Saracens (13) 33
TRY: Billy Vunipola, Duncan Taylor, Maro Itoje, Schalk Brits. CON: Owen Farrell (2). PEN: Owen Farrell (3).
Ulster (7) 17
TRY: Luke Marshall, Ian Humphreys. CON: Paddy Jackson (2). PEN: Paddy Jackson.
I’d expected Ulster to find that extra something to win this one and for fifty minutes they remained competitive but the ultimate machine, that is Saracens Rugby, ground them done and pulled away in the last quarter for the inevitable bonus point win.
An early try from Luke Marshall kept Ulster in the game but by the time Ian Humphreys raced clear, with an intercept effort, the outcome had already been decided.
Ulster looked reasonably comfortable for the bulk of the first half but a series of misfiring line outs let Saracens off the hook and the hosts took full advantage with a driving maul that ended with Billy Vunipola touching down over the Ulster line. With Owen Farrell converting the home side took a 13 – 7 point lead into the break and once they had established the lead they never looked back.
Paddy Jackson knocked over an early second half penalty to push the score along to 13 – 10 but Farrell replied four minutes later and when he found Duncan Taylor in acres of space moments later the game was over with the conversion giving them a ten point lead.
Maro Itoje and Schalk Brits crossed to wrap up the bonus point win for Saracens before Humphreys raced clear, but by that stage most of my interest in the game had gone.
Final Score: Saracens 33 Ulster 17.
Ulster: Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Kyle McCall, Rory Best, Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O’Connor, Franco vd Merwe, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Roger Wilson. Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Ricky Lutton, Lewis Stevenson, Clive Ross, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Rory Scholes.
Saracens are a relentless machine, probably the on form team in Europe at the minute, but despite the score line Ulster aren’t that far behind. Add Dan Tuohy, Ian Henderson, Chris Henry and Nick Williams to the Ulster pack and we would have seen a different game but them’s the breaks.
A couple of miss firing throws from Rory at the line out didn’t help Ulster’s cause and that was probably the biggest disappointment as this failure to function smoothly at key times is a glitch we’ve carried for a few seasons now with no sign that it’s been fully addressed.
As for the Allianz Park experience, well, what a dump! No facilities, no infrastructure, no atmosphere. I won’t be rushing back!