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Saracens Suffer Consecutive Premiership Losses For First Time Since 2015
- Updated: February 17, 2017
The rugby calendar for top-tier domestic competition teams is a wide encompassing series of border crossings and cross-league play. Within the northern hemisphere, there hasn’t been a more successful domestic team the last five years than the Saracens of the English Premiership. The double-whammy winners a year ago (European Championship & Aviva Premiership), the Saracens have been as dominating of a team as one can be. Losses have become a rarity for the Sarries, and extended poor play even more seldom seen. However, following a 31-23 defeat at the hands of Gloucester Friday evening, the English club has suffered consecutive Premiership losses for the first time since May 2015.
Gloucester was also the first team to score three tries against the Saracens in Premiership play this season, highlighting a steep dropoff in play from the champions in recent weeks. Even having shown great form in the comforts of Kingsholm, the Saracens had entered the game having won 11 of the last 13 matches with Gloucester.
Losses are to be expected, but dropping two games to bottom of the table teams is unlike the northern giant, regardless of how improved Gloucester have looked in the last month.
Injuries and commitments to international competition no doubt playing major factors for the Saracens. Six Nations responsibilities and absences is hardly a problem unique to the London-based club, though. That said, a number of Saracens have been taking part in Six Nations activities, highlighted by vice-captain Owen Farrell. Mario Itoje and Jamie George have also represented England, while Sean Maitland has been with Scotland.
It’s been a long line of injuries for the Saracens as well. After being released for international honors, George Kruis suffered a knee injury that will sideline him until at least April. Duncan Taylor began the year with an injury, and has yet to return to make an impact. Despite tasking Scotland duties, Maitland played Friday, but would leave after taking a hit to the ribs, adding further concerns to a crumbling Scotland roster. Even the return of Mako Vunipola after a two-month absence couldn’t save the team from the skid. Billy Vunipola continues to be on the mend, but may make a return in the coming two weeks. England will look to rework both Vunipola brothers into their Six Nations squads where available. Vunipola played 71 minutes Friday, and Eddie Jones was in attendance with a first-hand view of his progress.
Gloucester had the lite Saracens running without a plan, forcing them into their own territory by kick with regularity. Once pinned back, the Saracens were rampant with uncharacteristic mistakes, including a botched line clearing pass that Gloucester’s Jeremy Thrush immediately cashed in on.
Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall admitting the final stanza to this season has begun less than flawlessly in an interview with BT Sport, “It was a very different defeat to last week’s performance and I don’t think that you can’t fault the effort. I just don’t think that we were as smart as we needed to be especially at the start of the second half.”
Gloucester certainly put forth their most impressive outing of the year, but mistakes and a limited roster all played heavy factors for the Saracens.
The loss pits the Sarries to face an uphill battle in the final seven rounds of the season. The Wasps now hold a distinct five-point advantage with a game in hand, they’ll play 10th place Sale Saturday. The Saracens will play Sale next Saturday at Allianz Park.
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