MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 39 - 31 Bristol Bears
Saracens Men moved up to second in the Gallagher Premiership after an eventful 39-31 win over Bristol Bears at a sold out StoneX Stadium.
In what was a rollercoaster of a match with the lead changing hands multiple times, the Men in Black scored seven tries to eventually register a bonus-point win, and their fifth consecutive one in the league.
Bristol threatened in the early exchanges, and a charged-down box kick almost popped up perfectly for Gabriel Oghre but the Sarries defence were on red alert and managed to scramble back.
The hosts then started to grow in to the game, and Tom Parton almost scored a brilliant turnover try as he was released down the left but despite some gorgeous interplay the Bears were able to haul him down.
The home fans didn’t have to wait much longer though as a powerful score from the skipper broke the deadlock. A penalty was kicked to the corner, and then once the maul had been brought down the ball was spun straight to Owen Farrell who used his power to run over the final defender and score. The conversion came back off the post, but Sarries had an early 5-0 advantage.
It got better just five minutes later as Sarries continued their thunderous start with a second score off some more quick thinking. A free kick from a scrum was taken quickly by Billy Vunipola, who released Elliot Daly in the midfield. The ball was then shifted from left to right and Alex Goode drew in the final defender to release Alex Lewington for a simple stroll over the line.
The Bears were then looking for a route back in to the match and got exactly that on the 20 minute mark as Joe Batley found himself in acres of space and stretched over to score under the posts. Callum Sheedy added the extras, and now despite dominating the early proceedings, Saracens’ lead was down to just three points.
Any nerves that were lingering in the crowd were put to bed though with 26 minutes gone as Billy Vunipola strolled through for try number three. A penalty was kicked to the corner, and then a lovely dummy at the base of the maul followed the defence and allowed the number eight to break away on the right to score. Once again the tricky conversion sailed narrowly wide, but a 15-7 advantage had the crowd sitting more comfortably.
Bristol struck back before the break though courtesy of their trusty rolling maul which came up trumps for them in the 35th minute. A succession of penalties took them right up to the line and then all of the backs joined the maul and Ellis Genge was at the base to dot down. Sheedy’s conversion made it a one point game as we headed towards half time.
They then made the visiting fans even happier as they edged in front with the final play of the half. Yet again their maul powered to within striking distance, and then Oghre could break away to put the Bears ahead. Sheedy’s extras meant Sarries trailed 21-15 at the break.
Sarries had the bit between their teeth in the early stages of the second half and Maro Itoje thought he had scored just 20 seconds after the restart, but the ball was deemed to have gone forward from Andy Christie after a check with the TMO.
They made sure the next time though, as a beautifully crafted attack saw Lewington go over for his second of the day. The attack went from right to left and then Farrell changed the point of attack with a delightful cross-field kick which landed perfectly in to the hands of Lewington who had a clear run to the line. Farrell was on the money from the conversion, giving Sarries a one point lead.
Sheedy responded with a penalty as Christie was penalised for not releasing, and he successfully steered the ball through the posts to put the visitors ahead once again.
Sarries hit back immediately though as they cranked up the pressure with an incredible kick chase from Elliot Daly which forced a penalty right on the line. That penalty was kicked to the corner, and then Jamie George was there to rumble over and send the home fans wild. Farrell’s brilliant touchline conversion edged the hosts 29-24 ahead.
Lewington was then inches away from completing his hat-trick on the hour mark as an excellent kick down the line almost fell in to his hands, but Harry Randall got there to hammer the ball clear.
Another chance followed as Sarries looked to give themselves some breathing space, but despite hammering away at the line they were eventually held up and Bristol stayed within touching distance.
That breathing space arrived with 10 minutes to go, a huge stroke of fortune ended with a try for Tom Willis who continued his brilliant start to life at StoneX. Farrell attempted a drop goal and it was charged down, but fell kindly for the returning Theo McFarland who charged towards the line. Willis then picked up from the base of the ruck and powered over from close range. The conversion went wide but now the hosts had a 10 point advantage.
Just as Sarries looked to be home and dry, an incredible try for the Bears brought them right back in to proceedings. Gabriel Ibitoye gathered inside his own half and beat four defenders before passing inside to Kieran Marmion who had a clear run under the posts. Sheedy’s extras cut the lead to just three points with eight minutes left.
The result was put beyond doubt however with two minutes to go as George powered over for his second after a period of sustained pressure to eventually grind down their opponents.
That marked the end of a frantic match as Sarries made it five on the bounce in style!
Sarries are back at home next Saturday against Northampton Saints, click HERE to book your tickets!