The almost traditional end-of-January bug affected the organisation for second in the table Saracens. With prop Henry Lord and scrum-half Matt Kelly too ill to play on the morning of the match, the Cheltenham side had to quickly re-shuffle just minutes before kick off.
The game started in typical quick fashion, with heavy hits from the home side following their kick off. Saracens retained possession well and sent Colstonians back into their own half -where they would spend all of the first half in- with a long wind assisted kick.
Following a knock-on by Will Dove trying to steal the lineout ball, the away side dismantled the home scrum, even with Colstonians’ big set of forwards.
Following the fast start, the game broke down slightly with both sides making mistakes and giving away penalties. Eventually, another gigantic shove from Saracens turned over a Colstonians’ scrum, which allowed outside centre Jonah Manu to make distance with a strong run, which got him to the try line but was deemed to be held up. After another big shove, Sarries gave away a penalty at the breakdown, and the home side kicked for touch. The ball stayed in play however, due to the wind, and sat nicely for a clean catch by Sam Rimmer who ran a 40 yard maze of players before being tackled just short of the try line.
It was a tapped penalty by Colstonians’ which gifted Saracens their first points, as the ball was knocked on by the backs allowing the away side to recycle the ball with the advantage, allowing Rimmer to out run the home defence and touch it down in the right corner. Returning fly-half Brad Harris missed the conversion.
From the restart, Saracens started phases and used the wind to kick long and keep Colstonians’ in their own half. A good chase from left winger Matt Williams almost lead to a try but it was tapped down for a drop out. Following a poor drop out, Saracens made the possession count by setting up phases before a bit of sloppy play was rectified as stand-in scrum-half Shaun Meheran popped the ball off for Matt Williams to slot it down in the left corner, this try was also unconverted.
Again after the restart, Saracens used the wind to send the ball back to Old Colstonians. A good chase from Jonah Manu and Damien Freili stopped any chance of a return run and allowed for a penalty against the home side which Harris converted as the last play of the half.
HT score OCRFC 0- 13 CSRFC
The second started with the same intensity, with Old Colstonians’ managing to create a few phases of play and work the away defence. They used the wind themselves to take the ball into Saracens territory and gained a penalty at the breakdown. This was converted.
After a bit of back and forth rugby, with both sides gaining ground but still making strong tackles, the Saracens third try came from winger Wayne Smallman, who made an appearance from the bench to replace Damien Freili at centre. The winger-come-centre’s pace and strength made a big impact after minutes of coming on, as a short but strong run set up phases in the middle of the pitch. It was off the back of one of these phases that he received a pop pass and broke a tackle to sprint down the field, only being caught by the fullback as he reached the line. Harris’ kick swang just too far left of the far post, possibly compensating for the wind, and the try went unconverted.
Following the restart, a catch by second-row Will Dove, was set up for Smallman but a huge hit caused him to knock on. Smallman would eventually be replaced by Freili as a shoulder injury sustained in the hit wouldn’t be able to be run off.
With both sides grinding each other to a halt in the midfield, the Saracens managed a fourth and final try with new signing Jonah Manu. After receiving a pass just inside the Colstonians’ half, Manu managed to break a tackle and run clear, supported by right winger Chris Wilkinson, to touch down under the posts. Harris added two points with a simple kick.
An injury to the Saracens front row saw coach Michael Pitman enter the match for the last ten minutes and Saracens’ defence held out for a bonus point win.
Final Score Old Colstonians 3 Sarries 25