MATCH REPORT | Bristol Bears 10-25 Saracens Men
A wet weather masterclass ensured that Saracens Men made it eight wins from eight so far this season with a dominant 25-10 victory over Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate.
On a day when the rain withdrew any chance of an entertaining schedule, Sarries relied on their powerful set-piece, Alex Goode’s boot and a moment of magic from Max Malins to extend their perfect start to the 2022/23 campaign.
In what were dreadful conditions, the first half was one that won’t live long in the memory, with both sides having to rely on any scraps with kicking the tale of the opening 40 minutes.
The kicking ping pong spells lasted minutes at a time with the heavens well and truly open at Ashton Gate.
Sarries did manage to wrestle themselves an opportunity with 20 minutes gone when Ivan van Zyl quickly-tapped a penalty and went within one metre of the line, but as the ball was recycled the Bristol defence scrambled back to stop Ben Earl going over in the corner.
Elliot Daly then made a half break off the back of a scrum and charged towards the 22, but in the slippy conditions, the ball which resembled a bar of soap spat out of the breakdown.
Despite having almost no chances between both sides, Sarries turned the screw with 10 minutes to go in the first half as a wonder try from Malins opened the scoring.
The full-back spotted a gap in the defence and nonchalantly chipped ahead before gathering his own kick, volleying ahead again and then diving over the line in a moment of true quality. Alex Goode’s conversion made it 7-0 and rewarded the best piece of skill on show in the first half.
The pack then began to dominate and Goode kicked two more penalties in the final five minutes of the half, meaning the Londoners went in at the break with a 13-0 lead.
The second half started in the same way that the first ended, an excellent 50:22 from Goode took his side deep in to the 22, and then he kicked anther brilliant penalty which went in off both posts to extend the lead to 16 points.
Van Zyl then sniped from the base of the ruck as the visitors looked to put the game to bed straight after the restart, and despite being brought down his reward was another penalty for Goode who made no mistake, kicking his fourth penalty in just over 10 minutes.
Bristol then thought they had got themselves back in the match when Harry Thacker bundled over from the base of a maul, but after a check with the TMO play was brought back for obstruction and Sarries survived.
They weren’t to be denied from the next attack though, as in almost identical style a kick was sent to the corner which allowed them to maul over, and Thacker was at the base to dot down. Callum Sheedy’s conversion went wide however, ensuring the lead was still at two scores.
Elliot Daly nearly put clear distance between the teams with 20 minutes to go, as the ball bounced off a tackle and popped up to him in space but the referee deemed it to be a knock on.
From the resulting scrum though Sarries got a penalty, and Goode once again dissected the posts as the lead grew to 17 points on the hour mark.
The power came to the fore again with 10 minutes remaining, yet another scrum penalty meant that Goode pointed to the uprights again, and he made no mistake as his kicking excellence continued.
The Bears got a consolation in the final minute as Jonathan Benz-Salomon powered over from close range, but the day belonged to Sarries who wrestled out a crucial win to the delight of the visiting supporters in attendance.