October 9 2017
..........to get nothing. It is never a good idea to turn up at Allianz Park twenty minutes after the game has started. It is never a good idea to think that your depleted team can win at Allianz Park by trucking up the middle for 60 minutes, and it is never a good idea to mishandle clearance kicks. Wasps were guilty of all three today, and if Sarries had not been in generous mood Wasps would have gone to Coventry with nobody talking to anyone. In the event, some characteristic generosity by Sarries at the end gave Wasps the consolation of two late tries, to add to an earlier one, and the avoidance of a pants-down thrashing.
We began by noting many numbers. Some milestones are very noteworthy, and Bradley Barritt’s 200th turnout for Sarries fell firmly into that category. He joined a small and very distinguished group of current players, including Alex Goode, Skala Brits and Chris Wyles, themselves the heirs of some of the club’s greatest ever players. Chris Wyles passed that milestone some time ago, but his 150th Premiership appearance was also noted. Allianz Park itself reached a landmark, Sarries 50th Premiership game hosted here.
Two less welcome numbers were seven and 15, the numbers of Sarries and Wasps players respectively unavailable for selection today. Many players wore pink boots today. The players are contributing to raising awareness during Breast Cancer Week, a good notion, given that the fact received several mentions from the commentary team.
And so to the game. Wasps must have won the toss: Sarries kicked off from the unfamiliar setting of the South Stand. A quick interchange of clearance kicks ended at 58 seconds with a fine clearance by Wasps' 15, Le Roux. It was so fine that it travelled from just outside his own 22 up to the Sarries 22, past Alex Goode and past the dead ball line. Sarries took the scrum, Wasps gained their first scrum penalty, and stand-in 10 Miller failed, first time of several by various Wasps players, to find touch. On six minutes, Sarries are pressing hard. A Wasps foray has ended with a Sarries 22 drop-out. Lozowski throws the ball to Bosch, who drop-kicks a foot forward gathers and sets off up-field, Loz in support. Support isn’t quite there and Loz’s pass to expected support drifts into touch, on about the Wasps 22. Wasps now show the inevitable problems that come of having only one recognised jumper: Calum Clark steals the ball from a scrappy throw-in, and very slick hands deliver to Alex, whose delicate side of the boot poke through gives Chris Wyles the easiest of strolls into the corner. Loz misses the conversion, but his kicking needs no further discussion, because he has seven more to take today and all will go over.
On 11 minutes, Le Roux makes a second error. He is penalised for a ruck offence about twelve metres out. A truly lamentable Wasps outbreak of sleeping sickness sees Haskell, Johnson and no fewer than six other Wasps players standing in a somnolent huddle, giving Sarries a quick tap pass to Jamie George, whose only need is to tiptoe past the sleeping Wasps huddle to score the easiest try that anyone can hope for. Dai Young is not noted for tearing his hair, but his face suggested that prams and toys will be going their separate ways on Monday’s review session.
For the next 20 minutes we see a worrying sight, if you support Wasps. Sarries forwards seemed to be lining up in midfield, as if to prove to Wasps that if you want to play the trucking game, Sarries can do it as well, or better. Kruis, Figallo and Mako all made telling gains, not just by bull-dozing but by adroit footwork and running angles. However, Wasps did get one glimmer of hope. Wasps winger Bassett, a real speed merchant, broke weak tackling inside his 22, made excellent ground and poked a kick forward to within ten metres of the Sarries try line. Alex Goode had no choice but to hack into touch. A well-set Wasps driving maul brought a score, somewhat against the run of play. It may have been Marty Moore’s first try for Wasps, but that is irrelevant to the importance of the score to the Wasps cause. Two clearance kicks intended for touch, one each way, now miss touch, but Wiggy demonstrates that you don’t beat Sarries at aerial ping-pong, when his superb clearing box kick gave Sarries the territorial advantage. The half petered out a little after this, and neither side was keen to do much as the oranges beckoned.
Thomas Young was having a mixed game, perhaps moving to play at 8 was shifting his radar too much. Hands in the ruck in front of the posts give an easy penalty, Loz’s third three pointer. Then Young knocks on, and within three minutes of that scrum offence he has dived into a ruck, under the posts, giving an easy 24-7 lead. Three minutes later, Figallo forces a penalty. Loz finds the corner, a driven maul forms and Jamie is put over for the try.
