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Sarries win despite adversity

Cheltenham Saracens 34 Chipping Sodbury 3

Fourteen man Cheltenham Saracens ran roughshod over one-time fellow promotion chasers Chipping Sodbury in their final home match of the season.

IMG_4167The home side opened their account through fly-half James Butler’s penalty conversion after turning over the Sodbury ball at a ruck and counter attacking before the visitors were penalised at a ruck.

The visitors responded in kind shortly after as the hosts found themselves also penalysed at a ruck. With the score equal at 3-3, a penalty each, the match developed into a rather lively midfield battle with end to end action.

Saracens took the lead once again as Butler dispatched a penalty from the tee halfway through the first half. This spurred Sodbury into life and they aimed to play rugby in the opposition half. The visitors banged on the Sarries’ door, in search of more points. Phase after phase they approached the home side’s line, with a Sodbury player eventually trying to hurdle a tackle from scrum-half James Barrett, which resulted in a controversial red card for the Australian utility player. The controversy didn’t stop there, as just minutes later winger Andy Nicholls was almost beheaded by a high tackle which left Saracens’ fans baying for an equal red. The resulting card was yellow, and Sarries faced 10 minutes on equal footing but an extra 50 minutes with a man disadvantage.IMG_4185

Sodbury attacked again and again, as the red card had swung momentum, however some strong tackling from the well drilled home defence, constant mistakes from the Sodbury attack and a missed penalty attempt stopped the visiting side from adding any points before the break.

The second half saw Sodbury kick to Saracens, with skillful hooker Aaron Connolly making a break right through the defence after making the catch for Sarries to set phases.

The phases and the patience paid dividends as lock Gareth Rogers drove over to secure the first try of the match. Butler converted putting Sarries ahead 13-3.

The man disadvantage wasn’t showing as the home side piled on the pressure. The match developed into the previous midfield battle with end to end rugby but again Sodbury knock-ons just before the line saw them fail to close the gap.

IMG_4230Centre-turned-flanker Alex Jackson added try number two as Sarries were temporarily down to 13 men, as Rogers received treatment. The strong runner received the ball in front of the posts before a dummy and a thunderous hand-off saw him tap down under the sticks. Butler couldn’t miss, and Sarries took a 20-3 lead.

Less than ten minutes later, Sarries were at it again despite the man disadvantage. Winning a penalty at the ruck, Butler set up a lineout on the Sodbury 5m. McMahon made the catch and Sarries set the maul that had destroyed both Cirencester and Bristol Saracens in their previous two games allowing openside flanker Shaun Meheran to make it three tries in three games as he controlled the drive over the line. The difficult angle was no problem for Butler, keeping his record from the tee intact. Sarries now lead 27-3.

IMG_4305At this point Sodbury fought for everything to try and close the gap in the later stages. Phase after phase saw the visitors come so close, stopped only by a well drilled Saracens defence. Tapping a penalty, Sodbury looked to catch Sarries off guard but a monster of a tackle from the ever-physical Rogers forced the knock-on and Sarries countered, exploiting the overlap and taking it deep into the Sodbury half.

The last play of the match saw Sarries camped in the Sodbury 22m area. The pick-and-go from the forwards saw gains, allowing the backs a good platform. The bonus point win was sealed by fullback Will Hewer, who popped up on the wing to cause the overlap and barrelled over his opposite number to tap down in the left corner. Butler kept his 100% record from the tee and Saracens walked away with a 34-3 win after not conceding a single point with only 14 men.

3rds intend to finish the season in style

Bream II 14 Cheltenham Saracens 53

Cheltenham Saracens concluded their Merit table campaign with a resounding victory over the side from the Forest.

On a warm pleasant spring afternoon but on a pitch more suitable for down hill skiing, the Sarries started the game at a breathless pace. From almost the first play of the match a sweeping move from the backs saw winger Tom Wood fly over in the corner.

