Chiefs do their thing - sarries don't


By Innings
December 30 2019

  This was a game with more sub-plots than a struggling TV soap opera desperate to earn Christmas ratings.  Every journalist had their own strap-line, of which my favourite was to bill the game as ‘Sinned Against v Sinners’.  

Even before the game, I noted three little pointers to how that game might affect interested parties.  Jack Nowell was evidently pleased to see and welcome England team-mates Jamie and Elliot.  Mr Tony Rowe was a picture of ill-will towards his visitors, but his crowd were apparently of the opinion that spats between club owners do not preclude the paying public from applause, however light, as the visitors take the pitch. 

The weather was just right for Sandy Park, dry in the air, drying well underfoot and a strong breeze coming, as is traditional, up the estuary.  Sarries seem to have won the toss, and as usual opted to play into the breeze.

In truth, much of the drama was written and revealed in the first ten minutes.  Owen played as flat as you like, and offered himself the problem of never having time to manage the back line, because Chiefs had clearly decided that stopping distribution would negate the threat of Sarries backs.  The tactic began well, because on about six minutes, a woeful pass by Owen ran behind the back line and bobbled on for Nic White to gather and score.  This opener was wake-up call, and Sarries responded by working the ball into Chiefs’ half, where two penalties offered Owen a six-point recovery.  One can claim wind damage, but it is reasonable to expect a front-line international kicker to score both. He got neither.

The remainder of the half was one in which Sarries could and should have redressed the score-line, with six visits to the Chiefs’ red zone, for no return.  They were held up, knocked forward, not released in the tackle, and any other reason that you care to mention.  Chiefs were wholly responsible, with their defence working harmoniously and with efficiency that Mark McCall must have appreciated.

Totally unsurprisingly, a second Chiefs’ try came ten minutes after the break, giving Sarries 14-0 to overturn, not an impossibility now they had the wind behind them.

The second half was frankly poor by Sarries, and two incidents demonstrate that poverty.  Wayne Barnes had to call Owen over, to explain the need for himself as the referee to referee, and for Owen to revert to playing rather than trying to do Wayne’s job for him.  Not long afterwards, Billy found himself equally in a bad part of Mr Barnes’ book.  Billy got into a pointless argument, but then lost the plot by failing to back away despite being told three times to do so, followed by a warning that if he stayed where he was he’d go to the bin.  If Billy’s team-mates had not led him away, looking like a completely lost child, I think Billy would, correctly, have been in the bin less than a minute later.  The expression of bewilderment on his face summed up much of Sarries’ game.

In between the diversions, we saw the unusual picture of a club scrum dominating a pack that contained four current England internationals, a South African world cup winner and assorted other internationally experienced players.  A pedantic referee might well have treated the Sarries pack more harshly. The line-out was a lottery for both sides as well. 

As the game wound down, a minor handbag sale on the side-lines escalated into a significant melee.  Players, bench players, team support staff and others seemed to be involved, but Mr Barnes decided that the ignition was provided by Harry Williams, a starter but now substituted, flying in from the bench to join in.  Red card for Harry, joked about by Tony Rowe, but it may be Harry’s good record and biscuit discipline that get him only a single match suspension.

As always, the confusion of substitutions, blood and HIA replacements and returns, made the task of knowing who was playing where in latter stages of the game ridiculous.  But, with the line-out fragile, why did MMC not use George Kruis?

Sarries do score right at the end, but even that took a decision by Mr Barnes to award a penalty try after yet another Chiefs’ player came into a driving maul from the side.

So, 14-7 at the death gave a single point for a difficult fixture.  As MMC said, not a disaster, but the gap to the 11th place has widened again, with Wasps winning easily in tenth and Tigers drawing in 11th.

For me, there was only one MotM.  Nic White was horrible, and in the best tradition of horrible scrum-halves, he chased, harried, bullied, encouraged, scored a try and prevented his opposite numbers, nine and ten, from finding rhythm or accuracy.  What more would any one need from their nine on a day like that?

Finally, do you wonder why rugby remains a minority sport?  Ask no more: 

The laws of the game mandate time limits for penalty and conversion kicks.  That law is never, but never, enforced. 

Does it need to take as much as three minutes for a scrum to set, re-set and then collapse for a penalty that nobody can ever explain?

Does a lineout have to involve a huddle, re-tied shoelace, followed by a ballet that would look better on the stage at Covent Garden?

Does every scrumhalf have to spend as much as ten or fifteen seconds preparing his clearance kick, with the old caterpillar back in fashion?

The game is slow, rarely really flows beyond four or five phases, and referees treat the laws about time allowed as unnecessary pedantry.  People pay to be entertained, and these aspects of the game are not entertainment.  World Rugby likes fiddling with the laws of the game, but could they do better by insisting that referees enforce the laws that are there already?  If professional rugby wants to develop, it needs to think more about the paying public and less about the waffling pundits who love the breaks in play as excuses to air their own voices. 

Exeter (7) 14

Tries: White, Vermeulen Cons: J Simmonds 2

Saracens (0) 7

Try: Penalty

Exeter: Hogg; Nowell, Whitten, Devoto, Woodburn; J Simmonds, White; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Dennis (capt), J Hill, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Taione, Moon, Pieretto, Kirsten, Armand, Maunder, Steenson, S Hill.

Sin-bin: Williams (25 mins), Ewers (79 mins).

Red card: Williams (77 mins).

