Tag Archives: Saracens

Tigers see off weakened Sarries to take home bonus-point win

Leicester edge closer to a top-four finish with a victory Saracens, who missed the chance to return to the top of the Premiership.

The Tigers claimed a 28-20 bonus-point win at Allianz Park – their first-ever league win at the North London venue.

They got off to a strong start and were clinical in the first half as Manu Tuilagi, Greg Bateman and Telusa Veainu all touched down early on.

However, Sarries dug in and clung on, with Ben Spencer kicking two penalties as the visitors led 21-6 at half-time.

After the break, the visitors secured a bonus point as Jonah Holmes scored their fourth try after being set up by Tuilagi.

Good footwork

Sarries then failed to take advantage of some good passages of play, and winger Nathan Earle was twice adjudged by the television match official not to have touched the ball down for potentially game-changing tries.

Max Malins scored twice in the final 12 minutes, showing good footwork, but it was too late for Sarries to mount a comeback after the errors made earlier in the game.

Saracens started the weekend on top of the league table before Leicester ended their five-match winning streak.

With many of their first XV away on international duty, Sarries’ youngsters failed to control Leicester’s half-back Sam Harrison pairing with Matt Toomua who controlled the game comfortably.

Tigers had had not beaten Saracens in the Premiership since March 2016.

Their win leaves them seventh in the table, four points off fourth-placed Newcastle, while Saracens trail leaders Exeter Chiefs by four.

Battle

Saracens director Mark McCall said: “We were very poor and never really recovered from the first half when we were on the back foot for the whole half.

“We lost that physical battle and weren’t on it as we normally are. Some of the youngsters gave the team some much-needed energy in the last 20 minutes. It is a shame we couldn’t have snuck in at the end, as it would have been nice to get a losing bonus point.”

Leicester director of rugby Matt O’Connor said: “To come down here and win for the first time was a huge effort, but they had a couple of blokes injured in the first half and loads out so we need to keep it in perspective.

“We won a lot of collisions in the close channels and go in behind them, and when we did, we were clinical enough to execute. We worked incredibly hard and didn’t feel feed them opportunities to get into the game. The five points are important.”

Confusion reigns over rugby union’s high tackle laws

Concussions have increasingly become an issue for concern in elite rugby union. In recent years, the number of these potentially serious head injuries have soared by 59% in the Premiership.

Players are bigger, fitter, faster and stronger, the hits are harder, so it’s no surprise that a re-think of the rules around tackling has happened.

“It’s a brilliant directive, but its not being refereed properly” – Jonathan Davies

Several high-profile incidents have fuelled calls for more to done to protect the health and safety of those on the pitch.

Northampton Saints were heavily criticised after letting their Wales and Lions international winger George North play on after seemingly lost consciousness (see image at top) following a collision with Leicester’s Adam Thompstone.

North was cleared to return to the game, but BT Sport pundit Ugo Monye said at the time: “I don’t think George North should [still] be on the pitch; it’s a simple as that.”

Long-term effects

The England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project, published in collaboration with Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association, showed that although the rate of injuries remained stable during the 2013-14 season, their severity continues to rise in the professional game.

The Rugby Football Union has recruited former England internationals to pioneer a study into the long-term effects of playing rugby.

World Rugby have also issued a revision to its laws which came into effect on the January 3rd.

It has increased the severity of the punishment for reckless tackles, with a minimum sanction of yellow card and a red where deemed appropriate.

It has also encouraged an increase in any accompanying bans, but the changes have confused coaches, players and spectators alike.

Fallen foul

Ex-Wales star Jonathan Davies, now a BBC pundit, said: “Inexperienced referees have gone berserk in imposing yellow cards.

“It’s a brilliant directive, but its not being refereed properly. They’ve gone to the letter of the law, and it’s gone crazy.”

“Wayne Barnes admitted mistakes would be made but insisted that his fellow refs would learn from them”

Davies argued that referees need to use common sense about what can be considered a ‘high shot’ and is a ‘cheap’ one.

A player who has fallen foul of this recently is England international Brad Barritt.

The Saracens centre was banned for three weeks after a high tackle on international team-mate Geoff Parling during the match against Exeter.

Originally, Sarries prop Richard Barrington received a red card for his part in the tackle.

However, an RFU disciplinary panel found that ref Ian Tempest had punished the wrong individual. You can see the tackle in question here and make up your own mind.

‘No massive change’

Leading international referee Wayne Barnes told BBC 5 Live recently that the laws themselves have not changed, only how officials are being told to interpret them.

Barnes insisted: “[There’s been] no massive chance, we’ve carried on doing what we’ve done for a while now.”

He admitted mistakes would be made but insisted that his fellow refs would learn from them.

But what do people involved in grass-roots rugby union think of the situation?

I visited my local team, Esher RFC, to watch them play against Fylde, and talked to spectators about the high-tackle controversy.

Overall, there was general support for the ‘new’ laws and a recognition that something needed to be done.

‘Protection needed’

James Sharman, a former Surrey county youth player, said a more rigorous approach to high tackling is the best way forward.

“It’s good to see that these laws are being put forward to help protect us”

“Having looked at the [injury] statistics, it was evident that it was only going to end up this way,” he said.

“These players are putting their bodies on the line week in, week out. They need modernised ways to protect them.”

Joel Keefe, who plays at amateur level, said the changes have been made at the right time.

“Being someone that plays rugby, it’s good to see that these laws are being put forward to help protect us,” he said.

“Now all that needs to happen is to make sure that the referees judge their decisions diligently and correctly. The worst thing that could happen is if the rules were made a mockery.”

Committed

Clearly, this fresh interpretation of rules around high tackles is going to take some time to bed in.

With the 2017 Six Nations just around the corner, and the British & Irish Lions touring New Zealand in the summer, all eyes will now turn to the international game to see how the laws are enforced at the very highest level.

There’s bound to more controversy along the way.

But ultimately, it is good to see rugby union’s governing bodies demonstrating that they are committed to protecting the players who week in, week out put their bodies on the line for club and country.