Oct 31, 2015
Saracens survive Exiles scare
With it being the 31st October it may be somewhat apt that Saracens were given an almighty scare, as they had to recover from trailing 7-3 to London Irish to record a hard-fought 24-14 win against London Irish at Allianz Park in round three of the Aviva Premiership.
Since Saracens move to Allianz Park, London Irish are only one of three sides to have come to north London in the Aviva Premiership and come away with a win back in 2013, but despite Irish’s best efforts to rip up the form book, tries from Jackson Wray and Alex Goode plus ten points from Owen Farrell was enough to extend Saracens unbeaten start to 2015/16 season.
The reigning Aviva Premiership Champions were able to name Captain Alistair Hargreaves in their starting line-up for the first time of the season, with the 28-yeat old linking up with Mari Itoje at lock. It was Itoje though who would dominate the opening exchanges, with the Saracens starlet stealing two early London Irish lineouts and looking dynamic in the loose with a series of crunching tackles and powerful carries.
Saracens were the more dangerous of the two sides in the opening ten minutes. Ernst Joubert looked to have scored the game’s first score, but the try was chalked off by linesman Simon McConnell for a foot in touch from Mike Ellery in the build-up.
The in-form Ellery was a constant menace for the Exiles. The left wing constantly rampaged down the Eastern side touchline.
Despite the threatening Ellery making inroads, the first points of the game though would come from the boot of Owen Farrell, after Rhys Gill pressured his opposite number Halani Aulika into a penalty at scrum time. Sarries’ England No10 stepped up and made no mistake as his side took a deserved lead.
Minutes later Farrell dragged a penalty wide after Maro Itoje forced a penalty after some sterling work at the breakdown. Sarries continued to plug away and won another penalty with another of Saracens’ younger stars Nick Tompkins forcing a penalty, again at the tackle area. Unfortunately once again Farrell couldn’t land the three points.
Farrell’s profligacy in front of the posts would be punished, as it was Irish who would score the game’s first try against the run of play. Fijian wing Aseli Tikoirotuma ran a great line to pick up Brendan McKibbon’s pass to burst through the Sarries defensive line, as the north Londoners conceded their first try of the Premiership season. Chris Noakes converted to give the Exiles a 7-3 lead after 30 minutes of play.
Under the tutelage of New Zealander Tom Coventry the Exiles are in capable hands, and the ex-Waikato Chiefs’ coach seems to have made an impact as his side’s resilience in the final ten minutes of the half to go into the break with 7-3 lead.
Saracens flew out of the traps and nearly crossed for the second half’s first try when Mike Ellery was bundled into touch on the back of a powerful Jackson Wray break.
Sarries were leaving too many chances out on the pitch, but kept in the contest with Owen Farrell knocking over a 45th minute penalty.
The levee would ultimately break though for the visitors after Saracens got their driving maul in order when Jackson Wray burrowed over to scorer. Farrell couldn’t add a tricky conversion as Saracens led 11-7 after 50 minutes.
Again Saracens threatened to cut loose but couldn’t find the final pass, again Ellery could have scored but the Sarries wing misread a Chris Ashton pass and ultimately a great chance was spurned.
Fear not though as Saracens pressure would eventually would pay off when Alex Goode dummied his way over just after the hour mark. Again it was the left hand edge where Sarries looked dangerous, and Goode picked the perfect time to chime into the line to keep the Irish defenders guessing as crossed to score. Farrell converted.
The Exiles though refused to bow their heads, and they hit back almost immediately with a try of their own. After Jacques Burger was penalized for tacking a player without the ball, London Irish kicked for touch, set-up their dangerous driving maul and replacement tighthead Leo Halavatau crossed for the try. Shane Geraghty converted to make it a four point ball game.
Sarries added another two penalties to extend their lead to 24-14 and thus, close out a close contest.
Final Score: Saracens 24 London Irish 14
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode; 14 Chris Ashton; 13 Nick Tompkins; 12 Duncan Taylor; 11 Mike Ellery; 10 Owen Farrell; 9 Ben Spencer;1 Rhys Gill; 2 Jamie George; 3 Petrus Du Plessis; 4 Maro Itoje; 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c); 6 Jackson Wray; 7 Will Fraser; 8 Ernst Joubert.
Replacements 16 Schalk Brits; 17 Richard Barrington; 18 Titi Lamositele; 19 Jim Hamilton; 20 Jacques Burger; 21 Richard Wigglesworth; 22; Brad Barritt; 23 Chris Wyles.
Replacements used: Brits for George (50); Barrington for Gill (50); Lamositele for Du Plessis (65) ;Hamilton for Itoje (65); Burger for Joubert (55); Wigglesworth for Spencer (50); Barritt for Tompkins (50); Wyles for Ellery (65).
Tries Wray (51); Goode (61).
Penalties Farrell x 4
London Irish: 15 Topsy Ojo; 14 Sean Maitland; 13 Tom Fowlie; 12 Fergus Mulchrone; 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma; 10 Chris Noakes; 9 Brendan McKibbin; 1 Tom Smallbone; 2 David Paice; 3 Halani ‘Aulika; 4 George Skivington; 5 Matt Symons; 6 Jebb Sinclair; 7 Blair Cowan; 8 Rob McCusker.
Replacements 16 Gerard Ellis; 17 Tom Court; 18 Leo Halavatau; 19 Eoin Sheriff;20 David Sisi; 21 Scott Steele; 22 Shane Geraghty; 23 Alex Lewington.
Replacements used: Ellis for Paice (65); Court for Smallbone (53); Halavatau for Aulika (55);Sheriff for Simmons (56); Sisi for McCusker (51); Geraghty for Noakes (62); Lewington for Ojo (62).
Tries Tikoirotuma (26); Halavatau (66).
Conversations Noakes; Geraghty.
Yellow card Tikoirotuma (50)