This match between two mid-table teams was always expected to be a notable one, as it featured the previous two champions of England playing at the largest stadium in the Premiership. However, the day before the match, news emerged that the former England captain, Owen Farrell, might be considering a move to France. This news eliminated any possibility of the match being obscure.
The afternoon saw Leicester and Saracens maintain their positions in seventh and sixth place, respectively. However, Leicester’s victory narrows the gap between the two teams to just two points, highlighting the incredibly close competition in the Premiership. Despite currently being in seventh place, Leicester is only 10 points behind the leaders and three points behind the top four teams.
Ultimately, they confidently defeated the Saracens, although not with complete accuracy. The opposing team was short a few players, including three looseheads and England’s hooker Jamie George. As expected, the scrum was where Leicester gained the upper hand. If their ball handling had matched their strong set piece, they would have likely earned a bonus point as well.
However, the main focus was on Farrell. Instead of just leaving the English team, it appears that he may also leave England altogether, if the speculations about him joining Racing 92 turn out to be true.
During his pre-game interview, Mark McCall did not reveal much when asked about the team’s latest developments. However, only 10 minutes into the match, Farrell was much more forthcoming. His pass from the scrum was intercepted by Dan Kelly, who then made a difficult run to the corner and completed it with finesse.
Farrell will no doubt have felt as if there were nothing he could do to avoid the spotlight, but he is used to that and played a slick part in Saracens’ response at the end of the first quarter. This time straight from a lineout on halfway, he brought Lucio Cinti in from the blindside wing. The Argentinian’s half-break sprung Elliot Daly away on a full one. His dummy and pass were exquisitely timed to send Tom Parton to the line for a beautifully worked try.
Farrell’s successful conversion put his team in the lead, and a few minutes later, his penalty widened the gap. Many spectators were hoping he would be named man of the match and get the chance to be interviewed on TV with the celebratory champagne. Perhaps it was this uncomfortable exchange that he was trying to avoid when he contributed to Leicester’s second try.
The Tigers gained a strategic advantage thanks to a well-placed kick outside the designated area. Saracens committed a penalty in front of the goalposts. Instead of kicking for points, the Tigers opted for a scrum and after a few forceful pushes, Matt Rogerson was able to score a try. Handrè Pollard’s successful conversion put the home team back in the lead. The score of 12-10 at halftime accurately reflected the intense and close match.
In the beginning of the second half, both teams made attempts to score on their opponent’s 22. However, it was the strong performance in the scrum that began to weaken the visiting team. As a result, there was an increasing number of penalties being awarded.
A yellow card was issued after Farrell made a strong tackle on George Martin, causing him some discomfort. However, it was another potential candidate for England captaincy, Maro Itoje, who was sent to the penalty box. When Jasper Wiese took an attacking penalty, Itoje had no choice but to tackle him. However, the referee ruled that he had not retreated or that Wiese had not run five meters before the tackle.
The Saracens team faced a difficult situation. During their next offensive, they caused Wiese to make a mistake and drop the ball, while Leicester appeared to be avoiding scoring. However, Leicester was able to find a way to score when they pushed the Saracens team back during the next scrum. They were awarded a penalty and Pollard’s pass allowed Harry Simmons to score in the corner.
It was sufficient to secure victory in the game. However, speculations about Farrell are expected to continue circulating amongst mid-table teams for some time.