Saracens beat the Cell C Sharks at a wet & windy Allianz Park to clinch the Sanlam Private Investments Shield.
First half tries from David Strettle and Charlie Hodgson put Saracens in the driving seat in a first half that saw both of the Sharks’ lock forwards sin-binned.
In the second half, the Sharks scored two tries of their own to set up a grandstand finish, but the kicking of Charlie Hodgson secured the win for the home side.
The game began with The Sharks exhibiting their physical approach, with Jean Dysel, Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and inside centre Andre Esterhuizen all carrying well for the visitors; and within two minutes Jake White’s side took the lead, with outside half Tim Swiel dispatching a routine penalty to give his side a three nil lead.
Saracens responded well, and in truth dominated the rest if the first forty as their scrum began to assert dominance over the Sharks side.
Any accusations that this game, listed as friendly, would be treated as much was quickly extinguished when Namibian captain Jacques Burger and Springbok prop forward Jannie Du Plessis squared up, with the two Africans almost ready to go toe-to-toe with each other. Du Plessis reaction was duly punished with a penalty for his over-zealous reaction, but luckily for the tighthead prop, Hodgson’s kick at goal was off target.
It wasn’t too long until Saracens secured parity on the scoreboard, after another dominant scrum forced a Sharks front row that has a combined number of 161 Springbok caps to concede another penalty. Emerging from the melee of bodies to take the plaudits was loosehead prop Richard Barrington. Hodgson this time made no mistake with the kick, to draw the sides level.
Saracens were now camped out in the Sharks twenty-two area, and after repeated infringements referee Tim Wigglesworth lost his patience with the visitors and yellow carded lock forward Etienne Oosthuizen. With the rangy lock forward trudging off the field, some quick thinking by Charlie Hodgson saw David Strettle score the games first try – the 33-year-old outside-half quick-tapped from the penalty and fed winger David Strettle, who crossed again in front of the Allianz Park faithful – Hodgson converted brilliantly from the sidelines.
From the kick-off, The Sharks problems were increased when Sharks lock forward, Pieter-Steph du Toit was sin-binned for taking the man out in the air as both sides contest Tim Swiel’s swirling restart.
With the two man advantage the Sharks performed manfully, with typical committed efforts from captain Bismarck du Plessis in the loose as well as centre pairing Esterhizen and Jordaan who posed a constant threat despite playing behind a retreating pack of forwards for much of the first half.
It would come as great frustration to Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White, that with seconds ticking down to the break, they would concede an intercept try – the evergreen Hodgson plucking out his opposite numbers cut-out ball to scuttle away to score an opportunist try. Hodgson converted to make the score at half-time 20-3 to the hosts.
In the second half, the Sharks began to enjoy a fairer share of possession and territory. In the second half Saracens lock Mouritz Botha and a stiched-up Jacques Burger produced a series of tackles that shook the very foundations of Allianz Park. England international Mouritz Botha was especially in the mood during the game, seeming to want to destroy any ball carrier that would happen to cross his path.
The Sharks though would get their try, and after Saracens prop forward was yellow carded, centre Andre Esterhuizen scored a desreved try after all-action Sharks back-rower Tera Mtembu made the telling line-break. Sweil converted and minutes later the game came to life when replacement three-quarter Heimar Williams squeezed into the left hand corner to reduce Saracens lead to five points.
As the heavens opened and wind picked up conditions for free-flowing rugby were now null and void, so when the impressive Saracens fly-half Charlie Hodgson nudged over another penalty in the closing stages the game was all but won, as Saracens secured the Sanlam Private Investements Shield.
Tries – Strettle, Hodgson,
Conversions – Hodgson x 2
Penalties – Hodgson x 3
Tries – Esterhuizen, Williams
Conversions – Swiel x 1
Penalties – Swiel x 1
Saracens: Wyles; Short, Tagicakibau, Bosch, Strettle; Hodgson, de Kock; Joubert, Burger, Melck, Botha, Borthwick , Stevens, Brits, Barrington
Replacements: Spurling, Auterac, Du Plessis, Jubb, Kikutani, Wigglesworth, Taylor, Stanley