Saracens off the mark in Premiership as Tom Willis double floors Gloucester

Planet Rugby
Saracens number eight Tom Willis scoring against Gloucester.

Saracens number eight Tom Willis scoring against Gloucester.

Saracens bounced back from two opening defeats to get off the mark in the Premiership thanks to a 24-3 victory against Gloucester at Kingsholm on Friday.

New signing Tom Willis crossed twice while Alex Lewington got the visitors’ other try on the night, with Alex Lozowski knocking over nine points off the tee.

Gloucester‘s only points of the game came via a George Barton penalty as their strong start to the campaign was brought to a halt by a solid Saracens showing.

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Saracens conceded two scrum infringements in quick succession, which allowed Barton to kick his side into a sixth-minute lead.

Despite the near-perfect playing conditions, the opening 15 minutes were disjointed as both sides were guilty of needless handling errors.

However, Gloucester had much the better of that period in terms of possession and territory, aided by their opponents incurring the wrath of the referee at almost every scrum.

From another malfunctioning set-piece, Saracens conceded possession and the hosts looked to have capitalised when Zach Mercer forced his way over, but TMO replays showed the number eight had knocked on before touching down.

As a result, Barton’s penalty was the only score of an error-ridden first quarter.

It took Saracens 24 minutes to enter their opponents’ 22 but, when they did, they took their first scoring opportunity when Willis finished off a lineout drive. Lozowski converted and somehow his side held a four-point lead.

Two minutes later Saracens stunned their hosts by scoring a second. More careless handling from Gloucester saw the ball run loose for Lewington to twice kick the ball forward and then take advantage of a favourable bounce to score.

Gloucester’s woes continued when their talisman Mercer was forced off with an injury to be replaced by Jack Clement, but they soon received a boost when Saracens captain Mako Vunipola was booked for a head-high challenge on George McGuigan.

McGuigan left the field for a failed head-injury assessment but despite relentless pressure, Gloucester could not benefit from Vunipola’s absence and remarkably trailed 14-3 at the interval.

At half-time Saracens changed their tighthead, with Alec Clarey replacing Christian Judge before, five minutes after the restart, Vunipola returned from the sin bin without any damage done to the scoreboard.

Lozowski missed with a long-distance penalty before Gloucester gifted possession in their own 22 for Willis to brush aside two tacklers and score.

Gloucester were in trouble and made four changes in an attempt to reverse their fortunes, with Josh Hathaway coming on for his Premiership debut.

The young wing looked lively with a couple of promising runs but Saracens sealed victory when Lozowski made no mistake with a 45-metre penalty.

With six minutes remaining, Saracens replacement Ivan van Zyl was yellow-carded for a deliberate offside but it made no difference as Gloucester lacked the attacking nous to make it count.

The teams

Gloucester: 15 Jake Morris, 14 Alex Hearle, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 George Barton, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Albert Tuisue, 5 Freddie Thomas, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Kirill Gotovtsev, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Jamal Ford-Robinson
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Cam Jordan, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Charlie Chapman, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Josh Hathaway

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Andy Christie, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Callum Hunter-Hill, 3 Christian Judge, 2 James Hadfield, 1 Mako Vunipola (c)
Replacements: 16 Sam Crean, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Ollie Stonham, 20 Toby Knight, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Olly Hartley, 23 Tom Parton

Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant Referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys, Neil Chivers
TMO: Andrew Jackson

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