Saracens ready to fight Old Pats for Combination Senior Cup

CHELTENHAM Saracens may be underdogs in the Cheltenham Combination Senior Cup final against Old Patesians IIs tonight, but they know anything can happen in a cup final.

Saracens coach Mike Pitman has told the side to treat the final like any other league game and said that the club are looking forward to the challenge that National Three outfit Old Pats will pose at Prince of Wales (7pm).

Saracens secured promotion from Gloucester One this season, although narrowly missed out on the title at the hands of Bream after a 45-38 defeat to Longlevens in the final game of the season.

The King George V men narrowly defeated Tewkesbury 22-20 in the combination semi-final and are fully committed to fighting Pats for the Cup.

Pitman said: “It is a nice challenge, playing a club from a higher division but we know it will be a tough test.

“You never know what will happen and we don’t have too much to lose. It is not every day you play in a cup final and we are going to give it our all.

“There will be several Under-18 players in the squad as we are looking to bring them through to senior rugby for next season.

“We’ve just got to go out and do what we do, and hope that is good enough. We are fully committed and the boys will do all that is asked of them.

“We are aiming to improve and develop as a club and playing against sides like this is the best way to do it.”

Pats defeated Cheltenham North 51-19 in the semi-final to earn a spot in the cup final and have done extra training this week in preparation, indicating just how much this final means to the Everest Road men.

Pats first XV secured safety in National Three last weekend with a 29-15 win over Amersham and Chiltern and now coach Craig Jones wants to seal the season with silverware.

He said: “The boys are really looking forward to the game and now they want to be crowned the best team in Cheltenham.

“Due to the nature of our season and the number of injuries we had, all of these boys have had first team experience.

“I am confident these boys will want it as much as Saracens do. They are a lovely club and they have had a very successful season.

“I am sure they will compete against us to see where they stand.”

CHELTENHAM SARACENS: S Rimmer, W Smallman, D Richardson, J Lawrenceson, M Williams, B Harris, M Kelly, D Burnham, S Rowe, C Windley, W Dove, K Williams, T Patience, S Meheran, J McMahon (c). M Francis, K White, C Wilkinson, A Cresswell.

OLD PATESIANS: J Enderby, E Gardner, M Mcarney, R White, H Gunther, P Bennett, G Angell (c), K Blankley, H Howes, J Spry, B Vincent, M Mudway, C Duffin, J Fatuey, L Hathaway, W Tyler, A Ballinger, D Burrows, B Tupper, J Ballinger

Cheltenham Saracens book place in Senior Cup final

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.

Cheltenham Saracens setting the pace in Gloucester One

Cheltenham Saracens 92

Kingswood 0

SARACENS moved seven points clear at the top of Gloucester One after title rivals Bream lost 25-7 to third-placed Widden Old Boys.

A win at Longlevens in the final game of the season next week will see Sarries win their second league title in four years and gain promotion to the Gloucester Premier Division, making Saracens history.

A pre-match chat from Gloucester’s Rupert Harden meant Saracens were eager and ready to get underway.

It clearly had an effect, as Saracens ended the half 29-0 up.

Tries came from Sam Rimmer, Brad Harris, Jonah Manu, Dom Richardson, Wayne Smallman and Matt Williams.

Many were unconverted due to a swirling wind and some unusual miss-kicks by Harris.

Kingswood could only manage a missed penalty at goal.

However, the ever-resilient Bristol side stuck at it forcing silly mistakes from Saracens.

The second half kicked off after some key pointers from Sarries’ coaches mentioning how important points difference could be, which spurred Sarries on to gain more tries.

Similar names from the first half emerged, with Harris controlling the game with perfectly placed passes to Manu who hit massive gaps on the gain line allowing the ball to ship wide time after time.

The game ended 92-0, possibly the highest scoring game this season.

Try scorers were Matt Kelly, who also kicked a conversion, Harris grabbed four tries and five conversions, Manu got four tries, Richardson had one, Smallman scored three, Williams got one and Rimmer three for a total of 16 tries and six conversions.

Massive credit must go to Kingswood, who could easily have cried off due to many first-team players being unavailable.

Special mention must also go to Harris for orchestrating a perfectly-executed game.

1st XV v Gloucester OBs 8 Mar 2014

Both teams went into Saturdays game knowing a win was vital. Described as the toughest game of the season by the coaching staff, it proved to be nothing less.

A show-and-go by flyhalf Brad Harris opened a hole in the away defence but a knock on from the pass saw Old Boys get the scrum. A huge drive from the Sarries didn’t win the ball but did get the turn over. James McMahon made a strong run but the home side couldn’t produce anything with the pressure.

Saracens won a penalty as Old Boys player deliberately knocked on as Kyle Thomas looked to pass from a ruck. Harris stepped up and kept his cool to chalk up three points.

Old Boys were awarded a penalty at the breakdown outside the 22m line, and converted with a less than convincing kick.

Harris over-hit the restart into the deadball area but a huge scrum from the home team stole the ball against the head.

For the rest of the half the match remained neck and neck, with both teams attacking well and defending strongly.

Old Boys managed to pick up a sin bin in the final stages as the referee appeared to be tired of penalties at the breakdown.
Sarries went for the penalty lineout but the maul was held up, and brought an end to the first half.

Half time 3-3.

Early in the second half Gloucester Old Boys marked up the first try of the game. With the forwards utilising the pick-and-go, a cross-field kick to the winger landed just in the right place for an easy catch and diving try. It was converted, giving the away team a 3-10 lead.

Sarries started well, putting pressure on the away team from the restart. It wasn’t long before they were awarded a penalty for their efforts, with Harris closing the gap from the tee. 6-10.

Sam Rimmer was next to put points on the board after a strong run down the right, a pass near the Old Boys’ try line was knocked backwards. Will Dove recovered possession and made a go for the line but was tackled just short. Replacement scrumhalf Matt Kelly found Rimmer from the ruck and the fullback dived for a try in the right corner, finishing the move he started.
The angle proved too much for Harris with his kick sailing wide.

From another ruck penalty, Saracens put the ball into touch. From the lineout maul, Dan Burnham tried to ram his away across the line but couldn’t break through. The follow up from James McMahon, however, was successful, just left of the posts. Harris added two with an easy kick. 18-10

From the restart, play again broke down, with both teams attacking and defending well, a theme that had run throughout the game. Saracens won a penalty, and kicked for posts but were unable to convert it.

Following this Old Boys started a fight back. From a penalty kick, 21metres out, they made it 18-13.

A little chip over the top by Old Boys was enough to break the home defence. Saracens switched off as an Old Boys player was able to sneak in and pounce on the loose ball. Luckily for Saracens, the conversion was missed.

The rest of the match saw Saracens pile on the pressure, and winning a penalty at the ruck. Again the referee went to his pocket and sent an Old Boys player to the bin.

Harris’ penalty sailed just wide, amid disrespectful shouting from a couple of Gloucester Old Boys supporters. The referee took no action at all, and continued the game.

As the clock struck 80 minutes, Old Boys were able to turn over a ruck, and kick it into touch, bringing an end to a nail-biting finale.

Full Time: Saracens 18, Gloucester Old Boys 18.

1st XV v Chipping Sodbury 1 Mar 2014

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