So much for new horizons. This was the same old Saracens – suffocating, stifling and ultimately supremely successful. On their return to the Premiership after a season of shame in the second tier they ground Bristol down before breaking their spirit to give the rest of the league a reminder of just how bloody-minded they can be. That it came without the razzle-dazzle that marked the climax to last season’s Premiership will not bother them in the slightest. 사실로, they will relish it.
That they did so in front of more than 19,000 supporters – the biggest UK rugby crowd for 18 months – will make their manner of victory all the sweeter and their statement all the louder. The fact that they made it when missing so many star names is all the more ominous for their rivals.
Their performance was both defensively dogged and emphatic, with the excellent Alex Lozowski kicking 21 points from fly-half and Alex Lewington adding the only try late on. Considering Saracens began their season in the Championship with an embarrassing defeat by Cornish Pirates, Mark McCall was understandably content. “We talked about not worrying too much as we knew we were playing a very good side,”그는 말했다. “They get a gold star for unity and effort. We will get stronger as the year gets on, but it is only one game. We are delighted to be back.”
Bristol, for their part, seemed inhibited, too conservative rather than playing with the abandon they did last season. If the fact that there is no relegation again this season is to give way to a collective attacking brand of rugby, it is evidently going to take a little while. It will also take time to get used to the law trials with sides trying, and desperately failing, to take advantage of the 50:22 kick.
“It’s been a couple of years that we haven’t scored a try – we missed chances. But you have to credit Sarries, they are back and hassled us right the way through,” said Pat Lam, whose five-year contract extension was announced earlier in the day. “Everyone knows that’s why they are favourites but we made too many mistakes.”
Saracens are, 과연, the favourites with most bookmakers to crown their return to the Premiership with the title in June but there can be little doubting that, shorn of their five rested British & Irish Lions, their squad has a threadbare look to it. Billy Vunipola was the standout name in their side but the depth that they could boast when the dominant force in England and Europe is simply not there any more.
Listen to their less heralded players in the buildup to this curtain-raiser, 하나, and clearly they felt they had a point to prove. For Saracens are evidently motivated to make their presence felt back in the top tier. After the opening round of kick-tennis – of which there were many more – Bristol had plenty of the ball but Saracens’ defence remains among the most resolute around. Callum Sheedy and Lozowski traded penalties before another two from distance from the home fly-half but too many handling errors, just as they were building up a head of steam, denied Bristol the opportunity to really stress the visitors.
As the half wore on, 하나, Bristol grew in stature. They thought they had the opening try after some nifty footwork from Piers O’Conor, only for Wayne Barnes to pull things back for a forward pass, but increasingly the Bears were threatening. After a moment of magic from Charles Piutau – it is so often he who makes things happen – Bristol again came close through Ioan Lloyd, Piutau sidestepping his way through Saracens’ defence before freeing Harry Thacker, who shipped on to Andy Uren and then the Wales youngster. Saracens successfully scrambled before giving up another penalty in Sheedy’s range.
It was off target and from there Saracens turned the screw – Lozowski adding two penalties to level the score at half-time and another four after the interval to give the visitors a commanding lead. It was Lozowski, 너무, who poked through the grubber for Lewington to score the only try of the night with 10 minutes remaining to put the exclamation mark on a thoroughly impressive night for Saracens. It is early days but they will take some stopping.