Jan 23, 2016
Saracens make it six from six in Europe
Saracens defeated Toulouse 28-17 at the Stade Ernest-Wallon in an entertaining round six Pool 1 clash.
A wonderful solo try from Ben Spencer plus the kicking of Charlie Hodgson and Owen Farrell was enough to defeat a gallant Toulouse side who ran Mark McCall’s side very close in the closing stages.
The first half was dominated by team main themes. The vintage performance of Charlie Hodgson and the destructive force that is Sarries openside destroyer, Jacques Burger.
Hodgson kicked nine points in the opening forty minutes, yet it was his game management and understanding that shone through. The veteran fly-half may say the body isn’t moving as quickly as it once did, but his speed of thought is still as swift as it has ever been.
In juxtaposition to Hodgson’s craft, was the bludgeoning graft of Namibian flanker Jacques Burger. It’s been a stop-start campaign for Burger with injury and it looked like Burger used the opening half as a catharsis to his pent-up frustration, as the Sarries fan favourite launched himself into ruck and maul, and on one occasion, Toulouse outside half Luke McAlister with typical ferocity.
In a physical opening ten minutes Saracens edged in front after six minutes with a Charlie Hodgson penalty after some intelligent play from the visitors forward pack enticed serial offender Inamol Harinordoquy into conceding one of his many penalties that he clocked up in the first 40 minutes.
Hodgson doubled his side’s lead minutes later when he sent over a drop goal when once again his forward pack laid him the perfect platform.
Sarries enjoyed the territory and possession, and with this the home side become frustrated as they continued to concede soft penalties. Hodgson added another penalty with the north Londoners in cruise control.
Toulouse hit-back before the break. McAlister dusted himself down from an earlier Burger bone cruncher to finish off a fine team try for the hosts.
Mark McCall had the luxury of being able to replace Hodgson at half-time with England fly-half Owen Farrell. The 24-year old was quick to get off the mark, sending over a 42nd minute penalty, extending Saracens’ lead to five points.
Farrell was lining up alongside Ben Spencer (who was an early replacement for Neil de Kock) in the halves and it would be his half-back partner who would cross for Saracens’ first try of the game, and it was some score.
After a Medard clearance wing Chris Wyles and full-back Alex Goode combined beautifully to release Spencer. Sensing the covering defender immediately coming into play, Spencer dinked the ball over the Toulouse defender, regathered and scored.
Saracens really should have put the game to bed, with an uncharacteristic error from Owen Farrell and a missed chance from Ben Spencer both certain tries that the north Londoners should have scored.
McAlister was growing into the game and he would spark a Toulouse comeback that threatened to punish Saracens’ out of character profligacy. The Kiwi crossed for his second try and was creator in-chief for his side’s third, releasing the dangerous Paul Perez down the left wing who then did well to find Maxime Medard in support who crossed.
Saracens though remained calm, and two Owen Farrell penalties kept their hosts at arms-length as they defeated the four time winners 28-17.
Saracens Team to face Toulouse
15 Alex Goode; 14 Duncan Taylor, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt ©, 11 Chris Wyles; 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil De Kock; 1 Richard Barrington, 2 Jamie George, 3 Juan Figallo; 4 Jim Hamilton, 5 George Kruis, 6 Michael Rhodes, 7 Jacques Burger, 8 Jackson Wray.
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Hayden Smith, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Ben Ransom.
WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY