight and like much about Saracens this season, the side started brilliantly before threatening to farce with a post-half time lapse in concentration. What made this match remarkable was the team’s remarkably determined showing to finish the game with a morale-boosting victory.

The snow had been falling for about two hours before kick-off, and the Stade Yves Manoir looked more suited to figure-skating than the summer Olympics it was built for (perhaps Kyran Bracken was missed). This made for a limited and error-strewn game, but an enthralling spectacle and good hunting for back row forwards. Although the constant kicking from both sides made it hard to determine who had the more possession, Saracens looked the more threatening in the first half and built up a 16-0 lead going into the break. Racing Metro then struck back with two tries in the second half as the snow started to come down even more heavily, but a roster of replacements meant that Saracens finished the match strongly, driving up into the home side’s half before winning the penalty that allowed Man of the Match Owen Farrell to close the game out.

Saracens started in blistering fashion, winning a penalty chasing the kick off. Farrell’s nervy opening-kick hit the upright, but the Metro prop whom the ball fell to knocked on and from the resulting scrum, Saracens moved the ball through a couple of phases before winning a penalty for their first three points.

Sarries managed to keep possession for much of the first fifteen minutes, albeit without truly troubling the Parisian defence. One particular plus in the absence of Steve Borthwick was the lineout, which proved more reliable than last week, and the driving maul. Given the conditions, the backs had less success in breaking the game line, though the plan was obviously to keep it fairly tight and after several phases Owen Farrell opted for a drop goal to keep the scoreboard ticking over 

The game did spark some life shortly after that when Sarries broke down the right touchline and David Strettle came close to scoring in the corner, but the winger was bundled into touch (apparently well-before he could touch down from my seat). For the most part, however, the superiority of the visitors was in the chanting of the away fans, as ‘allez les noirs’ and ‘three cheers for Sireli Bobo’ outdid even the French wit who started shouting ‘come on les bleus.’

As with last week, Metro had more pace in their half-backs and gave Frans Steyn frequent opportunities to crash into the Saracens defence, but their most dangerous attacks came from grubber kicks, which they then hacked on in the snow. It was a testament to Sarries’ big tacklers that the home side did not have more space to run the ball in, especially to Kelly Brown, who in having his best game for Saracens yet, looked almost at home in the snow. Deon Carsten, on after only seventeen minutes to cover Rhys Gill, also looked more efficient in the loose than he has in the scrum in recent weeks. Yet the away side were lucky not to concede from a surging run by Benjamin Fall, who shrugged off Strettle’s weak tackle.

The perseverance of the backs paid off about five minutes before half time when Saracens forced a knock on in front of the Metro posts. The ball came out to Farrell on the openside and the flyhalf dummied and went the other way, rolling out of a tackle to fall just short of the line. Neil de Kock quickly spun the ball out to Brad Barritt, who cut a fine line outside of the Metro prop Orlandi and on their winger Fall’s inside shoulder to score with Farrell adding the extras.

The second half brought a complete reversal in momentum and in fortunes, led chiefly by a surge in the scrimmage by Racing Metro that gained them ten metres on one occasion. They were then gifted a try when Strettle tried a quick tap from the mark and was snagged. De Kock’s kick was then charged down by Mirco Bergamasci, who raced over from five metres.

Saracens were disciplined, giving away few penalties, but things turned grimmer still when Racing Metro took the full advantage from a scrum on the Saracens five metre line. As the front rows went down again, Nicolas Durand took a quick penalty and outpaced Joubert to score. Metro would have gone ahead, had kicks from flyhalf Jonathan Wisniewski and Steyn gone over, but both were off form.

By this time, groundsmen were constantly tracing the touchlines in the snow with hot-air blowers but the match continued in a scrappy fashion. Former Saracens full-back Dan Scarborough was given a reception as warm as that of last week when forced to field a nasty chip, but Saracens struggled to find an incision from the five-metre scrum. Granted, you can’t score from every opportunity, but the ratio was too much in Metro’s favour as Farrell’s sometimes hesitant distribution limited Sarries’ opportunities.

With less than ten minutes to go, it seemed as if a late rally from Metro, to win the game just as they had won the other half of the tie, was on the cards. However, James Short showed another sure touch when he broke through the midfield and raced into the Metro half. Saracens kicked on and Metro spilled the ball, giving Saracens possession. When on seventy-eight minutes the referee pulled the game back for a penalty to Saracens, Farrell took his time and the three points to make sure of the result to the evident relief of the team.

Although the scrum and the lack of bit behind it still plagues Sarries, this result was the consequence of a great team effort and will hopefully do the exact opposite of the games against Clermont and Leinster in boosting the team’s confidence. The young turks will gain hugely from the experience, but credit is due first and foremost to the pack, who made life very difficult for Metro. Come the new year and some better conditions, a concerted push in the Premiership, some very deep thinking and a little bit of magic could still invigorate the season.

Saracens: Wyles; Strettle, M Tagicakibau, Barritt, Short; Farrell, De Kock; Gill, Brits, Du Plessis, Smith, Vyvyan (capt), Melck, Burger, Brown. 
Replacements: George, Carstens, Nieto, Kruis, Joubert, Wigglesworth, Mordt, Cato. 
Racing Metro: Hernandez, Bobo, Bergamasco, Steyn, Fall, Wisniewski, Durand; Brugnaut, Noirot, Orlandi, Dellapé, Ghezal, Leo'o, Galindo, Cronje. 
Replacements: Festuccia, Lo Cicero, Sa, Nallet, Fillol, Scarbrough, Vaquin, Le Roux 

Attendance 8,405

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Discussion started by , 24/03/2020 07:15
24/03/2020 07:15
Please let us know if you are enjoying these old games?
And let's have some requests for other games that stick in your mind

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2020:03:28:07:27:48 by Darraghgirl.

25/03/2020 19:20
Yes, I thought the match wouldn't match the antics in the stands!

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