MATCH REACTION | Alex Austerberry (PWR Rd 8)
Director of Rugby Alex Austerberry was delighted with the fight shown by his side, as they secured a seventh straight bonus-point victory, this time over Exeter Chiefs.
In a see-saw game that had a bit of everything, Saracens eventually managed to pull clear, with Austerberry delighted with how his side found a way to win.
“It was everything we expected. It was tight, it was physical, and it was a real fight to the death. Thankfully we got ourselves a buffer with ten minutes to go, but they stayed in it until the final minutes too. Ultimately, I’m really proud of that result and of certain elements of that performance. The good thing is that there is still some growth and learning to do.”
Exeter continually pushed Saracens all afternoon and hit the front shortly after the break. Austerberry though, was pleased that his side managed to find a way back into the match when they needed it most.
“You make mistakes against good sides, and you get punished. But fair play to the girls for bouncing back. That could have been a moment that triggered a bit of panic, but we built ourselves back into it and got some key scores at key times. I’m really pleased with the result today against a very good side.”
Reflecting on where his side would look to make improvements in the next week, the DoR pointed to work around the tackle area as a big point for his team.
“At times, I thought we were very good at winning collisions but then at times I thought that we were also a bit passive, especially with the assisting tackler. We need to do some more work there and look at what sort of tackle we’re looking to put in, as that then impacts the breakdown. In attack, we just need to value the ball a little bit more. We saw some great scores but the decision making wasn’t always there. If we can be a bit more precise there, we’ll be reaping the rewards.”
Poppy Cleall was named as Player of the Match, as she put in a superb individual performance, with Austerberry praising the number 8 for how she impacted the game.
“Poppy has a lot of layers to her game every season! What we’ve seen in this run of games is that she’s back fit and healthy. She steps up in key moments and having worked with her for a long time, she’s just an outstanding character and outstanding player. In big matches like this, she steps up and influences them. Fair play to her and I’m delighted that she’s in such a rich vein of form.”
Another standout player was fullback Jess Breach, whose breakaway try gave Saracens some breathing space at a crucial moment. Having moved to fullback last season in club colours, Austerberry has been impressed with the developments Breach has made within her game.
“Jess played a lot at wing, but she’s evolved in the last few seasons. She’s stepped in at first receiver but also started to really command the air and be a real presence back there. The defensive side of things has been brilliant as well. I joked with her in the week that she might end up in the back-row with how she’s tackling people at the moment! She’s a quality player but she’s driving her own standards each week and still looking to improve.”
Next week, Saracens face a trip to fellow unbeaten side Gloucester-Hartpury and Austerberry admits that his side will have a real reflection of where they are at in the league after that match.
“We want the tests to keep coming. You learn the most about yourselves in those big matches. We’ve had a really tough block of matches, so after next week, we’ll have a really clear indication of where we are as a side. Gloucester-Hartpury are a very good team and we can’t forget that they are the champions. We’ll look forward to going to their place and seeing if we can get a result.”