“Suddenly the game goes from being in control of the game to not being in control of the game – it gets away from you very quickly”
said Richard Cockerill.
It was a glorious day at Allianz Park, the sun was shining and the atmosphere electric as ever, as Saracens and Tigers ran out to the roar of 9,982 supporters.
It turned out to be nippier than I had thought and as I tucked into a cheeky chicken mayo on brown and a lovely cuppa, there was also a strong Barnet breeze playing havoc with my barnet and I was in no doubt it would affect the game too!
However I was here in anticipation of a splendid game of rugby between two of the top teams in the Premiership but to be honest, it wasn’t as spicy as I would have liked in the first quarter. I had expected much more from the Saracens on home turf but it was Tigers who led on the front foot and Freddie Burns the first to put points on the board with a penalty.
Tigers looked ferocious on the attack – just going through the phases and making ground was creating an impact – and with Billy Vunipola not retreating to stay on side, it saw Saracens penalised and the boot of Burns again adding more points to the mix. Bizarrely the only team who are renowned for clinical ability were stumbling slightly and it wasn’t going Sarries way at home early doors.
Impeccable play from the Tigers saw them win all their line-outs in the first quarter and Burns’ boot controlled the game immensely finding touch deep in Saracens 22′ on numerous occasions, playing to Leicester’s strength, especially when Charlie Hodgson’s penalty kick went wide in the whirling wind.
Sarries were having a stinker so far and when Alex Goode kicked the second penalty … this time it bounced off the post! The whole of Allianz Park groaned in unison; But a round of applause followed shortly when Tom Youngs was yellow carded for an off the ball tackle.
Surely it had to go Saracens way in the final couple of minutes before half time?
Well it did, when Billy Vunipola finally touched down just on the threshold – pure class watching the replay â€“ and Hodgson this time added the extras taking the London side to a half-time lead on the whistle.
This was the momentum Sarries needed, especially with Leicester players like Seremaia Bai and Matthew Tait who, on the attack, have this incredible ability to storm and surge through any defence.
It just put a few Sarries mindâ€™s at ease as we came to half-time.
Back out and two minutes into the final forty, Sarries managed to put more than a few fans minds at ease with Marcelo Bosch storming down the wing to dot down accompanied by an eruption of cheering and probably a huge sigh of relief in the stands too.
Saracens were back to form and their fanâ€™s heart rates had probably been lowered somewhat by now. Hodgsonâ€™s boot complied and another try followed in the same spot 7 minutes later courtesy of Chris Wyles; but Hodgson stroked the ball wide. However as the game progressed into the final quarter, he converted hisÂ first penalty of the day.
But Tigers remained resilient on the attack and firmly cemented themselves in Saracens 22′ for at least ten minutes, bashing and drilling at their defence but they came away with nothing to show for it with three minutes to go. It was painful to watch for the visitors but with no tricks up their sleeves to foil Sarries barricade, it couldn’t really get any worse, could it?
Well it did when Niki Goneva was sent to the bin. But actually, testament to Saracens solid defence with a minimal amount of missed tackles…
And a heap of incredible ones from Man Of The Match, ‘Big Billy’. He’s just incredible to watch and delivers time and time again.
Mark McCall spoke about Billy after the game;
“This kid’s had a lot of big games…at some stage he will get a rest but he’s phenomenal for us…”
Saracens lack of structure and control in the first half enabled Tigers to grasp that early lead with the visitors heavily in possession. But the home side turned it around in the second – almost going full steam ahead – but they must be ruing those ten minutes of Tigers battering play in their 22â€™, a last gasp attempt to score that elusive try but denying Sarries the chance to grab that bonus point win.
That said, it was a monumental shift from a strong unit who continue to deliver and manage to regroup to show their clinical cohesion, when it matters, yet again.
I wish you all the best next week Saracens in Europe!
Full Time: Saracens 22-6 Leicester Tigers
By Rhiannon Chandler-Day
You can see more from Rhiannon at: http://rhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.uk