Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Rugby union Sport

The Saracens and Alex Lewington continue to dominate, furthering Bristol’s streak of losses.

This will go down as one of those beloved of champions, the kind won when not playing well. Saracens never quite found their rhythm, but a seven-try win over anyone must be accounted a decent result. All the more so, given their captain, Owen Farrell, left 13 points out there, landing just the two kicks from the tee – two out of eight.

It is unlikely to occur frequently – Farrell has never before failed to make six shots at goal in a single match at any level – so Bristol may feel that they missed an opportunity here. The era of their star-studded line-ups appears to be over, as Charles Piutau and Semi Radradra have departed, but they still have two English props who were key in their strongest moments, particularly in regards to the set piece. Calum Sheedy did not miss a single kick, going five for five, and his conversions made the difference at halftime, when Bristol held a 21-15 lead.

Mark McCall stated that the first half was fairly average. While it is important to strive for a high level of play consistently throughout the season, it is also beneficial to be able to improve upon a subpar first half, which was the case today. The second half was much better, which is certainly a positive outcome.

The season for the visitors has followed a similar pattern to that of Saracens – beginning with two victories but then experiencing a downward trend, with five consecutive defeats. Their strongest performance occurred in the second quarter of the match, during which they scored three of their four tries and held the lead at halftime. Joe Batley made an impressive run to the try line for their first score, followed by tries from Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler, and their fellow teammates who began to dominate the game. Genge and Gabriel Oghre both powered through driven lineouts for two tries just before halftime.

The Saracens started the game with enthusiasm, scoring two tries in the first 12 minutes. However, Farrell was unable to convert either of them. Despite his struggles kicking, he showed skill and finesse when carrying the ball. He was the one who scored the first try by taking advantage of a lineout play. He also played a key role in the second try, which came from a scrum. A clever play in the middle of the field allowed Farrell and Alex Goode to set up Alex Lewington for a try in the corner with some impressive passing.

In Farrell’s defence, none of his kicks was easy, although a missed penalty in the second half from 40 yards in front did raise the eyebrows. Billy Vunipola scored Saracens’ third, peeling round the front of another attacking lineout on the half-hour, but Bristol would not go away.

Saracens were behind at halftime due to missed kicks, however they did not feel under pressure. Maro Itoje, who played exceptionally well, believed he had scored immediately after the restart, but a knock-on was spotted by the television match official. Farrell missed his fourth kick, a penalty, but was successful with a cross-kick a few minutes later that led to Lewington scoring the fourth try for the bonus point. Farrell did manage to convert this try from the touchline, with a fortunate bounce off the post, putting Saracens back in the lead.

Sheedy successfully scored a penalty to give Bristol the lead once again, but soon after, the opposing team gained control. Jamie George scored a try from a powerful lineout, which was also converted by Farrell. Despite missing a drop goal attempt, Farrell redeemed himself by setting up a try for Theo McFarland, who then passed to Tom Willis for Saracens’ sixth score.

Farrell’s ignominy (a relative concept for a man of such standards) developed another dimension, with 10 minutes to go, when his clearance kick sparked a dazzling counter by Gabriel Ibitoye. Kieron Marmion finished for Bristol’s bonus-point try, the pick of the match.

Avoid the newsletter promotion.

Although they only earned two points, Saracens successfully executed their lineout-and-drive strategy. The opposing team’s captain, Fitz Harding of Bristol, was penalized with a yellow card for collapsing one of their mauls. George, who seemed to be motivated by the recent World Cup, scored a second time for Saracens.

The Saracens are only three points behind Sale at the top of the table. The finalists from last season are leading the way once again, but the team right behind them appears just as threatening as always.

Source: theguardian.com