Tries rained in for the first 30 minutes as Dom Richardson, Dan loughlin, Martin Prosser and Woods again punished the Bream slap dash defence and with a handful conversions added by Matt Mudway the Sarries led by 31.

Now anyone who knows anything about local rugby knows you rarely travel to the Forest and get everything your own way. So to their credit the Bream boys dug deep and started to rumble forward, this eventually led to a score from close range by their wing forward, who was probably their best player on the day.

Half time 31-7

The second half continued with the Bream side dominating the pattern of play and the Sarries scratching around to find the fluency of the first thirty minutes. Bream scored again as their winger collected a bobbling ball and scorched home. Bream were now sniffing a bit of blood and fairly battered the Sarries line, but were rebuffed by determined Sarries tackling and they just couldn’t score.

After this Bream storm the Sarries regained their composure and form and counter punched the Bream effort with further tries from Gabriel Kim, Andy Lewis, Dave Holmyard and Loughlin again.

As the referee blew no side, it left the Sarries third string to reflect on a season where once again they have challenged and beaten second teams from peer clubs in the county but more importantly honoured all their fixtures a testimony to manager Paul Grayson and a sad rarity in this day and age of grass roots rugby.

Writers MoM: everyone great season boys, now for the cup.

Barmy Army marches on

Cheltenham Saracens III 44 – Old Cryptians II 22

Two weeks ago the same two sides met in a friendly that saw the Old C’s thump the Sarries by seventy points, so it was with some trepidation that the Sarries kicked off on a squally day at KGV.

IMG_3895Early play seemed to suggest that the Crypts were again up for the match and a flowing move saw their centre, who had an impressive afternoon dot down for an unconverted try. A penalty quickly followed as the Old C’s continued to dominate.

It was the wily old fox Matt Mudway who dragged the Sarries back into the game using the strong wind to put in some raking kicks that gave the Sarries territory. From a scrum inside the 22 scrum half Darryl Francis created space for speedy winger Dan Loughlan to scoot home.

Poor discipline from the Sarries gained the wrath of the referee and the Old C’s punished them with another try. The loggerheads with the ref continued to a point when the ref said to the Sarries “can you lot just play rugby” and that’s exactly what they did in the last five minutes of the half.IMG_3920

Matt Williams crossed for the first of his four tries and then straight from the kick off, the ball was collected and passed to Paul Crombie who hit a great line and created quick ruck ball in the centre of the park, from this excellent interchange passing by the backs saw debutant centre Dave Holmyard scorch home.

Half time 15-15

The teams changed ends and now Old C’s had the elements behind them and they looked set for a win. But the Sarries hadn’t read this script and simply blew them off the park with four tries in the first twenty minutes of the half. Williams added an early score, before a sweeping move saw Luke Brown up in support to cross for a try he thoroughly deserved, Williams added his third before Junior McDaid thundered over from thirty yards.

IMG_4007The game was now really over as a contest but to their credit Old C’s added another score to give them some hope a hope that was finally distinguished by Williams fourth try.

Old C’s did have the last word on the final whistle when their young flanker collected a cross kick to score.

A very good game played in testing conditions.

Writers MoM: Well if you score four tries it should be Matt Williams but on his last home game for the club it goes to Sarries legend Wayne Smith.

Cheltenham Saracens push Gloucester Premier champions close

Bristol Saracens 12
Cheltenham Saracens 10

Cheltenham Sarries travelled to their Bristol counterpart hoping to spoil the host’s promotion celebrations and came within touching distance of managing that.

The match started with a good pace as both sides fought for possession and territory, with the Cheltenham side’s forwards gaining good ground. The back and forth action continued as the conditions slowly worsened.

The hosts opened the scoring halfway through the first half, running phase after phase, eventually exploiting the overlap on the left and touched down in the corner. The conversion was missed however as the howling winds caught the ball in mid-flight.

