Saturday 28 February 2015 – 3.00pm
Allianz Park, London
Aviva Premiership #16
If you’d offered a losing bonus point before yesterday’s game I’d probably have taken it. Better teams than us go to Barnet and return home with nothing, especially if they don’t create much in attack as we didn’t. But I still felt a bit disappointed at full-time yesterday.
Not many teams outscore Saracens three tries to one at their own ground, never mind at Allianz Park, but we did. For most of the match we were very competitive against an excellent side, but poor discipline let us down. We conceded seventeen penalties, five of which were sent through the posts and Sarries sent a couple of kickable penalties to the corner too, so that needs to be tightened up.
I think the result was probably fair as Saracens were the better team and had more of the play, though they didn’t create many clear try-scoring opportunities. The Falcons on the other hand probably didn’t attack much except for the three tries they did score, so we can’t lament missed chances. Our defence was outstanding, and didn’t break as the players tired as I’d feared it might. A good defence doesn’t necessarily mean a good performance.
Still, we took on a really good side and almost beat them away from home, and though we didn’t get the win it’s another sign of things moving in the right direction. Exeter appears to have been a blip, happily.
I think yesterday again brought home the importance of having a reliable goalkicker on the field. Saracens probably have five of six in their squad, unfortunately I don’t think we have anyone quite at the same level. The home side struggled to score tries but they kicked over their penalties and so won the game. Hopefully Tom Catterick will continue to improve and Mike Delany will also prove to have a good boot.
Where Saracens really did well was to starve our back of possession, an aggressive defence helping to starve Sinoti Sinoti and Juan Pablo Socino of possession. Alesana Tuilagi looked dangerous when he got the ball, but other than for his excellent try that was also too rarely. Up front, our scrum struggled but I thought Juan Pablo Orlandi had a decent game around the field. Dom Barrow really put himself around too and was a huge part of the defensive effort. Barrow was probably my Falcons man of the match.
In the Sarries engine room, young Maro Itoje had a blinder. He already looks like a general in the line out, he tackles very well and is intelligent at the breakdown, and he carries strongly. I think he could become a very special player in the coming years, and he is already being tipped for the top by people in the game.
After not knowing what to expect from my second visit to Allianz Park, I really enjoyed the day down there. It’s a very open ground, with lots of space and plenty of bars (though I wasn’t overly fond of the Saracens lager) and some really friendly home fans. The atmosphere was happy and fun yet passionate. Oh, I nearly forgot the steak pie! Being the connoisseur that I am, I don’t get excited about just any old steak pie but this was something. We’ll definitely be back for another next season.
As expected, London Irish got all five points against London Welsh in Oxford, so we are back down to eleventh in the Premiership, four points behind the Readingers and the St Patrick’s Day party looks like it might be the decider for tenth place. Eleventh isn’t a disaster as we are clearly progressing, but it would be nice to move up the table.
Before then we have Leicester at home. The Tigers scored their first tries for several games in yesterday’s home win over Sale, but I am really optimistic that we could turn them over at KP next Sunday.
We may have lost, but things are still looking good.
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