Match Report: Saracens Men 18 – 21 Edinburgh Rugby
Saracens Men started their European Rugby Challenge Cup campaign with a disappointing defeat as Edinburgh Rugby left StoneX Stadium with a narrow 21-18 victory.
The match was marred by relentless rain which had a huge impact, however tries from Alex Goode and Andy Christie didn’t prove to be enough on Sarries’ return to European competition.
Edinburgh enjoyed an early spell in the Sarries 22 and they were rewarded with a penalty, which Emiliano Boffelli kicked straight through the posts to give the visitors a 3-0 lead with just three minutes played.
Sarries looked to hit back and their first attack of the afternoon almost resulted in their opening try. A smart move from Kapeli Pifeleti at the front of a lineout released him down the wing, and then the ball was moved all the way to the opposite wing to Max Malins, but he couldn’t quite gather his grubber ahead and Edinburgh cleared.
The home fans didn’t have to wait much longer however, as Alex Goode crossed for a delightful try to get the hosts off the mark. A scrum deep in the 22 gave them the field position, and then Ben Earl’s brilliantly timed pass gave the captain a clear run to the line from five metres out. The conversion went wide, but the Men in Black now had a 5-3 lead.
The Scottish capital outfit then got a penalty on half way and Boffelli’s long range boot fired through the uprights, meaning it was the visitors who had a 6-5 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
A long delay then followed as Kapeli Pifeleti was stretchered off after a nasty collision, meaning both sides needed to get themselves back up to match intensity.
It was Edinburgh who sparked back in to life quickest as they crossed for a well-taken try to extend their advantage. Charlie Savala’s cross-field kick had the Sarries defence back-tracking, and Ramiro Moyana Joya rose highest to gather and score in the corner. Boffelli added the extras to take their lead up to eight points.
Sarries refused to lie down and sparked straight in to life to respond immediately. A penalty was kicked right in to the corner, and despite the maul being pulled down Andy Christie then kept his composure to dot the ball down from close range. Manu Vunipola added the extras and all of a sudden the hosts trailed by just one point.
Goode’s audacious 50:22 attempt gave Sarries one last opportunity before half time, but Edinburgh held firm and they went down the tunnel with a 13-12 lead at the break.
A rejuvenated Saracens side emerged after the restart, and they took just one minute to get back in front. Elliot Daly’s brilliant take from kick off saw him carry deep in to the 22, and then despite Malins’ kick almost popping up for Alex Lewington, we came back for an advantage and Vunipola kicked it to put his side 15-13 in front.
The weather got significantly worse as the rain hammered down at StoneX throughout the second half, ending any hopes of a free-flowing contest.
An Edinburgh penalty on half way gave Boffelli another change to use his enormous right boot, and it was successful again as the visitors edged a point ahead as the lead changed hands in a topsy turvy contest.
A game of kicking ping-pong from the two scrum halves saw both sides battling for field position just before the hour, and it was Ivan van Zyl who came out on top as Sarries got a penalty in kickable range. Vunipola showed his quality from the tee as the flags went up, and the hosts went 18-16 ahead.
Edinburgh did have a chance to hit back immediately, but Boffelli’s kick was caught in the wind and went sailing wide, much to the relief of the home supporters.
Sarries were struggling at the set piece as the game entered it’s closing stages, and after repeated infringements at scrum-time Eroni Mawi was sent to the sin-bin to add to the drama.
The visitors took advantage of the extra man from the next set of play, as a penalty was kicked to the corner and then WP Nel broke away to sneak over the line. The conversion crucially went wide to keep Sarries within three points.
To their credit to the hosts refused to give up and kept hammering away at the Edinburgh defence in search of an opportunity.
Some neat kicks in behind threatened to open up the defence, and a penalty in the final seconds gave them the chance they craved.
Sarries then smashed their way over the line to send the home fans in to raptures, however after consultation with the Television Match Official, play came back for an earlier infringement and Edinburgh smashed the ball out to confirm their victory.