By Behind the Bench
April 26 2017

Saracens vs Bristol Rugby Saturday 29 April Allianz Park   It would be easy to get a sense of anti-climax in the aftermath of another famous win as Saracens added to their "bucket list" of notable victories in Dublin, but the dilemma will be whether to go all out for a bonus point win with a full strength line up, or employ a modified side, which, with respect to the relegated visitors, could still do the job of taking a massive step to a home semi-final with a bonus point success, given that Wasps face difficult tasks at Harlequins and at home to Saracens.

The last two matches have, between them, showcased the multiple facets to Saracens game now. If Northampton was about never giving up and finding a way to win when all seemed lost, the match on Saturday demonstrated relentless power in defence, even if the attacking wasn't at its best. Although hopes of the A League title being kept floundered at Franklins Gardens on Monday, there is still strength in depth, and though there is now a clear first choice line up, other players have slotted into the picture without any diminution of quality. So, the risk of affecting continuity by changing the side is a small one, and, in reality, given the string of away wins, even if a home play-off game was not earnt, Sarries will not be daunted by games at Wasps or Exeter, having won at both venues in recent seasons.
Apart from a mid-season mini-revival, it's been a disasterous season for Bristol, although a Pat Lam-inspired side in a Championship which has dispensed with the play-offs should only feature there for one season. After Saracens comprehsneively won 39-0 at Ashton Gate at the end of September, there was at least the consolation of a losing bonus point in a 19-14 defeat at Newcastle Falcons, but the European Challenge Cup opened with a double loss at home to Cardiff Blues and at local rivals Bath as the local derbies returned with four games between the sides. The wait for a win continued as Sale became the latest team to win in Bristol as October drew to a close. Although Worcester edged a 31-25 Anglo Welsh win at Sixways, the first success of the campaign duly arrived as Sale were seen off 26-11, and they gave their neighbours a fright before losing 16-9 at Bath in the Premiership, as they finally started being more competitive. Two more losses came in the Premiership at Gloucester and at home to Leicester, but they recorded home and away successes against Pau in Europe. 
Having sorted their defence out in the odd game, there was the promise of something better, and it came in the crunch match at home to Worcester, which brought a 26-20 win which was the first of the Premiership campaign but dragged the Warriors well into the relegation equation, all the more impressive given that Tusi Pisi was sent off after just 15 minutes, as Tom Varndell's hat trick proved decisive. Equally impressive was the 24-23 win at Sale Sharks which followed, as Bristol recovered from a 23-10 deficit. The trip to Northampton saw a 32-26 loss, but another bonus point, ahead of heavy defeats at home to Bath and at Cardiff in the Challenge Cup, and reverse to Ospreys (at Bridgend) and at home to Exeter in the Anglo Welsh Cup. With one exception, Bristol's defence has been porous since then, as their last seven Premiership games have seen them concede 250 points: losing 42-8 at home to Harlequins and 50-7 at Leicester before a 12-11 home win over Bath renewed survival hopes ahead of a vital trip to Worcester, which was lost 41-24. Subsequently, a 32-14 home defeat to Gloucester preceded a 38-34 reverse at Exeter and 36-21 Ashton Gate reverse to Wasps.
Looking at potential line ups, Saracens could continue with Alex Goode at full back, Mike Ellery and Chris Wyles on the wings, and a centre partnership of Nick Tompkins and Duncan Taylor, with Alex Lozowski and Ben Spencer filling the half back roles. Forwards-wise, Titi Lamositele, Schalk Brits and Petrus du Plessis should form the front row, with Jim Hamilton and Mark Flanagan in the second row, and a back row of Joel Conlon, Schalk Burger and Jackson Wray. For Bristol, a similar line up to the game against Wasps seems possible. Jason Woodward would be at full back, with Ryan Edwards and Charlie Amesbury on the wings, outside a centre partnersip of Will Hurrell and Pisi, and a half back duo of fly half Gavin Henson and scrum half Rhodri Williams. Into the pack, and a possible front row is Ryan Bevington, captain Marc Jones and Jamal Ford-Robinson, with a second row of James Phillips and Mark Sorenson, and a back row trio of Sam Jeffries, Nick Fenton-Wells and Mitch Eadie.

pqs: qs:
Posted by: (IP Logged)
Date: 26/04/2017 12:37

O Gerard, your puns don't improve!!!!
Thanks for doing this
I would like to see all our leavers (Kelly Brown, Petrus, Ashy, Jim any more?) starting and then being substituted individually to loud applause

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2017:05:03:21:48:05 by Darraghgirl.

Date: 27/04/2017 17:48

I wonder if this might be a good second start for Nick Isiekwe?

And I expect Kelly will start as DG suggests.

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