MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 20-19 Bristol Bears
Saracens Men completed yet another incredible comeback as Francois Hougaard’s 80th minute try earned them a sensational 20-19 victory over Bristol Bears.
Sarries trailed by nine points with just three minutes remaining but two late tries sent StoneX Stadium in to raptures on an incredible afternoon in North London.
Sarries looked to start with tempo and two early chances within the first five minutes certainly got the crowd off their feet.
Rotimi Segun piled the pressure on Semi Radrada who somehow wriggled free from danger in his own in-goal area, and then a quickly taken lineout from Alex Lozowski put Duncan Taylor in space on the left but he was penalised for holding on.
Alex Lewington then made a 40 metre break from inside our own 22, but just as he cut inside the Bristol defence managed to scramble back.
Bristol then had their first chance of the afternoon and went in front when AJ MacGinty’s penalty sailed through the posts with 12 minutes on the clock.
Semi Radradra was then denied the first try of the game when he picked up from a ruck and ran 30 metres, but after a check with the TMO the ball had gone forward in the build up.
The hosts then built in to the game with Manu Vunipola getting his hands on the ball in attack, but they couldn’t capitalise on a five metre lineout which saw them inching towards the line before being penalised.
Then came a potentially crucial moment before half time as Radradra and Gabriel Ibitoye combined to set Rich Lane free with the line at his mercy, but an incredible tackle from Duncan Taylor who ran back 70 metres stopped a certain try.
Bristol did get over just before the break though as the pressure eventually told. A sequence of penalties took them up to the line, and then Harry Thacker bundled over from close range to open their account.
That try with just two minutes until half time meant that the Bears headed down the tunnel with an 8-0 lead at the break.
Sarries upped the intensity at the start of the second half and some neat hands from Lewington and Andy Christie looked to get them in to the 22, but the ball went to the floor and Bristol wrestled the ball back.
They then edged further ahead as a long-range penalty from James Williams took their lead to 11-0 with half an hour left.
A huge carry from Billy Vunipola then sparked the hosts in to life, and Alex Goode made no mistake from the penalty to get Sarries on the board.
Just as they looked to have gained some momentum though another penalty from Williams reinstated their 11 point lead with the frustration growing in North London.
Sarries then came storming back though with their first try of the day as we entered the final quarter. A penalty was kicked to the corner, and the maul broke away to rampage over, with Theo Dan the beneficiary to dot down. Goode’s excellent touchline conversion made it 10-14 with 20 minutes to go.
Ibitoye then scored with just eight minutes left to give the Bears some much needed breathing space. A string of penalties gave them possession right on the Sarries line, and they shifted the ball quickly from right to left to find the winger in space, and he stepped his way past the final man to score in the corner. The conversion went wide, but Sarries now trailed by nine points with the clock ticking away.
Hugh Tizard’s brilliant burst in to the Bears 22 gave them some optimism and then Segun was tackled high to give them some much needed field position.
Segun then scored a fantastic try to give the hosts a chance with just three minutes to go. Kapeli Pifeleti’s strong carry took play deep in to the 22, and then Goode’s smart pass found the winger who acrobatically finished on the right. The conversion went wide, but now they were within one score.
A penalty which was kicked in t the Bristol half gave them some hope, and then unbelievably the ball was spun to Hougaard on his debut who dived over in the corner to send StoneX wild and complete the comeback.
The win moves Sarries eight points clear at the top of the table before a two-week break in league action.