May 21, 2016
Saracens Secure Final Spot With Convincing Win Over Tigers
Saracens blitzed Leicester Tigers 44-17 to progress to next week’s Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham Stadium.
Having lifted the Champions Cup seven days earlier in a historic day for the north Londoners in Lyons, Mark McCall’s side showed no sign of a Euro hangover as they ran in four first half tries to head into the break 31-0. Leicester rallied early on in the second half, but a second Chris Ashton score and further points from the boot of replacement Charlie Hodgson confirmed Sarries place in a third successive Premiership final, their fourth in six years.
The opening half of play from Saracens will live in memory as one the most complete Saracens performances. Despite an early scare of a disallowed Manu Tuilagi try that was correctly chalked off for a knock-on in the build-up, Saracens were rampant in the opening 40 minutes. Chris Wyles bagged a brace of tries alongside fellow wing Chris Ashton, who expertly finished a fine back row move from a scrum.
The rout was kicked off by a Will Fraser score that will see the Sarries back rower sheer off his caveman-esq beard after ten months of growth in aid of Great Ormond Street hospitality. Fraser finished with aplomb after collecting a George Kruis offload, with the England lock the beneficiary off a sumptuous Schalk Brits offload in the build-up. Farrell converted. 7-0.
The Tigers were keen to play from deep, a decision that was forced by a howling Barnet breeze that Richard Cockerill’s side had to face. Ben Youngs and Owen Williams, the Leicester halves, continued to probe the Sarries defensive line with a series of chip kicks and grubbers, but to no avail. Their frustration was compounded when Sarries wing Wyles collected the umpteenth Williams grubber kick to round the defence and score under the sticks. Farrell once again made no mistake and landed the extras. 14-0
Not to be outdone by his fellow wing Wyles, Chris Ashton was next in on the act. Billy Vunipola showed both the raw power and deftest of touches to release Richard Wigglesworth from the base of the scrum down the right hand channel, Wigglesworth quickly moved the ball to Alex Goode who chimed into the line in timely fashion. The Aviva Premiership Player of the Season released Ashton and the prolific Sarries wing finished in the corner in expert fashion. Farrell once made no mistake with a difficult conversion. 21-0.
The Tigers were in a spiral, playing in all wrong areas as they invited the Sarries defence into the game. Never one to turn down an invite for a crunching hit, Saracens, led by their openiside Will Fraser rattled Tigers. First up, Will Fraser of Peter Betham with a real cruncher. Up next, George Kruis followed up with one on Fitzgerald before his lock partner and bash brother Maro Itoje cut in half Dom Barrow much to the Sarries faithful’s approval.
Up against it and chasing their way back into the game, Leicester’s misery was compounded when Wyles plucked out a Ben Youngs pass to race away to score, heading towards his beloved WolfPack Lager bus in the north-western corner of Allianz Park. Farrell converted as Saracens ran-in to the changing rooms of their home to a standing ovation. 31-0.
Leicester are a champion side, with real Premiership pedigree that 12 successive semi-final appearances with testify to. They flew out of the traps in the second half, and has the Saracens rocking at points. Firstly Telusa Veainu finished off a try that had an extremely dubious ‘forward’ pass in the build-up, yet the decision stood and Williams converted. The momentum continued to swing towards the East Midlanders, and when Sarries were reduced to 14-men when Will Fraser was yellow carded, and Owen Williams added a further three points from the tee, hope sprung eternal. The Tigers were inspired, and the shackles continued to gather dust on the side of the pitch as Cockerill’s side played with freedom and invention looking to run at Saracens with the speculative passes now began to stick.
After a Goneva break, Dom Barrow dusted himself down from his earlier Itoje flattening to score from a Tigers driving maul. Williams converted, to make the score 31-17. Game on.
Sarries though refused to panic, and another Leicester sporting miracle was extinguished by the evergreen pair of Neil De Kock and Charlie Hodgson (Hodgson on for Farrell who went off with a hit to the ribs). Controlling the game after the frenetic second half start, the experienced duo steered Sarries home. Hodgson landed two penalties, kicking into a brutally strong gust from behind the South stand and De Kock box-kicked exteremely well to pin back the dangerous back three of Tait, Goneva and Veainu.
Heading past the hour mark, the Tigers despite all of their efforts and endeavour, were on the ropes. Up step Chris Ashton to land the knockout punch.
Chasing a Maro Itoje kick through, Ashton raced onto the ball like an excitable Springer Spaniel to outpace the covering Tigers defenders. He hacked on, collected and crashed over to score. The moment of all moments that highlights Ashton’s insatiable appetite to score tries. Game over.
44-17 the final score as Saracens secured their place at Twickenham for the Aviva Premiership final next weekend.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode; 14 Chris Ashton; 13 Duncan Taylor; 12 Brad Barritt (c); 11 Chris Wyles; 10 Owen Farrell; 9 Richard Wigglesworth; 1 Mako Vunipola; 2 Schalk Brits; 3 Petrus Du Plessis;4 Maro Itoje; 5 George Kruis; 6 Michael Rhodes;7 Will Fraser; 8 Billy Vunipola:
Replacements: 16 Jamie George;17 Richard Barrington; 18 Juan Figallo;19 Jim Hamilton;
20 Jackson Wray; 21 Neil De Kock; 22 Charlie Hodgson;23 Marcelo Bosch:
Scores Tries Wyles x 2; Ashton x 2; Fraser:
Cons Farrell x 4; Hodgson:
Penalties Farrell; Hodgson x 2:
Replacements used: George for Brits (49); Barrington for M.Vunipola (70); Figallo for Du Plessis (55); Hamilton for B.Vunipola (73); Wray for Rhodes (61); De Kock for Wigglesworth (58); Hodgson for Farrell (61); Bosch for Taylor (53).
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait (c); 14 Telusa Veainu; 13 Peter Betham; 12 Manu Tuilagi; 11 Vereniki Goneva; 10 Owen Williams; 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Marcos Ayerza; 2 Harry Thacker; 3 Dan Cole;4 Dom Barrow; 5 Graham Kitchener; 6 Mike Fitzgerald; 7 Brendon O'Connor; 8 Lachlan McCaffrey:
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini; 17 Ellis Genge; 18 Logovi'i Mulipola;19 Ed Slater; 20 Will Evans; 21 Jono Kitto; 22 Tommy Bell;23 Adam Thompstone:
Scores Tries Veainu; Barrow:
Cons Williams x 2: