Nov 23, 2015
Storm edge thriller to make winning start
Saracens Storm beat Exeter Braves 25-20 in a thrilling Premiership A League clash at Sandy Park.
The reigning A League champions had to dig into their vast reserves of fortitude and resilience in the contest as they twice came from behind to beat the Braves. Substitute scrumhalf Tom Whiteley (pictured) crossed for the all-important try, charging down Braves’ Will Hooley’s clearance to race away to score.
Wing pair Mike Ellery and Nathan Earle both crossed for tries on the night, with Baden Kerr and Nils Mordt also keeping the score board ticking over to hand Kevin Sorrell’s side a superb win as the Storm opened their title defence with a hard-fought victory.
Both Exeter and Saracens can rightly claim to have been producing some of English rugby’s finest crop of youngsters as of late. Recent graduates from both side’s academy’s such as George, Kruis, Itoje and Slade, Nowell and Cowan-Dickie have all cut their respective teeth in the Premiership A League so Monday evening’s contest was a eagerly anticipated clash.
The hosts edged in front with a Will Hooley penalty kick, only for his opposite number Baden Kerr to level things up with a three-pointer of his own after twenty minutes play.
The Braves certainly enjoyed the first quarter of the game, with the set-piece in particular impressing in the opening stages. It came as a surprise then to see Storm wing Mike Ellery to cross for the games first try. Ellery, who has been in red hot form so far this season, finished well in the right hand corner after a powerful Saracens scrum to give the visitors an 8-3 lead against the run of play. Kerr couldn’t convert.
Both side’s plugged away at each other for the rest of the half. Braves No10 Hooley and scrumhalf Haydn Thomas continued to kick for field position but to no avail as the Saracens backfield cover coped well with the continuous pressure. One area that didn’t cope so well was the scrum, as Storm loosehead prop Richard Barrington and Braves tighthead prop Harry Williams were both yellow carded for repeat infringements just before half-time.
After the break the game sparked into action after Hooley and Kerr once again traded three points in the early stages.
It was the hosts who would edge in front, when replacement Joe Simmonds crashed over to score. Hooley converted to give the Braves a 13-11 lead after 52 minutes.
Much like their wondrous A League 2014/15 campaign this seasons Storm side full of character and it was only a matter of time until they would respond. Nathan Earle, looking to make his mark in Saracens colours after an injury-ravaged season, would race away under the posts to see the Storm regain the lead. Nils Mordt converted to give Sarries an 18-13 lead.
The game was on a knife-edge, and the turning point would come when Tom Whiteley collected a charged down Will Hooley kick to score and extend Sarries lead to 12-points.
Exeter continued to plug away at Storm line. In a tense and tetchy final ten minutes Catalin Fercu was yellow carded for a cynical knock-on, and it was only a minute later that the Braves made their numerical advantage count when Byron McGuigan collected a cross field kick to score. Hooley converted to make it a five point ball game.
The Storm were on the back foot, but the ‘Wolfcubs’ dug deep just when it mattered most. After another scrum penalty, Braves kicked for touch with seconds left on the clock. They found their man in the lineout, set-up the rolling maul and headed for the Storm line.
Saracens though threw their bodies into the onrushing melee of bodies and held up the seemingly unstoppable charge to the line to hold up the Braves and in the process, hold on to opening A League win.
15 Chrysander Botha; 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Josh Jones, 11 Pete Laverick; 10 Will Hooley, 9 Haydn Thomas; 1 Brett Sturgess, 2 Shaun Malton, 3 Harry Williams, 4 Ollie Atkins, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Sam Skinner, 7 Sam Simmonds, 8 Kai Horstmann (capt)
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Ed Holmes, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Harrison Cully
15 Catalin Fercu; 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Nils Mordt (capt), 11 Nathan Earle; 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Henry Taylor; 1 Richard Barrington, 2 David Porecki, 3 Titi Lamositele, 4 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 5 Jack Tredrea, 6 Anthony Maka, 7 Kelly Brown, 8 Samuel Vunisa.
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Ralph Adams-Hale, 18 Jack Culverhouse, 19 Ollie Marriott, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Matt Gallagher