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Chair of the Saracens Supporters Association believes Men in Black fans are 'overjoyed' with Allianz Park
After hosting their first ever Premiership match at Allianz Park, Saracens fans are "overjoyed" to finally have somewhere they can call home - according to the chair of the club's Supporters Association.
The Men in Black got off to the perfect start at their new Barnet base, beating Exeter Chiefs 31-11 and securing a bonus-point in the process thanks to tries from Charlie Hodgson, Matt Stevens and two from Mako Vunipola.
Saracens have played home matches at several venues this season and have shared Vicarage Road with Watford Football Club since 1997.
Chair of the Sarries Supporters Association John Trigg admits that process has been "unsettling" for fans who he says were delighted their nomadic existence came to an end on Saturday.
"It was a great day - it's great for the supporters and season ticket holders to finally have somewhere we can call home," Trigg said.
"Any true rugby fan is overjoyed at getting somewhere like Allianz Park that supports rugby, that supports the culture around rugby and where you can mix with the opposition guys, have a drink before the game and after the game.
"Of course there is still work to do but it's like moving into a new house - you're overjoyed to get what you want but it's going to take time to get all the fittings sorted out."
Sarries supporters often have to tolerate jibes from opposition fans about a lack of identity and Trigg hopes some of those arguments will have less clout now.
"There's always a lot of banter about Saracens not being a proper rugby club like Harlequins, Northampton and all the rest of it and I think part of that is sharing a ground with another sport.
"The home isn't geared for the game so part of that argument will hopefully go away now."
One of the most impressive aspects of Allianz Park is the plastic pitch which is the first of its kind ever to be used in professional rugby union.
The surface's durability means supporters are allowed to walk around, socialise and play rugby on the turf before and after the match.
"Putting your foot on the pitch I think used to be an arrestable offence at Vicarage Road," Trigg said.
"At the end of the game I was leaving the stadium and the easiest way to get out was literally to walk across the pitch - it's sort of bizarre - but I bumped into a couple of people, had a conversation with them, there were a few kids kicking rugby balls around, it just felt like a great, family atmosphere."
Whether or not the rubber crumb turf will inspire Saracens to play a more attractive brand of rugby remains to be seen but early signs suggest that, at the very least, rugby at Allianz Park will be a smoother visual experience.
There were no reset scrums during the game, no injuries as a result of the pitch and the pace of the action was noticeably quicker.
Off the pitch as well Saracens were as daring as ever. Saracens Pie with buffalo beef seemed to go down well while the Saracens ale was so well-received the main bar actually ran out.
Less popular however was the decision to have a man dressed in Viking drag representing 'the fat lady singing' by belting out Nessun Dorma over the PA system with two minutes of the match still to play.
Trigg said: "You can see the funny element to that but my opinion, and I think a lot of people felt this, is it would have been far, far better to wait until the game had finished.
"To do that during the game still in play I don't think was quite right. I don't think it was necessarily disrespectful, I just think it was a mistake.
"[CEO] Edward Griffiths likes to push the boundaries and I think there's sometimes a degree of it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. That doesn't always go down well with fans of other teams or indeed sometimes with our own supporters - but that's Saracens."
There are other, more practical problems, that need addressing including improved access in and out of the stadium, but Trigg insists they are just minor housekeeping issues.
Saracens are still taking feedback from fans about their experience at Allianz Park and CEO Edward Griffiths told The Times Series last week the club are targetting the match against Harlequins on March 24 to have everything completed.
Tickets for the Quins clash sold out this week while there are less than 2,000 left for the match against London Welsh on March 3.
Trigg is confident Saracens' new home will retain the previous fan base and attract new supporters from the local Barnet community.
He added: "I get the sense most people who have supported Saracens for a while will continue to support the team - it's like any sport, once you support a team it's in your blood and that's it.
"It's difficult to gauge how many local supporters we'll be picking up but the signs are very positive. I've spoken to local residents and there are an awful lot of people who have a very positive viewpoint about the community aspects of it.
"There's a feel-good factor at the moment that will hopefully draw people along especially of course while Saracens are doing so well."
The Men in Black will be looking to gain an advantage over one of their top four rivals when they travel to Leicester Tigers on Saturday.
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