A MIXED BAG
By Barty II
November 12 2018
Saracens and Worcester both made a mockery of my very brief pre-match review, with the home side fielding a very experienced pack, and Worcester rotating to bring a fresh young team to Allianz Park after their old heads secured two bonus point wins in the last weeks.
To be perfectly honest, the fact this game produced ten tries was something of a miracle. Handling and decision making was generally poor from both sides, often diabolical. Yes there are some inexperienced heads out there but they will all have had better games. The first quarter of the match was played between either 22 metre line, and was characterised by some initially fluid build-up followed by a wayward pass, poor handling, or needlessly kicking possession away. Max Malins and Tom Whiteley were both guilty of being too static in possession, and made several early mistakes which no doubt stayed in their mind for the rest of the game. Neither are bad players but this wasn’t their best afternoon, Malins in particular looked well out of sorts. After a scoreless 20 minutes, Sarries eventually won a penalty in the Worcester half. It was dispatched to the corner, the lineout caught, and a breakaway from the maul led to Schalk Burger dotting down in the corner. Malins’ kick was dragged well wide, and a few minutes later Worcester were on the scoresheet after a very fluid piece of play from the back of a scrum on the 10 metre line. The ball was worked wide and kicked on, and Scott van Breda dotted down, presumably millimetres before the dead ball line. The crowd in that corner weren’t happy (I was on the far side) but the ref gave it straight away and the kick was successful, 5-7.
The game then opened up with breaks from Whiteley and Matt Gallagher ended with a lack of support, but 5 minutes before half time Dom Morris broke the line and was pulled down a few metres short. Scrambling in defence, Worcester had left the door open on the left wing, and in probably his best moment of the game Whiteley set up to pass in-field before a quick switch left that fooled almost everyone and allowed Lewington to score. From the same angle as before, Malins missed by a distance – Whiteley would take over kicking duties from then, with the fly-half’s confidence clearly low. We should have gone into the break 10-7 up, but Worcester had other ideas. The ball was worked out wide after some patient build up play, and flanker Williams had a run at the line, brushing aside Tom Whiteley’s half-hearted tackle to give the Warriors a 12-10 lead at the break, which was well deserved.
There was a definite change of tactic at the start of the second half – basically, give the ball to Will Skelton and see what happens. This was working immediately, but Worcester were no doubt affected by what looked a serious injury to second row Andrew Kitchener, who appeared to get his head wedged between Skelton and the head of his fellow lock. Credit to Whiteley, Richard Barrington, and the referee who spotted the motionless player and stopped the game very quickly. There was a good ten minute delay while Kitchener was treated by both sets of medical staff, put in a neck brace and stretchered off, and I think I speak on behalf of all Sarries fans in wishing his well and hoping for positive news
This no doubt had an impact, the resulting scrum to restart the game was driven over the try line comfortably, Ben Earl touching down and Whiteley kicking the extras. Two more tries soon followed on the right wing, first Ali Crossdale finishing off after Ben Earl made a good break, and then Skelton stretching his ample frame to its fullest length to dot the ball down in a meaty paw with three Warriors hanging onto his legs. Worcester now had an eye on the try bonus point, and got their third in the corner after another half-hearted Whiteley tackle was unable to stop Tom Howe after an excellently worked phase of play. By this point, Max Malins had moved to full back, with Whiteley at 10 and Henry Taylor coming on at scrum half. Matt Gallagher had an early bath, perhaps with next week’s Premiership match in mind, raising suspicion that Alex Goode may find himself playing at fly half with Farrell and Lozowski on England duty and Malins perhaps needing some time out of the spotlight. Malins actually seemed to play with more freedom without the responsibilities at half back, throwing a brilliant long pass for Crossdale to score his second try in the corner.
Unfortunately we were unable to stop Worcester getting their bonus point, as they scored another with ten minutes to go, and it left us scrapping to make sure they didn’t pick up a losing bonus point as well. Some gutsy try-line defending followed, but the feeling from the day was summed up when with 30 seconds to go and possession on the half way line, rather than run the clock down, Henry Taylor elected to box kick to nowhere. Fortunately it came to nothing, and the match finished 34-22. The result means the two sides are level on 11 points, but Worcester have a superior points difference and sit top. They travel to Wasps for the final game at the end of January, while we face Harlequins. Victory should be enough to qualify for the semi-finals at least as the best runner-up from the groups…
Quick mention to Hisa Sasagi who made a late debut on loan, and also to Jon Kpoku who was a late change on the bench for our other emergency loan Chris van Zyl. Jon clearly showed he can match his brother for strength as well as in looks – not easy to tell the two apart with a scrum cap on!
SARACENS: FORWARDS: Richard Barrington (144), Christopher Tolofua (24), Christian Judge (4), Dom Day (16), Will Skelton (33), Calum Clark (20), Schalk Burger (56), Ben Earl (21).
BACKS: Matt Gallagher (20), Ali Crossdale (4), Marcelo Bosch (124), Dom Morris (7), Alex Lewington (8), Max Malins (17), Tom Whiteley (16).
REPLACEMENTS: Tom Woolstencroft (2), Ralph Adams-Hale (1), Hisa Sasagi (0), Jon Kpoku (0), Joel Kpoku (2), Mike Rhodes (77), Henry Taylor (11), Nick Tompkins (76).
WORCESTER WARRIORS: FORWARDS: Bower, Cutting, Kerrod, Bean, Kitchener, Xiourouppa, M Williams, Cox
BACKS: David, Hammond, Olivier, J Williams, Howe, Van Breda, Baldwin
REPLACEMENTS: Rigby, Waller, Mudariki, Scott, Faosiliva, Arr, Hearle, Scully
Saracens; (34) Tries: Burger, Lewington, Earl, Crossdale (2) Skelton. Conv: Whiteley (2)
Worcester (22): Tries: Van Breda, Williams, Hammond, Olivier; Conv: Van Breda
Referee: Matthew O'Grady
Excellent series of previews and reports -
I very much hope you'll extend your talents to the Premiership and European Competitions.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2018:11:21:18:38:36 by Darraghgirl.
I suggested before the Saints game that imo Goode is ahead of Malins at 10, possibly ahead of Loz too. Perhaps selection depends on who is available elsewhere - LW at 15 for example. Compounding the problem next Saturday is our list of absent/injured wingers (Maitland, Williams, Strettle, Segun) - I had Gallagher pencilled in at 14 and now wonder whether we'll use Max at 15. Still time for him to come good again I hope.
One skill that disappointed me at Sale was that I think Taylor has a quick accurate pass (though still a weak kick under pressure) whilst Whiteley is much slower and less accurate with his passes. Max still struggled there with much good quick ball. He might be more comfortable behind the better control of Ben/Wiggy.