Sarries kicked off their 2017-18 league campaign with a home fixture against neighbours Bradford on Avon. Played on a sunny late summer afternoon, both sides looked forward to a contest in near perfect conditions.
Right from the start the visitor’s considerably larger pack put the home side under pressure in the set plays, however the defence stood firm. The visitors defence was equally hard to break down and the scoreboard remained at nil during the early exchanges. Finally Bradford’s pressure paid off when they crossed the host’s line to claim the first points of the game. Sarries immediately looked to level the score, but after a period camped deep in their opponents half, a couple of good chances went begging. Bradford fought back and when presented with a couple of good opportunities their backs were clinical, increasing their lead with two further tries before half time.
The second half continued in a similar fashion and for a while the defences held the upper hand, preventing any further score. Bradford finally broke through for their fourth try before captain Alex Reilly crossed for the hosts opening score. Sarries were awarded a penalty after a series of rucks on the visitor’s line. From the restart the ball was quickly moved wide to Reilly who out-muscled a couple of ‘would be’ tacklers to touch down. Unfortunately the fight back was short lived as any chance of grasping a losing bonus point was extinguished when the visitors caught Sarries napping and crossed for the final try of the game.
While defeat in the opening league game was disappointing after all the hard work put in during the summer, it was important to reflect on the positives.
· Twenty players available for the first game, despite several injuries (from training) and unavailability’s.
· A full front row with replacements.
· Ten debutants
· Good fitness levels reflecting the hard work put in at Thursday night training
· Great attitude and commitment shown by all right up to and after the final whistle.
This was a difficult fixture to open with, against a well drilled and experienced side that will surely amongst the teams competing for promotion next April. However, our new coach Dean Taylor has done a great job preparing us for the season ahead, and with the same attitude, commitment and attendance at weekends and at Thursday night training, we too will surely be amongst the promotion contenders.
And finally best wishes to Danny Hawkins and Pete Astley. Both guys picked up nasty injuries during Saturday’s game. The club wishes them well for a speedy recovery and return.