Saracens: Malins; Maitland, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Daly; Farrell, Spencer; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Skelton, Isiekwe, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Singleton, Carre, Lamositele, Kruis, Earl, Wigglesworth, Lozowski, Tompkins.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).

pqs: qs:
CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: TheSaracens.com (IP Logged)
Date: 30/12/2019 17:59

Thanks Philip for this and all the other insightful reports you have done throughout the year.
Happy New Year



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2020:01:05:11:41:13 by Darraghgirl.

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: myleftboot (IP Logged)
Date: 30/12/2019 19:01

Good work sir! A tough one to write

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: derbyshire fan (IP Logged)
Date: 30/12/2019 19:31

Thanks for this - very fair write up

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: BlackheathSaracen (IP Logged)
Date: 30/12/2019 22:49

Reported elsewhere that Kruis pulled something after being selected on the bench and wasn't available to bring on. That said we caused Chiefs as many issues as they caused us and Dennis superb steal on a perfect throw by George on our attacking ball in their 22 aside their work was mainly accomplished by playing the jumper and jumping across the line. Something either the AR or TMO actually brought to Barnes attention, something like "Exeter taking the jumpers arm, warn them about it for next time" ...

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: The Bard (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 08:03

So is there a cut off time at which you can change your replacements?
If Owen had played at even 50% of his usual form we would probably have won that.

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: Innings (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 10:20

Tough call, but with Malins at 15, and Daly on the wing, I think the right call on 40 minutes would have been to hook Owen, bring Max to 10, shift Elliot to 15 and bring on Nick T or Alex L.



Innings

Points win matches: tries win hearts and minds.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:12:31:17:37:25 by Innings.

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: Axe Chief (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 11:35

What an excellent, briefish, report. I shall have to visit Innings innings again.

Liked your conclusion on the aspects of how the game of rugby is developing, or is it prolonging!,.......or protracting?
Perhaps if the review of the laws, as Austin has been mentioning, takes place all of those points should be addressed.

MOM choices are always different to each set of spectacles. For some reasons I can agree with BT's, but yours would be easily justifiable.

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: Sarriebone (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 11:37

This might just be me but is anyone else having issues seeing the reports recently? The thread is here but no report above it, though it was there yesterday. Odd...

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: TonyTaff (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 14:31

Quote:
Sarriebone
This might just be me but is anyone else having issues seeing the reports recently? The thread is here but no report above it, though it was there yesterday. Odd...

I suspect that there is some sort of bug.

Go to Site Navigation, if you wish to re-read it.



721.05 (*) donated to the Saracens Foundation due to visits to the Sarries frontpage [www.rugbynetwork.net]

Please read and submit articles for publication. (*) As at October 31, 2018.

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: Sarriebone (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 14:39

Quote:
TonyTaff
Quote:
Sarriebone
This might just be me but is anyone else having issues seeing the reports recently? The thread is here but no report above it, though it was there yesterday. Odd...

I suspect that there is some sort of bug.

Go to Site Navigation, if you wish to re-read it.

Turns out if you click the "NEW" button you just get the comments, but if you click on the thread name then you get the report as well

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: BlackheathSaracen (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 15:28

Quote:
Innings
Tough call, but with Malins at 15, and Daly on the wing, I think the right call on 40 minutes would have been to hook Owen, bring Max to 15, shift Elliot to 15 and bring on Nick T or Alex L.

Presumably you mean Malins to 10?

Disagree. This was a massive game, the sort you can wreck a young player in if you make a move like that and it goes wrong.
It also send a bad and poorly justified message to Farrell and puts far too much of the blame on his shoulder. He created two or three decent try scoring chances with the boot in contrast to the off day he had kicking at goal. The poor pass and fumble that lead to Whites try was very frustrating but eminently recoverable so early in the game.

We lacked execution from our finishers and a bit of luck to balance some exceptional defence by Chiefs. I'd be interested if they can back-up or even improve on that performance. I know we can.

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: Innings (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 17:42

Fortunately, none of us has to take these decisions, but IMHO, a player who is simply not playing well enough to justify remaining on the field should be hooked. The second half performance desperately needed leadership, and many of the leaders were simply not there mentally. Hence the spats between Wayne Barnes and Owen and Billy. Owen is not bigger than the team, and if another player added so little to the team he'd expect that player to be hooked, so why not himself?



Innings

Points win matches: tries win hearts and minds.

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: The Bard (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 18:52

Interestingly Ben S got hooked pretty early as he was some way below his best too. He seems a bit hesitant when the ball is in a ruck at the moment in sharp contrast to Wiggy who is looking 10 years younger than he actually is!

Re: CHIEFS DO THEIR THING, SARRIES DON'T
Posted by: TonyTaff (IP Logged)
Date: 31/12/2019 23:48

Quote:
Innings
Fortunately, none of us has to take these decisions, but IMHO, a player who is simply not playing well enough to justify remaining on the field should be hooked. The second half performance desperately needed leadership, and many of the leaders were simply not there mentally. Hence the spats between Wayne Barnes and Owen and Billy. Owen is not bigger than the team, and if another player added so little to the team he'd expect that player to be hooked, so why not himself?

I agree that we have a problem with the Faz aura. He is not invincible and should not be un-substitutable.p



721.05 (*) donated to the Saracens Foundation due to visits to the Sarries frontpage [www.rugbynetwork.net]

Please read and submit articles for publication. (*) As at October 31, 2018.

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