MATCH REPORT: Saracens Men 20-29 Gloucester Rugby (PRC - Rd 2)
Saracens Men suffered defeat on their return to StoneX Stadium as they were stung by a second-half comeback which saw Gloucester leave North London with a 29-20 victory.
The Men in Black started strongly and had an early lead thanks to tries from Tom Willis and Nick Isiekwe, but the Cherry and Whites scored four times in the second half to inflict a second Premiership Cup defeat on Sarries.
It was an action packed start at StoneX, and Callum Hunter-Hill almost opened the scoring with only 30 seconds on the clock. He charged down from the base of a ruck and galloped towards the line, but a cruel bounce meant Gloucester survived.
They didn’t survive the next attack though, as a sniping run from Aled Davies took play up to the line and then Tom Willis hammered over the line just four minutes in to his first start for the club. Manu Vunipola added the extras to give the hosts an early 7-0 lead.
Gloucester then started to get some dominance in the set piece and that turned in to points on the 20 minute mark when they opened their account for the day. A lineout deep in the 22 gave them an overlap on the left wing, and a lovely floated pass from George Barton found Jake Morris in acres who could stroll over the whitewash. The conversion floated wide, meaning Sarries held a narrow two point advantage.
An uneventful spell followed with plenty of scrums slowing down the game, however it sparked back in to life with 30 minutes gone when Nick Isiekwe burst through to extend the lead.
The ball was going through the hands in the middle of the park and then Sam Crean’s inside pass found the second-rower who picked a great line and had enough pace to run clear from just outside the 22. Vunipola’s conversion made it 14-5 as we approached the break.
It almost got better for Sarries just two minutes later as Olly Hartley acrobatically finished in the corner after gathering Alex Lozowski’s grubber, but he was deemed to be in touch and the visitors got the lineout.
That proved to be the last notable moment of the opening 40, as Sarries headed down the tunnel with a deserved nine point advantage.
Gloucester came flying out of the blocks after the restart and scored just seconds in to the second half as Louis Hillman-Cooper took matters in to his own hands with a brilliant solo try.
He got the ball on half way and stepped past three defenders before turning on the afterburners to score in the corner. The conversion went wide, but now the lead was down to just four points.
Sarries hit back with a penalty from 35 metres which sailed through the posts from Vunipola’s boot, giving them some more breathing space in the StoneX sunshine.
The visitors, who had the bit between their teeth then got level as Jack Clement bulldozed over the line from the back of a maul, and Barton’s conversion made it 17-17 with 30 minutes remaining.
Alex Lewington’s stunning chip and chase then almost set up Willis for his second of the afternoon, before Vunipola’s cross-field kick couldn’t be taken by Ben Harris who fumbled on the line, but now it was the hosts who were looking the more likely.
Their dominance earned them another penalty, and Vunipola calmly slotted it to edge his side 20-17 in front.
Some huge maul defence then kept Sarries ahead as they held Gloucester up within touching distance of the line, and then got the penalty from the scrum.
The pressure eventually told as Gloucester edged in front with their fourth try of the game. Yet another rolling maul powered towards the line and this time the defence couldn’t stop it as Seb Blake dotted down from the base. An impressive touchline conversion meant Sarries trailed by four points with 15 minutes to go.
With the clock winding down Sarries had one last chance to steal the victory, but as Samson Adejimi gathered a chip ahead he offloaded to Alex Goode who was penalised for holding on and that proved to be the final opportunity.
Gloucester then put extra gloss on the win in the final play as Barton raced clear to dive over the line, meaning it was the West Country side who were celebrating at the final whistle.