If I had to define what makes Saracens so good as a team it would be two words “Work Rate”.
Saracens love a challenge. Which is why when you see the returning raft of internationals for the visit to Bath you know their current Premiership position is something they are out to fix.
But regardless of the issues behind Saracens Squad depth, buying players is only part of it. How you put team together is important. 15 guys on the pitch who don’t actually care, don’t want to win and don’t want to play for each other isn’t going anywhere.
Inspiration is important and whatever their faults Saracens inspire their players to give everything for them.
As expected bringing so many players in had an impact and 32 minutes into the game Bath deservedly lead 9 – 6. Saracens were, in the game but weren’t dominant, weren’t controlling the game way we’re accustomed to. Then in the space of 30 seconds they flipped everything on it’s head putting Maitland in the left corner.
With this momentum changed and Bath suddenly were on the back foot, chasing a game they by all rights could have been in a position to win.
THE ANATOMY OF A TRY
Bath clear their lines from deep in their own 22, Priestland booming the ball to halfway.
Let’s briefly talk about this kick from Priestland.
Considering what comes next it’s easy to say good game management would have been to kick to touch. But it’s not always that simple.
Bath really have three exit plays here, the box kick from Chudley the long touch finder from Priestland and a third we’ll come back to shortly.
But lets keep in mind:
- Bath had just taken the lead and are receiving the ball in their own 22
- Saracens have kicked deep because they want one of two things:
- Bath to make a mistake in their own 22 and be under the ind of pressure they can exploit
- To kick to touch and give them a launch pad in their half.
- For Chudley to box kick and allow them to counter attack
Finally: Bath carried the ball out and then back into their 22 (McConnochie carries the ball out):
- There is a ruck inside their own 22, as I understand the laws they can now kick directly to touch
- Perhaps Priestland doesn’t realise/or is unsure and goes for Distance
If you’re going to give possession up against a team like Saracens, you want to do so in a manner that causes a reset as far up the field as possible, which is likely why Bath go for the kick from Priestland over Chudley.
Which, in my opinion, leads us to another issue here. With Priestland kicking and not Chudley this entire group of players are starting from an offside position, which is evident in their chase line not being quite as aggressive as it might have been from a 9’s box kick.
Yes, they are put on side, but they can’t chase chase until they are. So have no momentum and arrive late.
Let’s come back to that third option mentioned earlier.
Perhaps what would have been better here is for Bath to work another phase across the face of the defence and for Priestland to kick to this close touchline?
It’s likely it would have been a more natural kick for the right footed Priestland and the Saracens back three would have had to move across the field potentially exposing opportunities to exploit with a kick.
Regardless, The kick drops to an eager Daly who makes an easy 10m to bring it back and reconnect with his team. From here Saracens start the process of breaking down the Bath defence.
SARACENS WORK RATE
There is one magic ingredient in this try and that is how hard Saracens players work to create the opportunity and to illustrate we’re going to track a couple of players throughout the move.
First Billy Vunipola carries short off 9. It doesn’t break the gain line but importantly it does soaks up some defenders which is what Saracens attack is really all about eating up the oppositions resources until they can go forward.
Off the next phase Farrell, seeing Bath shooting, steps inside and offloads to Mako Vunipola on a great support line. Baths defensive line is broken and it’s nice quick ball meaning everything from here is now on the front foot.
We see the familiar Saracens attack formation take shape, with a primary carrier (Barritt), a short carry (Skelton) and a pull back option Taylor.
Barritt and Skelton do enough to interest the Bath defence and the ball is played out the back to Taylor who brings it to the line interesting defenders before playing the inside ball.
Wait, wait, wait….. Let’s roll back to the first ruck.
Eddie Jones has talked consistently about wanting players that have the ability to get back in the game as quickly as possible and here is a perfect example of it.
Taylor was in the first ruck (supporting Daly when he carried back) 14 seconds later he’s the pull back option off the next phase some 20m’s away and Daly is the next runner outside him.
As he collects the ball Taylors inside option is Farrell, who 3 seconds ago was on the ground and is now up and ready to offer himself as that option.
As it pans out Taylor plays inside but if we look left Saracens have already created a 3 vs 1 overlap that may have been the better option.
However it creates another half break. This is enough for Saracens to keep up the momentum.
As Saracens rewind against the grain we see Taylor (tracked by Daly) get his third involvement. After being on the deck he’s back on his feet and gets to the other side of the pitch to act as a link 10 seconds after getting flattened just after his pass to Farrell.
Saracens again perhaps miss an opportunity as Lamositele takes it into contact but who secures this ruck? Elliot Daly.
Followed by a pick and go by Taylor, again cleared by Elliot Daly.
Saracens recycle and come back left it takes three phases to soak up the defenders and generate quick enough ball for Farrell to get his third touch, Daly his second and Maitland his first to get in the corner.
A defences primary asset is numbers, they don’t need to put bodies into the ruck they just need to get back in the line. If they get it right they should be able to consistently outnumber attackers.
But when those attackers are back up and in the game as quick or quicker than the tacklers then where is the advantage? How do you stop a team that can continue to play whilst the defender has to retreat to get involved again.
It’s simple Rugby from Saracens, they work hard, run onto the ball and attack between the Defenders but it’s the work rate that is special here.
We see multiple involvements from Mako Vunipola (acting as link and carrier) and Itoje securing a ruck and then the carrier at the ruck following and Skelton and many others hit the rucks they need to making a difference but it’s the sheer distance covered by Daly and Taylor’s work rate that is most visible here.
There are issues with Saracens and we have to acknowledge that but regardless of their off field problems if we look objectively purely at the teams performance on the day I think it is this that shows how hard Saracens work for each other. Their players understand that if they constantly get up and back in the game and have positive involvements they will create opportunities.
Author: The Dead Ball Area