Tewkesbury 20 Cheltenham Saracens 22
SARACENS arrived at Tewkesbury for a Cheltenham and District Combination Senior Cup semi-final following a bitter-sweet weekend.
They gained promotion to Gloucester Premier for the first time following their second-placed finish, but lost out on the title after losing their final game against Longlevens.
It was the perfect chance to exorcise those demons against a side who finished mid-table in the league they’ve just gained promotion to.
Saracens were short of a few first-choice players but it gave the coaches the chance to blood some of the young players in a replacement role to give them first-team experience.
The game started at a frenetic pace with the Sarries backs eager to run, but they were matched by aggressive home defence and conceded turnovers allowing Tewkesbury to gain field position.
The large Tewkesbury pack was evident from the start with powerful scrums and a well-oiled lineout, which eventually led to a try and a 5-0 Tewkesbury advantage.
Saracens were persistent in trying to play open running rugby, which was at times to their detriment.
However, it finally paid off with Wayne Smallman and Paul Miles crossing before half-time.
Bradley Harris added the conversions to give Saracens a 14-5 lead. Tewkesbury added another couple of scores again through the forwards to put them one point ahead ut a Harris penalty saw Saracens 17-15 ahead at half-time.
The second half saw Saracens introduce Jonah Manu from the bench and he immediately set about breaking the gainline.
Again resolute Tewkesbury defence and poor decisions in trying to run cost Saracens momentum.
A searing break through the centre finally put Saracens in the five-metre zone and quick ball allowed Sam Rimmer to scoot over for the try and a 22-15 lead.
Tewkesbury launched everything at Saracens, who defended resolutely.
But the pressure eventually told and the try came.
Despite having two attempts, the kick was missed and Saracens held on to reach the final where they will play Old Patesians at the Prince of Wales Stadium on April 30.
For Saracens, there were notable performances by Smallman, Rimmer and M Williams in the backs and Meheran, K Williams and McMahon in the forwards.
There were also encouraging performances by Ben Landricombe, Josh Lowther and Kierran White who all excelled on their first-team debuts.