Aviva Premiership Double Header 28-11-2015

(I’ve essentially run out of things to write about, but I did treat myself to a day out at Twickenham so here’s a few things I noticed) (and a few wide angled, long range photo’s too).

The 2 most noteworthy thing that I took away from Twickenham on Saturday was that Saracens look like a team who could not be more confident and whilst Maro Itoje has a 30 year old head on an exceptionally large pair of 21 year old shoulders he was not their only man of the match contender. Chris Ashton looks to have returned to his confident, try scoring best and his Rugby League fullback instincts saw him pooping all over the place and running off Brad Barritt in and around Worcester’s forward’s particularly well. Schalk Brits is playing with a smile on his face (doesn’t he always?) and his flashing feet ripped the Warrior’s defence to shreds to create Ashton’s second try. It’s hard to believe that Jackson Wray is 25 years old, which makes him a senior figure in the current Sarries setup and baring in mind he was a late replacement in the starting XV for Will Fraser he was almost omnipresent at the breakdown area. He could have scored 1 try and finished off a rolling maul in the 2nd half and while playing behind the dominant Saracens front 5 undoubtedly helped it was the kind of performance which made you wonder why so many commentators call for Steffon Armitage to be included in England’s Rugby World Cup squad when there such unmined in the Aviva premiership. 23 year old Ben Ransom showed why Chris Wyles was shifted out to the wing in Alex Goode’s absence with his twinkling toes as he stepped inside about 4 Worcester Warriors with 1 step off his left foot and crossed to make the score 46-6 in the 62nd minute. The absolute source of everything that Saracens did well on Saturday though came from another 23 year old, scrum half Ben Spencer. His pace of thought and fleet of foot saw the Worcester defence split inside 5 minutes and a perfectly weighted chip to Chris Ashton’s wing saw the rugby league convert open the scoring in the corner after 4 minutes of play, Spencer then scored Saracens’ 2nd try after 21 minutes (although to most people with 2 functioning eyes <not any of the official’s in charge of the game then> Chris Wyles’ pass did look quite a long way forward) but that effectively finished the game as a contest and Worcester never got back within 10 points of the home team. Neil De Kock may be 37 years old but he’s the ultimate professional, he warmed up for about 30 minutes to play for about 26 minutes! I know old bodies take more warming up but he could have just sat on the bench and hoped he wasn’t needed, Spencer was on fire after all.
Saracens are the only top flight team in Europe not to lose a game so far this season and with league games against Wasps and Newcastle combined with 2 fixtures against the Top 14’s bottom club Oyonnax it’s difficult to imagine they’ll slip up before 2016.
Worcester on the other hand look like a team with all the component parts you’d want to build a top class rugby team but without anyone who can put them together properly as Dean Ryan yet again looks like an excellent forwards coach masquerading as a Director of Rugby. Sam Betty may well be one of the most underrated flanker’s in the Premiership and despite largely playing on the back foot he was a bundle of energy and competed with the Saracens rampant back row for just any scrap of ball going. Wynand Olivier has got 38 Springbok caps and threatened the Saracens line and gave Marcello Bosch something to think all afternoon. The Warriors back 3 have just everything you could wish for, Cooper Vuna looks like he could easily play in the back row the bloke is solid (I’ve seen him listed at 5 feet 10 inches tall but he looks bigger in the pitch), he’s 104 kgs so he takes some stopping. Chris Pennell is Worcester rugby and whilst he may not be the fastest number 15 in the Premiership he seems to know where the ball is going to land before the person who’s kicked it does. Bryce Heem is probably going to be the signing of the season, the 6 feet 3 inch winger and New Zealand Sevens star made a near 80 metre run after 68 minutes that involved flattening any Saracen who came into view and resulted in a try by Welsh tight head Joe Rees, who it should be said flattened more than his fair share of defenders and dragged 3 across the line with him (let’s hope Warren Gatland’s got a BT Sport subscription)!


The problem that Worcester will probably have is that just as they did during their last foray into the Premiership they’re sorely lacking a 10 who can link a pack with 107 International caps (most of them Donnha O’Callaghan’s granted) and 2 U20 International players with such a dangerous backline. The solution maybe to switch Ryan Mills (who Nigel Davies rated higher than Billy Twlevetrees in his Gloucester days) to 10 and bring Alex Grove in at 12, Tom Heathcote really only just served to prove that Bath were right to allow him to join Edinburgh in Saturday and while he was a reasonably serviceable Fly Half in the Pro 12 the Aviva Premiership has team’s like Sarries who can expose frailties over and over again with consummate ease.
If you’re really unfortunate I’ll have a crack at explaining the Wasps v London Irish in the next few days, but the Tweet version of my feelings on the game were “Thank god they’re selling Guinness here”