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MATCH REPORT | Bristol Bears 20-41 Saracens Men

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Saracens Men took a giant leap towards the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals after a simply stunning away performance to beat Bristol Bears 41-20 at Ashton Gate.

The Men in Black, who were down to 13 men at one stage built the victory on the foundations of their defence, and added some stardust with four tries to leave with all five points.

Both sides were looking to play with tempo in the early stages, a grubber through from Owen Farrell nearly bounced in to the hands of Ben Earl who was hammering towards the line but it went forward as he tried to gather it.

A huge shot from Hugh Tizard then showed the intent from the Sarries defence, but it was breached shortly after as Bristol opened the scoring with five minutes on the clock.

A penalty was kicked to the corner, and then after going through the phases Joe Batley powered over from just a metre out. The conversion from AJ MacGinty put the hosts 7-0 ahead.

Sarries, who were struggling with their discipline early on were penalised for a third time on the 10 minute mark, and MacGinty slotted the kick from 40 metres out to extend their lead to 10-0.

The Londoners then sparked in to life and got back in to the game thanks to their attack. Farrell looked to have put Nick Tompkins through an almighty gap but Siva Naulago’s deliberate knock on saw him sent to the sin bin. Farrell pointed at the posts and cut the deficit to seven as his kick sailed through the posts.

They were inches away from getting level when another Farrell kick in behind almost fell in to the hands of Tompkins but the referee brought play back for an earlier infringement.

The ill-discipline crept back in with 20 minutes played as an overly eager defence strayed offside, and MacGinty made no mistake to reinstate Bristol’s 10 point lead.

Sarries did then take advantage of the extra man and got themselves right back in to the game. Ellis Genge knocked the ball on inside his own 22, and was punished immediately as Juan Martin Gonzalez combined brilliantly with Maro Itoje who used his power to bundle over from 10 metres out. Farrell’s conversion cut the gap to just three points.

Another penalty then followed as more front foot ball arrived, and Elliot Daly kicked it straight through to level the score with 10 minutes until the break.

Farrell’s absurdly good 50:22 then took play from his own try-line to just five metres away from the  Bristol line, and from that Sarries hit the front as their dominance in possession was rewarded.

The lineout rumbled towards the line and despite being brought down just short, Itoje then hammered over the line from just a metre out for his second try in eight minutes. Daly’s brilliant conversion then ensured the visitors had a seven point lead.

That lead became 10 with another Daly penalty just before half time, and Sarries could head down the tunnel full of confidence after an outstanding second quarter saw them turn the game on its head with a 23-13 lead.

Bristol came out firing in the second half and spent seven minutes camped on the try-line but in typical Sarries style, their incredible work rate in defence eventually forced a turnover in what felt like a crucial moment in the match.

From the turnover Daly kicked the ball 80 metres down field and earned a penalty at the breakdown which he kicked through the posts, giving the Londoners a 13 point lead to the delight of the travelling fans.

Itoje and Ben Earl were then both sent to the sin bin within a minute, and the visitors were punished immediately as Bristol scored to bring themselves back in to contention.

The penalty was kicked to the corner, and Harry Thacker found himself on the back of the maul to bring the home fans to their feet. James Williams converted, cutting the Sarries lead to six points with half an hour remaining.

An error from the restart gave Sarries some much needed territory however, and the Bears didn’t roll away at a ruck, allowing Daly to slot his fourth penalty and edge his side nine points in front.

The turning point then arrived for Sarries who were delivering a classic away performance in the West Country sunshine. A stolen lineout gave them possession deep in the 22, and then the ball was shipped out to Rotimi Segun who could dive over in the corner for try number three, and extend the advantage to 14 points.

The Londoners then secured the bonus point with a remarkable try to send the fans in to dreamland. From turnover ball Daly started a counter attack and then Lucio Conti’s incredible pace saw him go right up to the line before releasing his compatriot Gonzalez who dived over in style. Daly added another conversion as the lead grew to 41-20.

They then saw out the closing stages to ensure stye would register a famous win in the West Country.


The Interview | Zoe Harrison

It’s hard to find a player who is as confident and comfortable on the ball as Zoe Harrison. The Red Roses fly-half is a player who always seems to have an extra second whenever she gets her hands on the ball; assessing where the space is and whether the best option is to kick, run […]

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City Index City Index

Saracens Women at 35 | Emma Mitchell Interview

A founding member of Saracens Women and the starting scrum-half for England in the 1994 World Cup final victory over the USA. Emma Mitchell is and will always remain a barometer with which to measure the ability of a scrum-half against. Playing alongside her twin sister Jane for both club and country, the Mitchell’s were […]

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MATCH REACTION | Camilla Buchanan (NSL Rd 15)

Head Coach Camilla Buchanan admitted that a third quarter dip cost her side, as they suffered a narrow defeat to play-off chasing Severn Stars. Despite winning two quarters, Mavericks came unstuck after half-time, with Buchanan explaining that that was ultimately the difference between the two sides. “The third quarter was the issue. We can’t lose […]

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