Superb Saracens Show Superior Strength to see off Wasps

Saracens 57 Wasps 33 Match Report

At the conclusion of this pulsating and record breaking semi final encounter at the Allianz Arena, Saracens coach Mark McCall commented that the first 25 minutes were the best that his side had played all season. It was hard to disagree, for Saracens came out all guns blazing and simply swept Wasps off the park, from which they never really recovered.
Throughout the match Saracens were both clinical and ruthless. They had such strength and power in everything they did, which Wasps could simply not match. Not only were the Saracens forwards so dominant in the set piece, taking their own line outs with ease and regularly spoiling their opponents, as well as pushing Wasps back at almost every scrum, their backs showed both pace and slight of hand to score some excellent tries too. It is no coincidence that they have scored more points and conceded less in this regular season than any other team has done, ever, in the history of this league.

It is obviously far easier to play on the front foot, yet the Saracens backs did made the most of their forward dominance. Tries at the beginning of the first half by former Wasp Alex Lozowski, expertly created by a dummy and break from Owen Farrell, and right at the start of the second half by Chris Wyles, following a huge penalty touch finder by Farrell and then subsequent soft hands by Farrell again and Brad Barritt were absolutely critical and crushed any hope that Wasps might have had at the start of either half.

The Saracens forward power was always likely to prove a key factor and with Billy Vunipola returning to their ranks, they were awesome and Wasps could not live with them. Billy is brutal and he punched through the gain line time after time in the first half and it was a wonder how Saracens only scored two tries in the first half, unable to add to Lozowski’s second minute opener and prop Vincent Koch’s close range finish after eleven minutes.

At this stage it was very much damage limitation for Wasps but they could not prevent Saracens adding to their score, with the power of the Saracens forward pack forcing numerous penalties at the scrum and breakdown, Wasps clinging on by their finger nails. Owen Farrell needed no second invitation at the kicking tee, finishing the day with 27 points with eleven successful kicks from eleven attempts.

As expected Wasps’ only chance was likely to be if they could move the ball wide. It seemed as if they only letf their own half twice in the opening forty minutes and on both occasions they gave Saracens warning of what they were capable of. Firstly, a sweeping move that ended with a delicate grubber kick from Elliot Daly that Jimmy Gopperth expertly touched down in the corner only to be correctly ruled out by the TMO and then Danny Cipriani and Christian Wade set up Willie Le Roux for a run in to open Wasps’ account.

The game appeared effectively over as a contest once Wyles scored in the opening moments of the second half to put Saracens 30-5 ahead. Maybe they subconsciously relaxed but all of a sudden Wasps woke from their slumber and played some magical counter attacking rugby to bring their vast and noisy following to their feat and offer hope, albeit slim, of a miracle turn around.

After a try by Daly was this time cruelly ruled out by the TMO, Wasps responded almost immediately with Jake Cooper-Woolley forcing his way over from close range and, within moments, an electric break by the dazzling Wade set up Thomas Young for a run in from 45 metres out.

Eleven points in it and game on. Despite two Farrell penalties, Wasps came again and a lung bursting break from replacement Guy Thompson  led to Le Roux running into the corner for another brilliant score, which Cipriani converted to bring the score to within ten. The decibels rose, the now ecstatic Wasps supporters waving their flags and really sensing the impossible might happen, the home support noticeably quiet.

The momentum was now well and truly with the visitors,  confidence coursing through their veins as they went for broke. It is clearly very questionable as to whether Wasps would have gone onto achieve this incredible victory but they will argue, and with some justification, that a blatant obstruction on Daly as he chipped ahead which went unpunished by referee JP Doyle,  certainly did not help. Saracens collected the kick, went half the the length of the field and, after a couple more phases, Juan Figallo scored from close range to put his side 17 points clear and effectively seal victory.

In the final knockings there was just time for Maro Itoje to finish off an excellent Saracens handling move;  for Wasps’ Wade to score with his customary electric finish after a gorgeous offload from Thompson, how Eddie Jones continues to overlook Wade is quite astonishing; and for JP Doyle and his officials to ignore a blatant forward pass to allow Ben Spencer to wrap things up for Saracens.

What fun in the sun. Saracens were ultimately thoroughly deserved victors and, on this evidence, it is hard to see Exeter stopping them if they can replicate this sort of performance in next week’s showcase Twickenham final. The best two teams in the country have made the final and arguably, rightly so. Exeter are likely to have far more chance of gaining parity up front than Wasps ever did and, following their victory in last year’s final plus finishing top of the league, Exeter are far more streetwise than this emerging Wasps team and likely to provide far more of a challenge to Saracens.

For Wasps, ultimately a disappointing result but they can hold their heads up high for the way they fought back in the second half and for the dazzling attacking rugby that they played. They will now bid farewell to the mercurial Danny Cipriani, much to the sadness of all Wasps supporters for he has been quite exceptional all season and also the underrated Guy Thompson, who yet again proved what a good rugby player he is, setting up two tries. He will also be sorely missed.

For Wasps to compete with success on the highest stage, this chastening experience illustrated once again that they do need to be more competitive up front and they will hope that new recruits, including Brad Shields, will add ballast. They will also hope that young tyro Jack Willis, who was cruelly badly injured in the first half here will continue his upward progression. Furthermore, the Ashley Johnson situation needs resolving and the return of a fit Tommy Taylor cannot come too soon, alas he was yet again spotted hobbling around the Allianz on crutches following a further injury setback.

Yet the plaudits and final word must go to Saracens. With twelve of their starting XV being English including seven of their forwards, they showed what English forward play can be like. They were strong, powerful and destructive with big Billy the stand out performer by some distance. Farrell pulled the strings behind his dominant pack, putting his fellow backs into space and he did not miss a kick. It is for those reasons that Saracens will be advancing to Twickenham to surely be crowned English champions next week.

Leave a Comment