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Saracens take advantage of an early red card to claim 44-12 bonus-point win over Gloucester Rugby at Allianz Park
4:08pm Sunday 15th September 2013 in Sport
Saracens secured their second-bonus point victory in successive weeks with a 44-12 win over Gloucester Rugby, who had a man sent off after just 73 seconds.
Gloucester were underdogs for the clash and their afternoon looked doomed from the second minute as prop Nick Wood was shown red early on.
Saracens were slow to take advantage and actually trailed at half-time despite scoring the first try through Joel Tomkins.
But the second half was one-way traffic throughout and two tries from David Strettle, as well as scores from Schalk Brits and Billy Vunipola, put the Cherry and Whites out of sight.
Saracens made just one change from the starting side that beat London Irish last weekend as Duncan Taylor came in at centre for Brad Barritt, who has been ruled out for three months with a foot injury.
Gloucester were looking to bounce back from a surprising home defeat to Sale Sharks and perhaps the visitors’ adrenaline was pumping too hard because after one minute and 13 seconds they were reduced to 14 men.
In and utterly needless and undeniably vicious act of aggression, Wood twice stamped on the head of Jacques Burger and as Sarries ploughed into the offending prop, referee Wayne Barnes showed no hesitation in brandishing red.
As the two teams acclimatised, Burns missed an early penalty opportunity from long range but the young number ten – no doubt eager to prove his worth against Farrell in the battle of the England fly-halves - made no mistake with his second attempt, putting the visitors 3-0 in front from long range.
The early drama was followed by a prolonged lull in the game. With the rain driving down on the plastic pitch, both teams were hampered by errors as possession changed hands with frustrating regularity.
Chris Ashton lightened up a grisly affair with a blistering break through the centre of midfield on the 20-minute mark and two minutes later Saracens crossed the line for their first home try of the season.
Richard Wigglesworth played in Tomkins who picked a great line off the scrum half before evading Rob Cook and scoring under the posts.
Farrell added the conversion to give Saracens a 7-3 lead after 23 minutes.
The Sarries fly-half was less precise from a penalty soon after and despite boasting the extra man, the home side were unable to dictate the tempo as they would have hoped.
Burns and Farrell traded penalties to make the score 10-6 but it was the Cherry and Whites kicker who was the more impressive early on, driving two brilliant penalties through the posts to give Gloucester a surprise 12-10 lead at the break.
Within three minutes of the restart however, Sarries were back in front. Gloucester were penalised for diving over the ball and Farrell slotted the kick home from close range.
And five minutes later the home side extended their advantage. Billy Vunipola drove forward from a short line-out down the right-hand side and as Sarries drew Gloucester’s defence in, they tossed the ball out along the line and Strettle raced over the line in the corner.
Farrell’s conversion clipped the inside of the right post and the number ten added another three points soon after with a well-struck penalty to give Saracens a 20-12 lead.
The Men in Black were now firmly in charge and as Gloucester’s defence tired, Sarries turned the screw.
Sione Kalamafoni was sin-binned for the visitors and from the resulting penalty, the Men in Black’s driving maul over-powered their opposite numbers and Schalk Brits was the man to touch down.
Farrell added the conversion and the home side led 30-12 after 62 minutes.
With the wind very much in their sails, Saracens very nearly scored again. Superb hands from Brits saw the ball fed out to Farrell and with numbers over, Tomkins drove forward but Gloucester managed to get numbers back and keep Sarries out.
Dominating in the scrum, Saracens camped out in the Gloucester 22 and it appeared only a matter of time before the fourth try came.
In a rare foray forward, Gloucester surrendered possession and Sarries broke forward. Ben Spencer kicked the ball down the line but was unable to win the sprint race.
Eagerly hunting the bonus point, Saracens were handed a scrum just meters out after Farrell’s went past the dead ball line but the play was brought back as the fly-half was adjudged to have been touched in the air.
From the resulting scrum, Sarries drove forward and with two minutes left on the clock, Billy Vunipola put the ball down for the fourth and final try. Farrell kicked the conversion.
As the seconds ticked away, there was still time for one more score as Strettle chipped the ball through and won the race to the line, securing a fifth and final try which Farrell converted to round off another successful afternoon for the Men in Black.
Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Duncan Taylor (Ransom, 75), 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell (Mordt, 79), 9 Richard Wigglesworth (Spencer, 75), 1 Rhys Gill (Vunipola, 46), 2 Jamie George (Brits, 55), 3 Matt Stevens (Johnston, 55), 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 5 Alistair Hargreaves (Botha, 55) 6 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 8 Ernst Joubert (Wray, 75).
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 James Johnston, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Ben Ransom
Gloucester Rugby: 15 Rob Cook (Cowan, 60) 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder (Tindall, 64), 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Tavis Knoyle (M. Thomas, 60), 1 Nick Wood, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 3 Rupert Harden (Y. Thomas, 54)), 4 Tom Savage (capt), 5 Lua Lokotui (Stooke 54), 6 Matt Kvesic, 7 Akapusi Qera (Murphy, 7), 8 Sione Kalamafoni (Morgan, 65)
Replacements: Koree Britton, Dan Murphy, Yann Thomas, Elliott Stooke, Ben Morgan, Jimmy Cowan, Mike Tindall, Martyn Thomas
Referee: Wayne Barnes