MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 57-15 Ealing Trailfinders
Saracens Men confirmed their return to the Gallagher Premiership with a 57-15 victory over Ealing Trailfinders in the second leg of the Greene King IPA Championship Play-Off Final at StoneX Stadium.
The win means that the Men in Black won 117-15 on aggregate over the two matches, and can now look forward to a return to the top flight this Autumn.
Mark McCall’s men scored eight tries in total in front of their raucous home support to end the season in the best possible way.
It was the visitors that got off to the dream start, scoring an unusual penalty try straight from kick off. A fumble from Jackson Wray on his own line meant that the ball bounced up to the chasing Max Bodilly, and Wray had no option but to slap the ball in to touch, which got him yellow carded and meant the referee went under the sticks.
Owen Farrell then cut the deficit to four points with a simple penalty from in front of the posts, and then a looping pass to Sean Maitland looked to have given him a chance in the corner but the ball went in to touch.
Jamie George’s quick feet then nearly saw him step to the line from close range, but the Trailfinders scrambled back to keep their try-line intact.
A neat set play straight from a lineout saw Elliot Daly and Nick Tompkins combine to go flying over the gain-line, but with the defence stretched an inside pass to Alex Lewington went to ground and the chance was missed.
The visitors then extended their lead, as a dominant scrum with 25 minutes played allowed Craig Willis to kick a 40-metre penalty straight through the posts, putting them 10-3 ahead.
A succession of penalties then took Sarries to within striking distance of the line as half time approached, and they scored their first of the match courtesy of Mako Vunipola.
The rolling maul, which was so successful last week gave the pack the perfect platform, and the England prop was at the base to score in the corner. Farrell’s touchline conversion made it 10-10, which is how it stayed until half time.
Sarries clicked straight in to gear at the start of the second half and took the lead for the first time in the match just two minutes after the restart. Off the top of a lineout the ball found Lewington who burst through the defence, and he had Daly on his inside who was able to run clear from 20 metres. The conversion put the hosts 17-10 ahead.
Vincent Koch then marked his 100th appearance for the club with a try as the Men in Black started to turn on the style. Tompkins’ explosive break took play up to the line, and then straight from a penalty Billy Vunipola was held up before Koch touched down from just a metre out.
Sarries were then forced to play the last 30 minutes with 14 men as Michael Rhodes was shown a red card for a high tackle, however the crowd still give him a memorable standing ovation on his final appearance for the club.
That decision galvanised the hosts, and it took just two minutes for them to extend their lead once again. Farrell kicked a penalty deep in the 22, and from the back of another rolling maul, George was there to dive over the line for try number four.
All five British and Irish Lions as well as Vincent Koch who will be lining up against them this summer in South Africa then departed the pitch to a huge round of applause from the fans with 25 minutes remaining.
Nick Tompkins then added further gloss to the scoreboard with a brilliant team try as then hosts really started to express themselves. Duncan Taylor, who had only just come on drew in the defenders with a brilliant delayed pass, and that released the Welsh international who sprinted clear in the corner. The conversion went just wide, but Sarries were now 36-10 ahead.
Rayn Smid then looked to have responded for the Trailfinders as he raced over after Craig Hampson had sniped down the blindside, but in the act of scoring it slipped out of his grasp, much to their frustration.
Lewington joined the party as play entered the final quarter, with another sweeping move ending in a try. Taylor and Tim Swinson both made great yards, and then the ball was spun wide to the winger who had the pace to dive over and bring up the 40 point mark.
The half century of points followed as the referee awarded a penalty try following a sequence of scrum penalties right on the try-line. Lewis Thiede was sent to the bin for the Trailfinders, but as the penalties continued it meant that Luke Pearce went under the posts, making the lead 50-10 with 10 minutes left.
The tries kept coming, and this time Tom Whiteley marked his final appearance for the club with a well deserved score. Ralph Adams Hale rampaged in to the opposition half before releasing Lewington who was brought down just short, but popped it up to the scrum half who acrobatically dived over.
Jordan Burns rounded off the scoring as the Trailfinders had the final say with the scrum-half stepping to the line, but that proved to be the final act in a memorable Championship season.