Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Saracens march on

Charlie Hodgson scored 11 points in Saracens' 26-8 win at Worcester.
Charlie Hodgson scored 11 points in Saracens' 26-8 win at Worcester.

Saracens wrapped up an easy 26-8 Aviva Premiership victory to remain in charge at the top of the table and leave opponents Worcester staring ominously at the relegation trap door.

The Londoners were favourites to win by a bigger margin but their four tries, which came via wing David Strettle, hooker Schalk Brits, full-back Alex Goode and fly-half Charlie Hodgson were good enough.

The stand-off converted three of the touchdowns,

Worcester tried to add to a sole penalty from outside-half Ignacio Mieres and try by number eight Leonardo Senatore during a scoreless second period, but it was all in vain.

Saracens had not won in the league at Sixways Stadium since a 21-16 victory in October 2007, but that run of defeats was looking odds-on to end by half-time as the Londoners stretched out to a four-try bonus point lead within half-an-hour.

Worcester were, actually, on the scoreboard first when Mieres landed a sixth-minute penalty, but some poor kicking options by the stand-off and his half-back partner, scrum-half Jeremy Su'a, resulted in two of Saracens' four first-half tries.

Mieres' clearance kick from inside his own 22 only found Saracens hands on the halfway and, as the league leaders threatened down the left, an overlap appeared for American centre Chris Wyles to feed current England Saxons ace Strettle to score in the corner.

South African Brits, who put in a tireless performance all afternoon, profited for Sarries' second touchdown after a clearance from Su'a went vertical and, when it came to earth, full-back Goode sidestepped past the home midfield to put his hooker in from 10 metres.

Goode got his own try when Worcester-born centre Tim Streather fed the full-back on the left and watched as his colleague brushed off weak defence to score, Hodgson landing his second conversion.

And the ex-England fly-half secured his side's bonus point on the half-hour with a beautiful kick off the side of his foot that outsmarted the home midfield and gave Hodgson an easy run-in under the posts for his converted touchdown.

It was all going well for Saracens, but then they suffered a couple of hiccups. First England prop Mako Vunipola found himself in the sin-bin when he needlessly lashed out at home centre Alex Grove with his right arm as both lay on the bottom of a ruck.

And, just before the break, Worcester put Saracens under the cosh for their best move of the match. The pack drove to the line and, when the ball became free, Senatore, standing on the side of the play, picked it up and dipped over from a metre to score.

That period gave Worcester some heart and they worked hard to create more pressure in the opposition 22, forcing Saracens to defend in the left corner and gaining an attacking scrum.

But that came to nought as England number eight Billy Vunipola and home flanker Richard De Carpenter were fortunate not to both go in the bin after an off-the-ball spat near the Saracens posts.

The visitors looked to switch down a few gears and were content to simply keep the home side out.

Worcester tried to fire up the middle, down the flanks and in the set-pieces, but they either found the red and black wall impenetrable or gave away penalties that allowed Sarries to clear.

The only time that Saracens really threatened to score again was at the end when replacement scrum-half Ben Spencer found a gap in the defence near the posts and, in the process of being tackled, flipped the ball to Jamie George but the substitute hooker knocked the ball on with the line at his mercy.

Still, the six-year bogey at Worcester was broken and Saracens marched on with their 10th league win out of 11 matches this season.

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