WILL THE SAINTS GO MARCHING ON?
February 27 2019
Saturday sees the visit from our old friends from up the M1, Northampton Saints. We’ve not seen too much of each other this season – funny how these things go! Last season we were all over each other, meeting up in the Premiership and the European Cup. Saints were probably glad to see the back of their old mukkers as they ended up conceding 50 points to Sarries on each of the 4 occasions.
This season we have gone our separate ways – Sarries to the Champions Cup and Saints to the Challenge Cup. Both teams have gone through to the quarter finals of their respective competitions although at opposite ends of the spectrum with Sarries qualifying as top seeds and Saints as 8th seeds. So we have only met once so far this season – up at The Gardens with Sarries once again coming out on top in a free scoring game, 27-38. This could be Northampton’s best chance for revenge!
Saints have gone through a fair bit of change this season with Chris Boyd taking over as Head Coach supported by Alan Dickens (ex Saints and Sarries), Sam Vesty, Phil Dowson & Matt Ferguson. They have managed to bring about quite a change at the club, it would seem both on and off the field. It is also encouraging the number of youngsters coming through and holding their own in the first team (Furbank & Hutchinson to name 2). Saints have also gained quality in Welsh Fly half Dan Biggar & Fijian Winger Taqele Naiyaravoru. They also have James Haskell. (Nuff said!) Biggar is of course available this weekend (as are Liam Williams and Sean Maitland for Sarries). Biggar was hugely influential for Wales on Saturday – but played only 20 minutes. Williams was also hugely influential – but played the full Monty. I suspect Biggar will play and Williams won’t – we shall see! Saints are without Dylan Hartley, and now Courtney Laws through injury and apparently Piers Francis & Teimana Harrison are also struggling, although Cobus Reinach should be fit. (Worryingly David Ribbans was said to have “a little bit of gangrene!” Sounds pretty nasty to me – but he played last week so presumably whatever it was didn’t drop off). They have a whole host of ex-England Internationals available including Piers Francis, Luther Burrell & Tom Wood along with Haskell & Harrison.
Saints staged a pretty decent come back last weekend against Bath at home. Trailing 26-20 as the clock went dead, Ribbans scored a try and James Grayson, son of Paul, kicked the extras for the win. Sarries did something similar away at Glos – seemingly down and out, they scored twice in the last 2 minutes to salvage a losing bonus point. The previous week, Saints put Sale to the sword with a 67-17 home win, including 8 tries. Meanwhile Sarries pulled off a pretty spectacular bonus point win over Leicester Tigers. So going into the game, Saracens are in 2nd place on 53 points while Saints have climbed to 5th with 35 points.
I suspect Saints will field a fairly similar team to last week with the addition of first choice half backs Biggar & Reinach, (no problems there then!!!) so something along the lines of:
Furbank, Tuala, Hutchinson, Burrell, Naiyaravaro, Biggar, Reinach, Van Wyk, Fish, Painter, Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa, Gibson, Ludlam, Wood
Sarries will also be relatively unchanged (assuming Captain Fantastic is fit – gosh I hope he is!) and will, I suspect, resist the temptation to include Williams and Maitland unless Stretts is unfit. It is probably Spencer’s turn for a start and I would like to see Skelton on from the first whistle too. I would also start Earl who just gets better and better. Sadly I really do think Tolofua has cooked his goose. So we will probably see something like:
Gallagher, Strettle, Lozowski, Barritt (or Tompkins), Lewington, Goode, Spencer, Barrington, Woolstencroft, Koch, Skelton, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Earl, Wray
So far Sarries have managed 6 out of a possible 10 points during this tricky International window. Most of us would have taken 10 out of a possible 20 before this started. I think this will be another huge challenge – Saints have, after all, already won at Allianz and they probably think it’s about time they did it again. But Sarries showed a huge amount of character last Friday to come back from the dead against Gloucester and the extra days’ rest might also be helpful. Squeeky bum time I fear – I shall be sunning myself in Africa and if I can get an internet connection I’ll check the result. I will be relieved if we win, and not surprised if we don’t.
Come on Guys and Gals - we don't have a reporter for this one. It's a home game so there must be someone out there who can offer. Look at the splendid job Purfleet Sarrie did last week! It's not that hard!!pqs: qs:
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:03:13:09:50:37 by Darraghgirl.
Points win matches: tries win hearts and minds.
Stuart Barnes is a Cock Womble