Feb 20, 2016
Saracens Back To Winning Ways Against Gloucester
Saracens got back to winning ways with an excellent team performance as they ground out a 25-12 victory over the visitors, Gloucester despite playing with 14 men for 60 minutes. A man of the match performance from flanker Will Fraser plus 20 points from the boot of Charlie Hodgson gave Saracens the edge in what was a tight encounter at Allianz Park.
The Men in Black got off to a strong start when Ben Ransom crossed the line after collecting his own chip and charging towards the line. If Saracens’ still had lingering doubts regarding their performance against Wasps six days earlier, they quickly put them to bed with Ransom’s well-taken try.
The Saracens full-back, who was recalled for the game after benching against the Wasps, showed blistering acceleration to regather the ball, and race away to score after just four minutes of play.
The home side were in an arm wrestle throughout the first half, with Saracens set-piece a strength that was a continuous thorn in the Cherry and Whites side.
Sarries out-half Charlie Hodgson took on a long-range penalty shortly before the quarter-hour mark, when the Cherry & Whites infringed at the maul, but his effort to extend the lead fell short. The visitors were feeling their way into the game after Hodgson’s miss, and number eight Sione Kalamafoni pinched a Sarries lineout before a strong drive earned them a penalty and James Hook's boot found a promising touch.
Brad Barritt then found himself in the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Ross Moriarty and fly-half Hook pulled three points back from the tee on 23 minutes. Sarries responded with re-establishing their seven point lead with a Charlie Hodgson penalty, with the hosts scrum once again a force that the Gloucester pack just couldn’t seem to handle.
Then the game turned, when Sarries hooker Schalk Brits received his marching orders for striking Gloucester player Nick Wood. With Brits bridging a Gloucester attacker, prop forward Wood came in to clear out the Springbok hooker and in doing so, twisted him in an awkward way that on another day could have been an offence that went against the Gloucester stalwart. With Brits in some discomfort on the floor, he lashed out at the Cherry and Whites prop, an act that wasn’t going to be taken lightly by Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys, who brandished the red card after consulting the match TMO.
Saracens in recent years have made an art of thriving in such scenarios and once again they would have to call upon all their reserves of fortitude and character as the set-backs continued to come thick fast. First, Wales international Rhys Gill limped off with an injury. Then experienced half-back Richard Wigglesworth ran off in some discomfort with a hand injury that Mark McCall said post-match would see him side-lined for a few weeks.
With Saracens losing players at whim either to the cards of Mr Maxwell-Keys or to injury, the reigning champions continued to plug away as outside halves Charlie Hodgson and James Hook traded penalties as Sarries headed into the break with a 13-6 lead.
With a man missing in the pack, Mark McCall rolled the dice and elected to substitute a winger to make sure his forward pack continued to operate at eight players. Mike Ellery was the man sacrificed as hooker Jared Saunders came into the contest, the young South African enjoying a fine showing in testing circumstances. Joining Saunders in the front row were USA prop Titi Lamositele, whose second half destruction of former All BlackS tighthead John Afoa at the set-piece must excite both Sarries fans and coaches showing the USA international’s bourgeoning potential.
Joining the fray with Lamositele for the second half was Juan Figallo, who three hours prior to kick-off, welcomed his first child to the world sitting in Stevenage Hospital’s maternity ward with his wife, Trini.
Figallo’s whirlwind day obviously seemed to spur him on, as alongside the aforementioned Saunders and Lamositele he hammered home Saracens set-piece advantage with the Men in Black trampling all over the Gloucester set-piece on numerous occasions.
Will Fraser was in wonderful form, and lock forward Hayden Smith produced one of his finest performances in a Saracens shirt meaning the Sarries pack won the day.
The game was expertly marshalled by Ben Spencer and points machine Charlie Hodgson, workaholics such as Duncan Taylor, Brad Barritt and Chris Wyles were happy to add their industry to the collective cause as Sarries closed out the game with four more Hodgson penalties as they suffocated the Gloucester resistance.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hailed the turnaround from last weekend’s humbling as “one of the wins of the season”, and given the trying circumstances it would be hard to disagree with him.
Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom; 14 Mike Ellery; 13 Duncan Taylor; 12 Brad Barritt (c); 11 Chris Wyles; 10 Charlie Hodgson; 9 Richard Wigglesworth; 1 Rhys Gill; 2 Schalk Brits; 3 Petrus Du Plessis; 4 Hayden Smith; 5 Jim Hamilton; 6 Michael Rhodes; 7 Will Fraser; 8 Jackson Wray.
Replacements .16 Jared Saunders; 17 Titi Lamositele; 18 Juan Figallo; 19 Jacques Burger; 20 Kelly Brown; 21 Ben Spencer; 22 Nils Mordt; 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Replacements used: Saunders for Ellery (36); Lamositele for Gill (35); Figallo for Du Plessis (41); Burger for Fraser (39); Brown for Rhodes (53); Spencer for Wigglesworth (35).
Tries Ransom (4).
Penalties Hodgson x 6
Red card Brits (30)
Yellow card Barritt (21)
Gloucester: 15 Billy Burns; 14 Charlie Sharples; 13 Billy Twelvetrees (c); 12 Mark Atkinson; 11 Steve McColl; 10 James Hook; 9 Callum Braley; 1 Nick Wood; 2 Richard Hibbard; 3 John Afoa; 4 Jeremy Thrush, 5 Mariano Galarza; 6 Ross Moriarty; 7 Matt Kvesic; 8. Sione Kalamafoni
Replacements 16 Tom Lindsay; 17 Dan Murphy; 18 Paul Doran-Jones; 19 Tom Savage; 20 Jacob Rowan; 21 Willi Heinz; 22 Henry Trinder; 23 Rob Cook.
Replacements used: Lindsay for Hibbard (71); Murphy for Wood (30); Doran-Jones for Afoa (68); Savage for Galarza (55); Rowan for Kvesic (63); Heinz for Braley (52); Trinder for Atkinson (61
Penalties: Hook x 4