Within the next two minutes we shall see two examples of the uncompromising Sarries approach to defence. Daley receives the ball about ten metres out, but a combined force of about four Sarries players bundle him fast backwards over his own try-line. If Wasps had not been playing out an advantage call that could have proved costly. Almost immediately, a Wasps break from their 22 is promising until replacement Duncan Taylor lines up one of the Willis brothers, both useful players, and offers him a major rib-tickling.
Goode follows up a tremendous, spot-accurate 60 metre clearance, and a minute later overkicks to give put the ball over the dead-ball line. That leads to a scrum on Sarries' 10 metre line, a scrum penalty and another pin-point Loz corner-finder. As with the last line-out here, Sarries set up a classic driving maul and put Jamie over again. It seems that this is only the third time that a Sarries forward - or is that any forward of any club? - has scored a hat-trick. Jamie seemed keen to allocate the credit to anyone he could find. Perhaps the social costs of a hat-trick are high in a sociable club like Sarries.
For the last 13 minutes, Sarries are already driving up to Northampton. Wasps can take advantage, with Willis taking a tricky overhead pass near the Sarries line and dropping down and through the defence to score Wasps second try. 38-14. On 77 minutes, a moment of drama. Wasps score their third try, and although the crowd level with the final pass roar for a forward pass, referee Ian Tempest awards the score. Wasps dither a second too long over the conversion, and as the kick is about to go, Tempest halts play for a TMO review. Decision, no try, forward pass. Wasps feel aggrieved but justified in that in the 81 st minute a missed interception by Bosch of a Robson pass hands the ball to Bassett, who scores. Final score 38-19.
Sarries are top tonight one point clear of Exeter. They have a points difference of 112, against Exeter’s 71. Sarries have scored more points, 209 than their nearest rivals, Sale in ninth place with 179, and conceded fewer,97 than their nearest rival, Exeter in second place.
Dai Young was asked at the beginning of the season about his aim for Wasps this time out, after they finished top of the pile in the league and beaten finalists in the play-offs. He replied that avoiding relegation was his first task. He cannot have expected that after six games his Wasps would be tenth, with ten points. He was a model of leadership tonight. He blamed nobody for the loss, and refused to allow injury lists to be an excuse. He was honest about the way in which his players handled the pressure, and took blame for much of what truthfully has to be laid more on senior players’ shoulders.
Alex Sanderson was forthright: some of the Sarries play today was “pretty terrible”, and it will be a hard for the team facing them when Sarries do put their continuing uncharacteristic error rate behind them.
Mark McCall was asked tonight about his objectives for this season, Premiership or Europe title? As always, “Getting through the next weekend” will suit him nicely. Apparently, dynasties are built on baby steps. Which last thought brings me to two happy images of the weekend. Brad’s son Leo, unmistakably a Barritt aged two or three, led his father onto the pitch to mark the milestone appearance. Skala’s son, Hunter, about the same age made a welcome appearance with his father, as Skala came onto the pitch after the game, apparently not the worse for his appendix operation.
The officials had, mainly the sort of unmemorable game that marks good officiating. Ian Tempest’s misjudging the need for a TMO referral of Wasps ‘try’ on 77 minutes did no harm in the end, and should not detract too much from a good day at the office.
Goode, Williams (Taylor), Bosch, Barritt, Wyles, Lozowski (Malins), Wigglesworth (Spencer), M Vunipola (Thompson-Stringer), George (Tolofua), Figallo (Koch), Isiekwe (Day), Kruis, Itoje (Conlon), Clark, Wray
Le Roux(Wade), Watson, Daly (De Jongh), Macken, Bassett, Miller, Simpson (Robson), Mullan (Harris), Johnson (Cruse), Moore (Cooper-Woolley), Garrett (T Willis), Rowlands (Gaskell), Haskell, J Willis, Young
Saracens 38: Tries: Wyles, George (3); Conv: Lozowski (3) Pens: Lozowski (4)
Wasps 19: Tries: Moore, J Willis, Bassett; Conv: Miller (2)
Referee: Ian Tempest RFU
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2017:10:18:15:54:33 by Darraghgirl.