Sunday 3 November 2013 – 3.00pm
Allianz Park, London
Aviva Premiership #7
With respect to George McGuigan, when your replacement hooker is a twenty-year-old with no Premiership starts to his name and the opposition’s is Schalk Brits, you know it might be a difficult afternoon.
It was the difference in talent that eventually told, really. For thirty minutes we went toe-to-toe with Saracens, but in the second half the Barnet All-Stars took over and their superior quality won the day.
Look at Saracens’ lineup and remember that they had five players away with England. That’s the gulf in quality we need to close in the coming years.
I think at the start Saracens struggled a bit with our physicality but our backs didn’t really have much invention and the Men in Black and Red realised that all they really had to do was match our forwards and keep their defence organized to stop us scoring. They did so relatively easily.
I’ve seen Saracens fans say that Noah Cato was anonymous – a bit harsh in my view. He was targeted with a few high balls but fielded them well and made a few good runs, His tackling was suspect for one home try, but the attacker had already beaten Alex Tait with ease too.
No backs shone, not least because we had little ball for the final fifty minutes. Will Welch had a good game I thought, I’d say he and Scott Lawson were our best players for their tackling and movement around the park. The scrum and lineout were solid for the most part.
I think in Lawson we may have a shrewd signing.
The problems were really caused by a lack of discipline and Saracens breaking the gain line at will. The drift defence did not seem to work, though against such a good side blitz is always a big risk if holes develop.
On discipline, I was reminded of our opening game against Bath. In the middle of yesterday’s game, Matt Carley must have given Saracens ten to twelve unanswered penalties and some home fans were justifiably asking for a yellow card.
If these penalties were all genuine, then you wonder why we never went down to fourteen men.
Matt Stevens’ yellow card was strange as it looked to me like George Kruis who took out Carlo del Fava in the air, but a home fan nearer has pointed out that Stevens took out a lifter. Kudos to the referee.
The penalty against Ryan Shortland for tackling Will Fraser in the air under a high ball was ridiculous in my view – neither player’s eyes ever left the ball and if we are going to start having penalties for this then nobody will ever go for a high ball within three metres of a opponent.
So this was the Falcons’ first visit to Allianz Park, which is a really nice ground and doesn’t have the temporary feel one might expect with its scaffold stands. The smaller side stand is quite old and looks like it was brought from an old Communist stadium, while the main bar has a sand pit! (for the long jump apparently). So a bit of character.
The Laverstoke steak pie was about one notch below Doncaster’s cow pie.
With their pioneers at the Tube stations and bus stops, thought-out music (not necessarily their new anthem) and efficient bars, Saracens have made Allianz Park a very good matchday experience.
I’ll actually look forward to Sarries away next season, which I didn’t always when they were in Watford.
Personally, wor lass and I have had a great weekend in London, our first time back in the Smoke since leaving in the summer. In all those years down south I never sang the Blaydon Races on the Tube. I have now.
Four points from yesterday and last week v London Irish is probably an expected return. Nobody expects us to be beating Saracens away this season.
But we have seen again the benchmark we must aspire to. Saracens may give off an air of arrogance at times, but they have a tremendous will to win and a work ethic that is singularly aimed towards that. We could do worse than copy that and we can do so right now.
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