Premiership: Saracens coach defends Mako Vunipola saying he ‘is not a dirty player’

David Skippers
Mako Vunipola red card Saracens v Newcastle Falcons Premiership 2022-PA.jpg

Saracens head coach Joe Shaw has jumped to Mako Vunipola’s defence after the England prop received the first red card of his career in Sunday’s victory over Newcastle at Kingston Park.

Vunipola received his marching orders in the 54th minute for a dangerous clear-out on Tom Penny but, despite playing with 14 men for most of the second half, Sarries outscored their hosts by five tries to two en route to a 34-14 triumph.

Facing suspension

And Vunipola could be suspended for his indiscretion – which saw him being red carded for the first time in his career – although Shaw was quick to defend the 31-year-old.

“The first thing about Mako is that he is not a dirty player,” said Shaw.

“That’s his first red card which, considering the amount of games he’s played, says something. It was reckless but we’ll see what happens in the coming days.”

Saracens dominated proceedings from the outset and raced into a 26-0 half-time lead.

They secured their bonus-point after 32 minutes when Max Malins scored their fourth try after Alex Lewington, Kapeli Pifeleti and Alex Lozowski also crossed the whitewash earlier on.

“We had the conditions with us in that first half and that gave us a strong position,” said Shaw.

“I’m pleased with how we were able to manage the game today and how we went about our business on both sides of the ball.

“It’s never easy to come here and to go 14 points up inside the first 10 minutes certainly made things a bit easier for us against a well-coached side and players with a lot of grit.

“It’s easy to look at our attack today, but I thought our defence especially in that first 40 minutes was terrific. It was the most impressive part of the game.”

Sarries continued to dominate after the interval and Malins crossed for his second try shortly after Vunipola’s exit.

The visitors’ Samoan flanker Theo McFarland impressed in the loose again after he shone in last weekend’s thrashing of champions Leicester.

With a one-man advantage, Newcastle were rewarded with tries from Jamie Blamire and Mateo Carreras, but the Falcons were unable to build on their first Premiership victory of the season last time out against Bristol.

“Saracens are a really well-drilled team with a lot of superstars, but I’m disappointed at how easy we’ve made it for them today,” Newcastle head coach Dave Walder said.

“When you give them a 14-point head start after only six or seven minutes then you know it will be a long afternoon.

Their own worst enemies

“We can’t look anywhere else other than to ourselves for what went wrong. We were too sluggish and gave them too much time on their feet. It’s these things that we will look at through the week.

“They showed why they are the top team in the land because they are ruthless and just so clinical. It’s a different style of rugby to what I’ve seen over the years. They’ve been able to move the ball a bit more and freshen things up.

“It shows the quality of the side when you are able to have someone like Alex Goode on the bench with all of his Premiership appearances and European Cups. He’s being kept out of the team by a few England internationals.”

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