MATCH REPORT | Gloucester Rugby 16-19 Saracens Men
2023 got off to an incredible start for Saracens Men as a last second drop goal from Owen Farrell earned them a dramatic 19-16 win over Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm.
On a night where neither side gave an inch, it all came down to the captain with 81 minutes on the clock and he delivered to extend the lead at the top of the Gallagher Premiership.
Sarries started on the front foot and carved out a couple of early chances as they looked to quieten the vocal home crowd.
Quick ball from a free kick at scrum time made an overlap on the shortside but the pass to Max Malins went in to touch, and then Mako Vunipola was held up over the line after Ben Earl had rampaged over the gainline from the back of a lineout.
The next chance was taken though and it was a brilliant team try to open the scoring with eight minutes on the clock. The visitors went through phase after phase and eventually Alex Goode’s jinking run created space for Malins on the left who finished expertly in the corner with an outstretched right arm. The conversion went just wide, but Sarries were already 5-0 ahead.
Gloucester then looked to respond and were held up over the line when Ben Meehan went for a snipe at the breakdown, and then they were denied again when Ben Morgan thought he had scored but it was disallowed for a dummy throw at the lineout.
They did get over at the third attempt though, as an Ollie Thorley break saw him press on the afterburners and race clear from 40 metres to score. Santi Carreras’ conversion put them 7-5 ahead as we approached the 20 minute mark.
Sarries then clicked back in to gear and Owen Farrell’s inch-perfect cross-field kick found Malins on the left just five metres from the line, but he was brought down agonisingly short.
From the following phase the visitors earned a penalty, and Farrell was never going to miss from right in front to put his side 8-7 ahead.
Lewis Ludlow then went for an intercept but fumbled it and the Londoners were given just a scrum, and another chance came the hosts’ way when Carreras kicked in behind but thankfully it trickled in to touch instead of the chasing Jonny May.
Their next attack earned them a penalty at scrum time, and Carreras made no mistake as the hosts edged 10-8 ahead with four minutes until the break.
A neat grubber through from Vunipola then put Gloucester on the back foot and resulted in a Sarries penalty, which Farrell struck sweetly from 35 metres to give the visitors an 11-10 lead at the break.
Gloucester started the second half strongly with plenty of possession, and an early penalty opportunity from Carreras was successful to give them a two point lead with 35 minutes left to play.
Alex Goode was then sent to the sin-bin as he took out Carreras who chipped ahead, but the Argentinian missed the resulting penalty to the huge relief of the visiting fans.
Sarries were under the pump when down to 14 but a moment of magic from Malins changed the momentum. He somehow gathered a wide pass and then kicked ahead which resulted in a penalty, but it unfortunately came back off the post and the defect stayed at two.
They then had a number of phases right on the Gloucester line but their defence stayed firm, and Farrell resorted to the cross-field kick but Thorley was there to gather.
Then came what could well have been a turning point as Gloucester had a lineout just inches from the line, but they went wide and Lewington intercepted. He played a one-two with Alex Lozowski and then earned a penalty inside the 22 in the blink of an eye, but in the wind the penalty went just to the left of the posts.
The pressure eventually told with 15 minutes to go as Sarries ground their way in to the lead. Farrell’s spiral bomb caused all sorts of bother in the Gloucester back-line and the ball popped up to Jamie George. It was then shifted to Earl on the left wing who was hauled down just short, but Ivan Van Zyl then dummied smartly and was able to step past the final defender to score. The conversion went to the right but crucially the visitors were 16-13 ahead.
Van Zyl was then caught in possession and an obstruction gave Carreras the chance to get level, which he successful kicked to make it 16-16 with seven minutes to go.
The drama wasn’t finished though, as with the clock in the red Farrell dropped in the hole and dropped a goal from over 40 metres to stun Kingsholm and ensure that Sarries made it back to back wins in the Premiership.