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Saracens beat Cardiff Blues 19-11 in LV=Cup and first match at new Allianz Park home
Allianz Park threw open its doors for the first time as Saracens got off to a winning start in their new home beating Cardiff Blues 19-11 in the LV=Cup.
With all eyes on the artificial turf – the first of its kind ever to be used in a professional rugby union match – Saracens put in an effective, hard-working but unspectacular performance, the highlight of which was a late try by James Short.
Cardiff touched down in the first half but 14 points kicked by Sarries fly-half Nils Mordt and Short’s score late on ensured the hosts cruised to victory.
As the sound system played out a carefully crafted playlist including ‘It’s a beautiful day’ and ‘Coming Home’, Saracens did everything to make this ‘test event’ at their brand new venue feel like the real thing.
The Sarries logo-encrusted buffalo pies were hot - slightly over-done - but tasty, the Saracens custom-made beer seemed to go down well and, despite its doubters, the plastic pitch was disaster-free.
Was the game quicker? Not noticeably. Were there more injuries than normal? Not on this occasion. Did Saracens become a free-flowing side, beautiful on the eye and over-flowing with invention and tries? Not today.
Feedback on the surface from both camps afterwards was positive and while the overall picture can only be drawn over a period of time, upon initial inspection the omens are good.
Joe Maddock may have had Sarries chief Edward Griffiths biting his fingernails in the second minute when he unexplainably slipped in the rubber crumb but Nils Mordt settled the nerves with a well-taken penalty soon after.
On a day of firsts, Maro Itoje was handed his club debut and the youngster looked like he might score a try when he broke free early on but the referee pulled the game back for a forward pass.
Cardiff’s Ceri Sweeney levelled things up almost instantly at the other end before Mordt missed the opportunity to re-establish the lead when he struck just wide before the quarter hour mark.
The Sarries ten was more precise in the 27th minute but the visitors defied the home team's script, stealing the title of first try-scorers at Allianz Park ten minutes later as Robin Copeland touched down to put Cardiff 8-6 ahead.
Sweeney missed the conversion meaning Cardiff took a slim lead into the break but Saracens were more assertive in the second period with Mordt adding two more penalties to restore the hosts’ advantage at 12-8.
Alex Goode may have set Stuart Lancaster's nerves a-jangling when he seemed to fall awkwardly on his left shoulder but the England full-back continued without any trouble.
The visitors lost their discipline as the match went on with yellow cards shown to both Daffyd Hewitt and Thomas Youngs, giving Sarries a numerical advantage in the latter stages.
And it wasn’t long before the hosts capitalised as Cardiff were outnumbered out wide and James Short dived over for the Men in Black’s first and only score of the day.
Mordt took his own tally to 14 as the conversion wrapped up a solid Saracens victory and the club now look forward to the first official match at Copthall when they host Exeter Chiefs on February 16.
In the LV=Cup Sarries sit second in the pool with one game – away to Worcester Warriors – to play next Saturday.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode 14 Joe Maddock 13 Duncan Taylor 12 Adam Powell 11 James Short 10 Nils Mordt (capt) 9 Ben Spencer 1 Nick Auterac 2 Jamie George 3 Carlos Nieto 4 Eoin Sheriff 5 Mouritz Botha 6 Maro Itoje 7 Nick Fenton-Wells 8 Tom Jubb
Replacements: 16 John Smit 17 Darren Fearn 18 Petrus du Plessis 19 Alistair Hargreaves 20 Justin Melck 21 Ali Price 22 Sam Stanley 23 Jack Wilson
Cardiff Blues: 15 Jason Tovey 14 Owen Williams 13 Gavin Evans (capt) 12 Dafydd Hewitt 11 Harry Robinson 10 Ceri Sweeney 9 Lewis Jones 8 Robin Copeland 7 Rory Watts-Jones 6 Luke Hamilton 5 Macauley Cook 4 Michael Paterson 3 Beniot Bourrust 2 Kristian Dacey 1 Sam Hobbs
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams 17 Nathan Trevett 18 Taufa'ao Filise 19 Cory Hill 20 Thomas Young 21 Alex Walker 22 Gareth Davies 23 Tom Williams