Saracens overpower Gloucester despite dismissal of Schalk Brits
Saracens survived the dismissal of Schalk Brits to bounce back from their rout by Wasps with an ugly 25-12 victory over Gloucester at Allianz Park.
Brits was sent off after half an hour for punching Nick Wood, an act that ended the visiting loosehead prop's afternoon as he never returned from the blood bin.
Saracens, who were crushed 64-23 at home by Wasps last Sunday, proved masterful at squeezing the life out of Gloucester as Charlie Hodgson's pinpoint kicking kept the scoreboard ticking over.
Full-back Ben Ransom ran in the only try of the game in the third minute, but the early flourish was a poor signpost of the dour arm-wrestle that followed.
Taking exception to Wood's clearout at the breakdown and while lying on his back, Brits landed a left hook before missing with a second shot from his right hand.
There had been provocation from Wood but with the incident clear to see on the big screen, referee Craig Maxwell-Keys was left with little option but to reach for the red card.
Brits' departure failed to knock Saracens off their stride, however, and despite playing with 14 men for 60 minutes after captain Brad Barritt had been sent to the sin-bin they were still able to cruise over the finishing line.
An otherwise uneventful first half was overshadowed by the red card shown to Brits, whose blows ended Wood's afternoon. Two seasons ago in the same fixture, Wood was sent off for stamping.
With Barritt having received a yellow card for a tip-tackle on Ross Moriaty, Brits' offence meant Saracens were forced to play 20 minutes of the first half with only 14 men.
That disadvantage did not present them from compiling a 13-6 interval lead, however, with Ransom's try seeing the reigning champions draw first blood.
Ransom chipped ahead as Saracens attacked from the 22 and the full-back gathered his own kick before touching down with Hodgson converting.
Two further penalties from Hodgson kept them in front, but with prop Rhys Gill limping off gingerly and Richard Wigglesworth departing the field while clutching his hand, their playing resources were depleting rapidly.
Gloucester were being pinned back in their own half and could only produce two penalties from James Hook, who also saw one promising break end when man of the match Will Fraser knocked the ball from his hands in the tackle.
Replacement prop Dan Murphy showed surprising pace as he surged into a gap, only for the supporting Hook to drop his pass as the try-line loomed.
Hook began the second half with a penalty but Saracens were soon back on to the front foot and after a spell of sustained pressure from a series of five-metre scrums, Hodgson was able to kick a penalty.
It set the tone for the remaining half hour as Hodgson found the target time and again in a forgettable afternoon for Gloucester.