The visitors responded well to this setback with great strong runs from Hywel James and Will Hewer. The Cheltenham side continued to bang on the door as they piled on the pressure, camping inside the Bristol half.
Eventually, the relentless Blue and Yellow attack proved too much for the hosts as a James Butler grubber kick wasn’t dealt with, allowing winger Andy Nicholls to put in a small kick off his own towards racing centre Jack Lawrenson who pounced on the bouncing ball for the try. Butler’s conversion was missed as the wind began to interfere, however this was the last play of the half and both sides went into the break with 5 points.

The Cheltenham side started the second half the way they finished, with a fantastic break away from Gareth Rogers down the left flank. A last ditch tackle however stopped him from going all the way.

Bristol Saracens responded to the challenge themselves and started to assert their control by dictating the pace of the play. The patient play was rewarded with a try but the conversion was a source of much controversy. The ball appeared to sail just inches wide of the post, but despite one touch judge raising the flag and another waving it away, the referee awarded the kick without consulting either judge.

The Cheltenham side were under the cosh as Bristol Saracens piled on the pressure, with only a well organised defence stopping them from adding extra. The visitors did managed to climb their way back in however, as strong work in the centre of the field from David Fitzharris, James McMahon and Gareth Rogers allowed the backs to run, with Brad Harris and Will Hewer challenging the defence.

The work eventually paid off as the visitors camped down in the Bristol half and secured a penalty. McMahon caught the lineout and Meheran drilled the forwards in the maul, barging through the Bristol pack and allowing the openside flanker the opportunity to add another 5 points. The kick was unconverted however, due to the wind which had become a real factor in the game, resulting in many kicks going straight into touch. The score in the last 5 minutes: Bristol Saracens 12-10 Cheltenham Saracens.

The visitors tried to get back into things but the hosts kept things under control, using their forwards to run down the clock before kicking into touch.

Newspaper report here

Bonus point triumph for Cheltenham Saracens over St Mary’s Old Boys

Cheltenham Saracens 29 St Mary’s Old Boys (SW) 21

5mar1d Cheltenham Saracens moved within two points of the Gloucester Premier top four following a bonus-point win over seventh side St Mary’s Old Boys.

The visitors opened the scoring by dispatching a penalty in front of the posts, but Saracens had the chance to level the scoring, but the penalty drifted wide.

St. Mary’s capitalised on this ten minutes later when the forwards set a catch-and-drive lineout going, and phase after phase developed an overlap, allowing the winger a clear run for an unconverted try giving the visitors an 8-0 lead.

After developing their attacking approach, Saracens camped on St. Mary’s five-metre line with a series of scrums.5mar1c

Controversy surrounded the eventual score with St. Mary’s players adamant the ball was not over the line, but the referee awarded it.

The controversial score was unconverted, however, after Brad Harris struck the post.

St. Mary’s responded well – inspired by this perceived injustice – and managed to run phases deep into Saracens’ half. With attacks coming from the left, Old Boys switched right and strong running saw them score in the corner and the conversion scraped over.

5mar1bSaracens responded by working their way into the visitors’ half and eventually won a penalty. When St. Mary’s defence switched off, Saracens tapped quickly and flanker Jonah Manu crashed over unopposed. Harris struck the post again, leaving Saracens trailing 15-10.

The hosts had the half’s last word as the forward’s set the maul from the scrum again, and in similar fashion to the first try, barged over in dominant fashion.

Harris’ kick put Saracens 17-15 ahead at half-time.

After a frantic second-half start, St. Mary’s slotted a penalty putting them 18-17 ahead. This early penalty did not dent Saracens’ confidence, who soon found themselves hammering on the door with constant phases and short gains. Eventually, it was captain James McMahon who broke through tackles to crash over.

Harris converted to put Sarries 24-18 up.

Saracens’ defence started to make an impact with huge hits from full-back Paul Hewitt and Jack Lawrenson shutting the door on the visitors. The keen defence was eventually penalised for being offside and the visitors converted the penalty – making it 24-21. Sarries substitute Chris Wilkinson rounded off the performance with an unconverted try.

The visitors secured a penalty with the final play and kicked to secure a losing bonus point, but it sailed wide.

Full newspaper article here