Planet Rugby

Sarries win in Hill's farewell

10th May 2008 17:03

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Richard Hil waves good bye

Richard Hill: End of an era.

Saracens gave Richard Hill the perfect send-off with a late 25-20 win over Bristol at Stadium MK on Saturday.

Picking Milton Keynes as a place for the final celebration of a rugby legend is akin to choosing to spend a honeymoon in Walsall.

However, as the Richard Hill roadshow finally came to a halt at StadiumMK, Saracens started as if they were intent on convincing the old man to stay on for another season.

After only two minutes Bristol were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle and debutante Alex Goode, who was five when Hill first trudged through the dog mess at Bramley Lane, slotted three points.

Nathan Budgett will certainly remember Hill's last game- as the England flank smashed the Welshman back in the tackle after 10 minutes forcing a crucial turnover inside Sarries half.

From the ensuing scrum, Sarries unleashed a sweeping back move, straightened by the evergreen Chesney, allowing Haughton on the wide outside to sell a sublime dummy cutting back in field and scoring under the posts, converted by Goode.

Ed Barnes clawed three points back with a penalty after 14 minutes when Gustard, also in his last game of professional rugby, was penalised for not rolling away.

From the restart Dan Ward Smith knocked forward, and Visagie crucified Hayden, the Bristol loosehead turning the scrum in and allowing de Kock to break the unguarded openside. Two dynamic rucks later, with Hill featuring in the unusual role of scrum-half, the move resulted in a four-man overlap and Noah Cato scored the easiest of tries in the right hand corner.

One wondered, during the two scheduled water breaks, if the great man, in a Denis Compton-esque moment, slipped a couple of dashes of gin into the Saracen isotonic drinks as poor handling in the backline became almost viral in the second quarter.

A forced turnover for the visitors after 25 minutes saw Bristol score after Lemi broke down the right flank and turned Cato inside out to slip inside to Luke Eves who scampered over unchallenged. Barnes converted to slide Bristol up to 15-10.

Saracens' woes continued in the second half. In the 45th minute, from a line out on the 22m, Eves' power again was evident as he barged his way through a feeble tackle by Alex Goode to score under the posts.

As temperatures soared into the 80's the game became unstructured and error-ridden as both sides became unsettled by substitutions and energy sapping heat. However, two telling breaks by Sarries' find of the season Kameli Ratuvou eventually found Bristol offside under their posts and Goode gratefully converted.

With Saracens sustaining pressure on the Bristol 22m after breaks by Johnston and Powell, only their own errors prevented Sarries from executing the killer blow.

With the players tiring further mistakes came thick and fast, in the penultimate minute Saracens took a scrum against the head and Powell accelerated into midfield to slip a delicious miss pass out to Man of the Match Kamila Ratuvou who swept in at the corner. Goode added the conversion to leave Saracens 25-20 winners.

During an on pitch presentation, Saracens' owner Nigel Wray paid a fitting tribute to the man known as the Silent Assassin.

"If there is a God, then we know he loves Richard Hill" said Wray.

"Hilly was here 13 years ago when I took over, he's here today and he'll always be with us."

The last words, fittingly came from an emotional Hill as the curtain finally fell.

"I just knew I was going to blub again" chuckled the flanker.

"The boys have called be tampon for the last two season- one week in, three weeks out. I can't have that."

"There are many I need to thank. Unfortunately most of them are surgeons and members of medical teams, but that is the last game, that is it!"

And with those words, one of the true legends of the game turned on his heel and finally limped off the pitch and into the sunset for the very last time.

A low key but perhaps apt end to a glittering career for a man who shunned the limelight, a hero that was heroically reluctant to talk about himself and a player that always got his priorities exactly right. Probably exactly the way Hilly would have wanted it- a quiet day with his friends, his family and the fans he loves most.

The scorers:

For Saracens:

Tries: Haughton, Kato, Ratuvou

Con: Goode

Pen: Goode 2

For Bristol:

Tries: Eves 2

Con: Barnes, Barden

Pen: Barnes 2

Saracens: 15 Richard Haughton, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Kevin Sorrell, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Kameli Ratuvou, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Neil de Kock (c), 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Richard Hill, 6 Paul Gustard, 5 Kris Chesney, 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Cobus Visagie, 2 Matt Cairns, 1 Nick Lloyd.

Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Cencus Johnston, 18 Iain Fullarton, 19 Don Barrell, 20 Alan Dickens, 21 Gordon Ross, 22 Rodd Penney.

Bristol: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Anthony Elliott, 13 Neil Brew, 12 Luke Eves, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ed Barnes, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Dan Ward-Smith (c), 7 Redford Pennycook, 6 Iain Grieve, 5 Nathan Budgett, 4 Mariano Sambucetti, 3 Peter Bracken, 2 Scott Linklater, 1 Ray Hogan.

Replacements: 16 Ryan Prosser, 17 Darren Crompton, 18 Sean Hohneck, 19 Alfie To'oala, 20 Graeme Beveridge, 21 Greg Barden, 22 Rob Higgitt.

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth

Touch judges: David Kurk, David Watson

Assessor: Paul Bridgman

Television match official: Bob Ockenden

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