Tigers slim hopes of a home play-off semi-final were extinguished in Barnet after one of the most woeful attacking performances ever seen from Tigers. Tigers constipated attack could only muster 6 points, all generated from penalties inside the first 20 minutes. Saracens only 6 days after their heroics in Paris managed three tries in a ten minute spell either side of half time to secure a 22-6 victory.
Tigers played the first half with the wind and built their 6 point cushion courtesy of two Saracens penalties; the first for a mid-field offside following Chris Ashton’s muffed catch, the second after a Tigers lineout steal. Tigers ambition to pay with the ball was negligible and kicking game executed poorly with no real attempt to chase the kicks. If these tactics are to be employed you have to question the absence of Blaine Scully.
But with a tough defence and the wind at their backs giving good field position Tigers maintained their lead right to the stroke of half time, courtesy of two terrible misses from Bosch and then Alex Goode from easy kicks.
The tide was turning with Tigers failing to clear properly from Goode’s missed kick and Saracens countering deep into our 22. Matt Smith was on hand to intercept a potential scoring pass but suddenly the whistle was blown and Tom Youngs yellow carded. On the replay we see Ashton with an extravagant dive after a Youngs stuck an arm out to slow down his chase. A very soft penalty and yellow card.
Tigers scrum, which had been so solid, suddenly was forced into reverse gear with a series of penalties conceded. Eventually Billy Vunipola picked from the base and forced himself over the line.
Straight from the second half kick off Tigers were flustered. Parling and Tait combining to fail to catch the simple kick off under minimal pressure. With Saracens tail now up they returned the box kick and attacked quickly down the left. With Alex Goode looking to have interfered with play just as much as Youngs Saracens scored down the left.
Saracens made much more of the wind at their backs, attacking with pace and dynamic rucking winning quick ball. Gaining good ground attacking wide they found themselves with a 5m attacking scrum. With Vunipola held up then stopped short they spun the ball wide to easily find a gap in
Tigers porous defence, American winger Chris Wyles going in for the score.
With 30 minutes still to go and 2 tries down Tigers were still in with a shot of turning the game around but they were bereft of ideas. We had two weeks build up to this game and yet we seemed to have no idea of what we were doing or how we were going to break down the opposition.
We flung the ball ever wider and backwards with Burns the chief culprit in failing to draw any defenders. He was by no means alone, though any Tiger who ran at the Londoners certainly was. It is a difficult thing to say but our forwards are either too lazy or too thick. They don’t get to the rucks in sufficient numbers or early enough. Therefore we rarely get quick ball, and should we fluke it are so bewildered by it we have to slow it down again.
Either the forwards cannot read the game to anticipate where they are needed or they are not fit enough to get there. Equally the backs need to be better at generating ball when they have to enter the rucks.
In a shambolic display there was only one chance carved from a good 20 minutes of possession; creating a three on one on the right wing following powerful bursts by Pearce and other forwards Burns decided to go straight to Goneva on the wing, instead of going through the other players hands. This allowed the defence to get to Goneva to make the covering tackle, instead of the Fijian having a simple walk in. Goneva should possibly have finished it anyway but threw the pass to no one instead.
I don’t know if Aaron Mauger and his new arrivals will be the solution to our woes but I am now sure the current coaching staff and players are simply not up to it. To have two weeks to prepare for the game and produce that is simply unacceptable. To have one game where we are not at the races is one of those things but this is just the latest in a string of disastrous games Bath, Gloucester, Llanelli, Harlequins and Ulster away were all similar. If the current coaches have the solution then why aren’t they implementing it?
With two weeks to lick our wounds I sincerely hope they spend it a little bit more productively than the last fortnight. We have not scored 50 points since 2011’s home game against Treviso, I expect that to change against the hapless London Welsh.