Match report: Saracens Men 24 – 25 Gloucester
Saracens Men suffered an agonising 25-24 defeat to Gloucester in a dramatic ending at StoneX Stadium.
The Men in Black had the lead with just 15 minutes left but a late onslaught ensured the Cherry and Whites left North London with a one point win.
Sarries created a couple of early half chances as both sides looked to work each other out, Andy Christie found the outside shoulder of a defender and offloaded to Maro Itoje but just as he looked to break away the ball went forward.
It was the visitors who struck first, their deadly rolling maul allowed them to open the scoring with 15 minutes on the clock. A succession of penalties took them to within five metres of the line, and then Fraser Balmain powered over to put Gloucester ahead. The conversion went wide, but it was the Cherry and Whites who had an early 5-0 lead.
That sparked the hosts in to life who responded immediately to take the lead. Santiago Carreras was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock on, and then from the penalty Dom Morris’ smart finish saw him beat two defenders and sneak over to level the score.
Lewis Ludlow was also sent to the bin for bringing down the maul, and after Alex Lozowski’s conversion Sarries now had a 7-5 lead against 13 men.
They took full advantage, as Rotimi Segun was next to cross the line as the lead grew. Elliot Daly’s long range kick took play up towards the line, and then despite the maul being held up the winger moved to first receiver and danced his way over showing brilliant footwork. Lozowski added the extras and the lead was now up to nine points.
It didn’t all go to plan though, as straight from the restart a dropped high ball opened a passage up for Jordy Reid, and he then popped the ball up to the former Saracen Jack Singleton who dived over from close range as the visitors responded. Adam Hastings’ touchline conversion was successful as we headed towards half time.
Daly then bounced his opposite number on the wing and his audacious chip was gathered in what would have been a brilliant try, but it just went forward and the visitors got the put in.
Mako Vunipola was sent to the sin-bin just before the break for bringing down a maul illegally, but thankfully Sarries stole the resulting lineout which meant they went down the tunnel at half time with a 14-12 lead.
It was an industrious start to the second half in worsening conditions, and neither side were giving an inch in the early stages. Ivan van Zyl latched on to Jamie George’s offload and for a split second looked to have the better of the defender, but they scrambled back and the chance passed by.
Adam Hastings then kicked Gloucester in to the lead with a straight forward penalty, putting the Cherry and Whites 15-14 ahead with 30 minutes left.
Theo McFarland had other ideas though, entering as a sub and scoring with his first touch to send StoneX wild. Gloucester gathered the restart but the Samoan charged down their clearing kick and then the ball bounced up perfectly for him to stroll over the line. The conversion came back off the post but crucially the Men in Black were back in front.
A huge defensive effort then stopped Gloucester’s maul twice in a row as play entered the final quarter with the game on a knife edge.
Both sides then made a number of replacements as they looked for extra impact, but they were relying heavily on the boot to get them territory with a number of long battles in the air.
Gloucester then took the lead with just over five minutes remaining as they looked to steal the win. A high tackle got them a penalty and then it went to the corner, with Lewis Ludlow powering over from the maul. Hastings added the extras to give them a three point lead.
They then got another penalty just a minute later which Hastings kicked, meaning the visitors had a 25-19 lead and Sarries needed a converted try to get the win.
The drama then increased as Alex Lewington flew over for a sensational score with just two minutes left. A brilliant set play off the top of the lineout meant the winger went straight through a gap and ran clear from 20 metres to dive over in the corner.
That of course meant a tricky conversion, and it went just wide meaning the deficit was still one with the clock ticking down.
Sarries battled admirably with the clock in the red and went from behind their line up to half way, but it wasn’t to be and Gloucester left StoneX with a dramatic one point victory.