Saracens heap more woe on Bristol
January 11, 2009
Saracens' Brad Barritt grabbed one of his side's four tries as they powered to a bonus point win at Vicarage Road
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Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson provided an immaculate 15-point goal-kicking contribution to the runaway victory which leaves Bristol rooted to the bottom of the Guinness Premiership.
Jackson landed three penalties and three conversions for the Londoners, who had to wait until six minutes from time to secure the bonus point when England captain Steve Borthwick scored their fourth try. Bristol were never in contention after Sarries' Italy prop Matias Aguero and recent arrival Brad Barritt, making his first full appearance in place of injured centre Andy Farrell, hit them with tries in the opening 15 minutes.
Despite dominating the game Saracens had to wait until the second half for further tries from No.8 Ben Skirving and Borthwick, back in the side after missing the previous week's defeat at Gloucester because of the international-enforced rest which annoyed Sarries boss Eddie Jones.
Hooker Scott Linklater replied with a try for Bristol, converted by Ed Barnes, who also landed two penalties while Gordon Ross converted Saracens' final try.
Saracens went ahead in the 10th minute when Aguero, taking a pass from Jackson, used his strength to force his way over with Linklater clinging on to him. Five minutes later the home side struck again through Barritt, who arrived in November from the Sharks in South Africa.
Young flanker Andy Saull exploited a big gap in the Bristol defence to run from halfway to within 10 metres of the line before off-loading for Barritt, running a good line in support, to touch down. With Jackson landing both conversions, Saracens were 14-0 ahead after 15 minutes but Bristol briefly got themselves back in contention within three minutes.
Industrious former England scrum-half Shaun Perry began the move which stretched Sarries before Linklater appeared in the threequarter line to go over in the right corner and Barnes converted from the touchline. But Linklater's involvement ended four minutes later when the hooker, called up with Mark Regan injured, was helped off with a leg injury to be replaced by David Blaney.
It was a cruel blow for Bristol, who already had an entire front row out injured, and they fell further 13 points behind when Jackson kicked two penalties in the space of a minute. Bristol's hopes of a second try were dashed in the 38th minute when centre Neil Brew was brought back for an earlier infringement after breaking clear from the halfway line.
To rub salt into the west country side's already deep wounds, Jackson kicked the resulting penalty to send his side in 23-7 ahead at the break.
Saracens carried too much power up front for the makeshift Bristol pack in which No.8 Dan Ward-Smith tried manfully. Lively South African scrum-half Neil de Kock was the springboard for some promising Sarries' moves which should have produced more tries while Bristol, who handed try-scoring winger David Lemi a two-week club suspension after he was cited for a dangerous tackle in last weekend's 30-8 defeat at Northampton, rarely threatened without their cutting-edge danger man.
Barnes landed a 47th-minute penalty for Bristol but Saracens responded with their third try four minutes later as Skirving marked his return to the starting line-up in place of injured Wales international Michael Owen by driving in low after Jackson spurned a penalty shot at goal in favour of a lineout in the corner.
Jackson maintained his 100% kicking record with the conversion off the far post before Barnes landed his second penalty for the visitors. The visitors had Blaney sin-binned for killing the ball with seven minutes to go and Saracens cashed in with their bonus-point try by kicking the resulting penalty for touch, winning the lineout and driving Borthwick over, with Jackson's replacement Ross converting.
In the wake of his side's win, Saracens boss Eddie Jones has urged Martin Johnson to name New Zealand-born fly-half Jackson in his revised squad for the Six Nations. "His goalkicking was good and his out-of-hand kicking is just wonderful. England should really consider having him in the squad," Jones said. "If they are going to have (Danny) Cipriani and (Toby) Flood as their major stand-offs maybe they should have someone like Jackson, who understands the game exceedingly well, in the squad to teach these younger guys how to play because I think they need a mentor."
Jones also singled out skipper Borthwick for praise. "He's been good for us from the first day he walked in the door. There's no secret we're a much better side when he's playing. He gives us the lineout leadership, he's tough around the ruck and he scored the try. He doesn't even score tries in training so he's pretty chuffed about that one."
Bristol head coach Richard Hill has no doubt his side must beat Newcastle at home to have any chance of escaping the drop after the Falcons upset Gloucester elsewhere on Sunday. "It was a very good win for Newcastle and we've got to stew on that for four weeks and get our act together. We have to beat Newcastle. There was pressure on us to win that one anyway but now we just have to win."
As for his side's latest defeat, Hill admitted, "I don't think it could have been worse. Endeavour and heart was there but the quality was lacking again. Some of the passing was not good and we coughed up possession too easily. Our kicking was unbelievably poor and individuals are not playing well."
Saracens: Wyles, Haughton, Sorrell, Barritt, Cato, Jackson, De Kock; Aguero, Ongaro, Johnston, Borthwick (capt), Jack, Van Heerden, Saull, Skirving.
Replacements: Kyriacou, Lloyd, Visagie, Vyvyan, Rauluni, Ross, Penney.
Bristol: Lilo; Turner, Neil Brew, Barnes, Nathan Brew; Jarvis, Perry; Irish, Linklater, Crompton; Budgett, Sidoli; Salter (capt), To'oala, Ward-Smith.
Replacements: Blaney, Thompson, Winters, Phillips, Beveridge, Eves, Robinson.
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