In a display that coach Ross Nelmes described as “Four years work come to fruition”, Cheltenham Saracens ran out 36-7 winners against Chipping Sodbury.
The match started at decent pace with the home side having early possession, only to be forced into mistakes by the strong away defence. Sodbury saw a little more of the ball in the opening stages, but Saracens looked more threatening when they were in possession.
After some well placed long kicks, Sodbury were camped in their own half. Some strong rucking from the travelling side saw them steal ball and then win a penalty as Sodbury tried to win it back. This penalty was kicked to touch and the phases sent the away side deeper into the Sodbury half.
The away sides first try, which marked Dan Burnham’s return to first team rugby, saw the strong loosehead prop drive over after Matt Williams and Tom Patience utilised the pick-and-go just before the line. The conversion missed, sailing just to the left of the posts.
Following more attacking play from the Saracens, a second try came after a bit of confusion. From a Saracens penalty lineout, the ball fell to the Sodbury side. The home side, expecting a knock-on to be given stopped, giving number eight and captain James McMahon to pounce on the free ball and add another 5 points. The angle proved too much for Harris, as he failed to add an extra two points.
Following the second try, the play broke down a little, with both teams failing to find touch with kicks. Eventually Saracens found it, only for Will Dove to steal the Sodbury ball at the lineout. This steal set up the final try of the first half for Saracens came from what Assistant Coach Nelmes would go on to call “real champagne rugby”, as a Harris breakaway, let Shaun Meheran free, who offloaded to Wayne Smallman who made huge gains before setting Sam Rimmer off, before the ball found it’s way to outside centre Dom Richardson, who touched down just left of the posts. Harris added an extra 2 points to take Saracens into a 17 point lead at half time.
The second half started in quick fashion, as the teams exchanged kicks. Sodbury gifted Saracens possession with a kick straight to Sam Rimmer, who combined with winger Smallman to make big gains into the Sodbury half. The bonus point try came from Henry Lord who barreled over right of the posts following a strong run from inside centre Jonah Manu. Harris chalked up an extra two with a simple conversion.
With Harris’ boot keeping Sodbury in their own half, and knock-ons stopping the home team from building, the fifth try was scored following a hugely strong run by winger Matt Williams. Withstanding the choke tackle from three Chipping Sodbury players, Williams was able to make gains and go to ground, to set up the backs to run a well organised backs move which left Sam Rimmer with mountains of space before touching down in the right corner.
Saracens’ final try of the match came from flyhalf Harris, after receiving the ball at halfway from scrumhalf and man of the match Kyle Thomas, two sidesteps left him with acres of space to run in under the posts. He converted his try with ease to lift the score to 36.
Chipping Sodbury managed to get a foot back in the game at the end, as their forwards rallied and eventually breached the away defence with the pick-and-go. This was converted, and Saracens kept hold of the game in the dying seconds following, which allowed them to come away with a sixth away win, and a bonus point.
Final score Chipping Sodbury 7 Sarries 36