Nov 17, 2017
Sarries fall to defeat as Kingsholm curse continues
Saracens’ Kingsholm hex continued after they were beaten 23-17 by Gloucester in round 8 of the Aviva Premiership.
In only the north Londoners second league defeat of the season, Saracens were uncharacteristically off colour with ball in hand, as they could only muster one second half try despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession throughout a scrappy contest. A late penalty from replacement Ben Spencer saw the Men in Black head home with a losing bonus point but tries from Gloucester fliers Ollie Thornley and Tom Hudson and the boot of former England centre Billy Twelvetrees compounded Sarries West Country misery.
The half-time stats highlighted Sarries supremacy in the first half, yet the scoreboard did not. Gloucester made 87 tackles to Saracens 29, made 30 runs to the visitors 93 and could only make 34 passes to Sarries 106 and the hosts only trailed by 9-3 at the break.
The Cherry & Whites fought for every morsel and scrap thrown their way as league leaders pummelled their line to no avail. Gloucester’s Johan Ackermann and David Humphreys will praise their side’s grit in resolve, but Mark McCall and his charges will bemoan the absence of accuracy and the clinical edge that saw Sarries come into the game as the league’s leading points and try scorers.
Sarries were forced into a change before kick-off, when Jackson Wray failed a late fitness test on a neck strain. George Kruis, back from England duty, shifted to blindside flanker with Red Rose teammate Nick Isiekwe coming into the side at lock. This didn’t look too upset Saracens rhythm, with the visitor build-up play and pressure of the usual high standard.
The visitors continued to visit the Gloucester 22, but chances were spurned. The hosts edged in front after a Billy Twelvetrees penalty on eight minutes, only for opposite number Alex Lozowski to cancel out his effort minutes later two minutes later.
After Lozowski dragged a drop-goal attempt wide, he landed a 17th minute penalty from in front of the posts to give Sarries the lead.
Saracens from this point were camped out in the Gloucester half, with Cherry and White half-backs Heinz and Burns both making errors trying to clear their lines, but Sarries were merciful in leaving them unpunished.
Lozowski landed his and side’s third penalty on the stroke of half-time, and after the break, Schalk Brits went over for the game’s first try after replacement prop-forward Vincent Koch burst through the Gloucester defence to give Sarries front-foot ball. Despite the early second-half promise, Sarries were left to rue their profligacy.
Gloucester were growing into the contest, with back-rower Ruan Ackermann leading the charge for the Cherry & Whites. Billy Twelvetrees landed another penalty for the hosts, with Saracens ill-discipline starting to creep in.
The turnaround in fortunes for the hosts was highlighted when wing Ollie Thornley raced onto a beautifully judged Billy Burns’ cross-field kick, to dot the ball down on the hour mark and seven minutes later when full-back Tom Hudson grounded the ball the comeback was complete.
Gloucester were leading by nine and after Alex Lozowski missed a penalty, replacement hal-back Ben Spencer landed an 80th minute three pointer to see Saracens leave with a losing bonus point.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick Tompkins (Bosch 51'), 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles (Earle 71'), 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth (Spencer 70'); 1 Richard Barrington (Thompson-Stringer 66'), 2 Schalk Brits (Tolofua 71'), 3 Juan Figallo (Koch 51'), 4 Will Skelton (Conlon 59'), 5 Nick Isiekwe (Flanagan 78'), 6 George Kruis, 7 Calum Clark, 8 Schalk Burger.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer,18 Vincent Koch, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Nathan Earle.
Scores Tries Brits (53'):
Conversations Lozowski 0/1
Penalties Lozowski 3/5; Spencer 1/1:
Gloucester Rugby: 15. Tom Hudson; 14. Ollie Thorley, 13. Billy Twelvetrees, 12. Andy Symons, 11. Henry Trinder, 10. Billy Burns (Atkinson (70'), 9. Willi Heinz (capt) (Vellacott 51'); 1. Josh Hohneck (Ruskin 53'), 2. Richard Hibbard (Hanson 53'), 3. John Afoa (Denman 76'); 4. Tom Savage, 5. Ed Slater (Thrush 69'); 6. Freddie Clarke (Polledri 59'), 7. Lewis Ludlow, 8. Ruan Ackermann.
Replacements: 16. James Hanson, 17. Val Rapava Ruskin, 18. Gareth Denman, 19. Jeremy Thrush, 20. Jake Polledri, 21. Ben Vellacott, 22. Mark Atkinson, 23. Henry Purdy.
Scores Tries Thorley (61'); Hudson (67'):
Conversions Twelvetrees 2/2:
Penalties Twelvetrees 3/3
Scoring Sequence 0-3 Twelvetrees pen; 3-3 Lozowski pen; 6-3 Lozowski pen; 9-3 Lozowski pen;
9-6 Twelvetrees pen; 14-6 Brits try; 14-9 Twelvetrees pen; 14-14 Thorley try; 14-16 Twelvetrees con;
14-21 Hudson try; 14-23 Twelvetrees con; 17-23 Spencer pen:
Man of the match: Ruan Ackerman