Jan 12, 2015
Storm clinch A-League title
Saracens Storm clinched the Aviva Premiership A-League title in a tense 19-27 victory against the Worcester Cavaliers at Sixways Stadium.
In a tense and at times, fiery contest, the Storm ran-out deserved winner to lift the A-League title.
Try scorers for Joe Shaw’s side were captain Maro Itoje, and back rowers Nick de Jager and Hayden Thompson-Stringer. Ben Spencer was in superb form with the boot, as he kicked 12 points in awful conditions.
Going into the game, the Storm had won seven from seven of their A-League fixtures during a highly impressive campaign in which they ran in 37 tries. Yet conditions in Worcester on this January evening were hardly conducive for try scoring action.
Despite that, the first half yielded five tries in an entertaining contest dominated by either sides No9’s, as Cavaliers skipper JP Bruzulier and Storm half-back Ben Spencer dictated the tempo in horrendous conditions.
The games first try came from the Storm’s catalyst Maro Itoje, as the skipper powered over from close range. Spencer converted.
Next up was back-rower Nick de Jager, who capitalised on an errant throw from Cavaliers hooker Nial Annett to finish superbly, despite the attention of three Worcester tacklers. Spencer again converted to make the scores 0-14 to the visitors after 20 minutes play.
The Cavaliers struggled to exit their own territory, and with Spencer peppering the home side’s back three with a series of towering kicks and well-judged grubbers, it came as no surprise.
Spencer’s sensible tactics would bear fruit, when after Cavs' full-back Ben Howad spilled a towering ‘garryowen’, Hayden Thompson-Stringer blasted his way over to continue the Storm’s dream start. Spencer made it three from three from the kicking tee.
To their credit, the hosts rallied. With their catch and drive a continual thorn in the Saracens Storm side, captain Maro Itoje was questionably yellow carded at a Cavaliers driving maul.
With the man advantage, Worcester were awarded a penalty try, which Mieres converted.
Then it was skipper Bruzulier who would cross next right before the half time whistle. Again Mieres converted as the sides went into the break 14-21.
If the first half was packed with try scoring action then the second was no repeat, and the tension rose, as did the error count as the muddy Sixways pitch began to dominate proceedings.
Led admirably by the experienced Rhys Gill, who was a colossus throughout his 78 minutes on the pitch, the Storm added another three points with a Ben Spencer touchline penalty goal, after centre Nick Tomkins danced his way past five Cavalier’s defenders in the build-up.
The Storm, who played so sensibly during the first forty may have been left to rue a few mistakes in exiting their own territory as the home side hunted a way back into the game. As the Cavaliers chased the contest, tempers were starting to fray, as back rowers Richard de Carpentier and Matt Hankin were both yellow carded for a scuffle in back play.
Worcester winger Tom Stephenson crossed for the home side to set-up a grandstand finish, but Ben Spencer ice cold 75th minute penalty edged his sides lead to eight.
The Cavaliers threw everything at the Storm's bloodied defensive line, yet Saracens Storm remained unbowed as they celebrated A-League success after Nils Mordt booted the ball into the Sixways stand.
Saracens Storm: 15. Ben Ransom; 14. Mike Ellery, 13. Tim Streather, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Catalin Fercu; 10. Nils Mordt, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Rhys Gill, 2. Jared Saunders, 3. Biyi Alo, 4. Maro Itoje ©, 5. Hayden Smith, 6. Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 7. Matt Hankin, 8. Nick de Jager.
Replacements: 16. Josh Taylor, 17. Jack Culverhouse, 18. Ben Featherstone, 19. Jack Tredrea, 20. Kennett O’Neil, 21. Tom Whiteley, 22. Max Wilkins, 23. Thretton Palamo.
Worcester Cavaliers: 15 Ben Howard; 14 James Stephenson, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 Dean Hammond; 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 JB Bruzulier (C), 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 2 Niall Annett, 3 Joe Rees, 4 James Percival, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Huw Taylor, 7 Mat Gilbert, 8 Richard de Carpentier.
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Shay Kerry, 20 Charlie Mulchrone, 21 Robbie Keith,22 Perry Humphreys, 23 Andrew Boyce.