Stopping the Saracens juggernaut, James Kimber’s Top 5 reasons why Saracens are the real deal.
With another European Champions Cup in the bag for Saracens, following their win over Clermont Auvergne on Saturday and the Aviva Premiership semi-finals on the horizon – can anyone stop the all-conquering Saracens? Last Word on Rugby explores the top 5 reasons why in 2016/17 they are the real deal.
1) Development of an All-court Game
In previous seasons, Saracens have been accused of being ‘all grit and no flair’ and a side that kicked goals rather than scored tries. However their performance last Saturday showed that this is no longer the case, and can win in any way.
The power of the pack showed when Kruis crashed over, the guile of Alex Goode following his inch-perfect grubber for Ashton’s try were sublime examples. However most impressively, the ball-playing ability of their pack shone through following Mako Vunipola’s exquisite pass behind dummy-runners, to open up the space for Goode to dive over to win the Champions Cup.
2) Perfect Blend of Youth and Experience
The core of this Saracens team also makes up the heart of the currently successful England side. They are beefed up with a smattering of experienced International players, such as Schalk Burger, Schalk Brits and Jim Hamilton. By combining the exuberance of young players and the experience of the old guard, not only does this team look comfortable on the pitch now, but will surely have a bright future.
There’s no doubt that players such as Jamie George have learned significant amounts from senior players in their position within the squad; such as Brits. In fact, Owen Farrell’s development into one of Europe’s finest play-makers and recently voted ‘2017 European Player of the Year’ owes much to Charlie Hodgson (his predecessor) who was widely regarded as one of the finest passers in the game.
3) Comfortable at home and away
Following previous losses in cup finals over the last 5 years, this team has clearly developed a thick skin. Winning abroad in Ireland against Munster in the Champions Cup semi-final–despite being dominated in the first 20 minutes–was an impressive feat. In fact, Saracens seem to be one of the few teams in Europe whose game plan isn’t impacted regardless of if they play home or away.
Indeed, as LWOR reported, they were not concerned with securing a home semi-final.
By playing a weakened starting team against Wasps last week to save players for the Champions Cup final, yes they surrendered a chance of a home semi-final in the Premiership. Regardless, even as an admirer of Wasps’ attack, Leicester’s recovery and Exeter’s strength in depth, many expect to see Saracens again lifting the Aviva Premiership trophy, at Twickenham on the May 27.
4) Ruthless Streak
Winning games and championships is infectious, and Saracens have certainly mastered this over the last two seasons. Whilst they have not topped the try-scoring or bonus points table in the previous two seasons, in having a certain metronomic goal-kicker by the name of Owen Farrell has without doubt, helped their cause in 2016/17.
Whilst they certainly can play entertaining rugby, they know how to grind out wins too. And this ruthless streak has made them into a winning machine.
“Saracens grind out victory over Toulon” – The Times
Sarries have not turned into a brilliant side overnight, far from it. This has been a team that has been a decade in the making, with it’s core now making up a sizable chunk of the England side. This is a group that has grown an insatiable appetite for winning.
To put this in context, in September 2016 Maro Itoje lost the first game he had started in a staggering 31 matches for club and country, spanning an entire season. An incredible statistic, along with the rest of the above five points, truly shows how impressive Saracens have been in the last couple of years.
As they head into their crunch match against the Exeter Chiefs, the result will reinforce an attempt at the elusive ‘double-double’.
In fact, it’s arguable that they are the best club team on the planet at the moment and would most likely give any international side a good game.
“Main Photo Credit”