Saracens start healing process in Bermuda
Bermuda Barbarians 14
You don't become one of the best sides in Europe by taking it easy, even when the opportunity presents itself.
Still smarting from a painful end to their domestic season, Saracens successfully defended their Atlantic Cup title against Bermuda Barbarians on Saturday night, and maybe exorcised a few demons in the process.
Describing it as “unbelievably good” to get out of the bubble surrounding the side in the UK, Alex Sanderson, the Saracens coach, hoped the trip has allowed the players to return home focused on next season.
Saracens lost against Toulon 23-6 in the Heineken Cup final before suffering a 20-24 loss to Northampton in the Aviva Premiership Final to finish their season empty-handed.
“I've been speaking to Kevin Sorrell [the Saracens backs coach] who's back at home still, and it's still pretty bleak, he's still very much down,” Sanderson said. “Because you're still in that environment. But you come here, and the weather's different, and you're amongst other people who have actually been through it with you, and you talk it out, and suddenly the world's not such a bad place.”
The whole week has largely been about healing for players and coaches alike, ‘cathartic' Sanderson called it. That is not to say that Saracens where intent on doing anything other than winning.
Prior to the game there had been talk about uncontested scrums, gentleman's agreements, and the exhibition nature of the affair, sentiments that were met with short thrift from the Saracens side.
James Short scored a hat-trick of tries, Josh Sharp and Jack Wilson also scored two apiece, while Rhys Gill, the prop, also got in on the fun, and the manner in which the Aviva Premiership side went about their task only emphasised their mindset.
They kicked for territory when required, hit their lines hard, and defended resolutely, apart from a five-minute spell in the second half when they switched off, and the Barbarians scored twice, through Guerhardt Lamprecht, the Bermuda wing, and Dean Schofield, the Worcester Warriors lock.
Saracens' only nod to the off-season nature of the encounter was their refusal to kick penalties.
“It's always important for us to go out there and do what we've done today,” Sanderson said. “But I think, more importantly after the two weeks we've had, to get that out of our system. And we'll go home, and we'll start training again, and we'll start getting back in to it because we've vexed a few demons, I guess.
“It's a spectacle, but even so. There had been some talk in the week about it being an exhibition game, and gentleman's agreements, and I just said to the lads, ‘if that's them, and that's what they want to do, then that's fair enough. If you want to play that way, then go and play for them, but we are still representing' and as you can see from the game, they [the players] put it in again.”
The trip to Bermuda is not just about giving the players an opportunity to let off steam, the partnership between Sarances and the Beyond Rugby Programme, is designed to give Bermuda's young players an insight in to what it takes to be a strong team.
And for Saracens that team culture is as essential to their success as the work they put in on the training ground.
“We feel like we're doing some good in the area, hopefully channelling some of the athletes they've got in Bermuda, these young kids, in a positive way, through rugby,” Sanderson said. “I guess it [the tour] works on two levels. We benefit from spending time together, which we like to do, and hopefully some of the kids in Bermuda will benefit as well.
“Socialising for us, team building, is a big part of our culture. You're not only developing a better athlete, you're also strengthening those bonds of friendship, and you make it a tight group. And in the tough games, in the big games, that counts for a lot more than that extra half a yard of pace.”
Scorers: Bermuda Barbarians: Tries: Lamprecht (68min), Schofield (71). Conversions: Curle 2 (69, 72). Saracens: Tries: Short 3 (13, 35, 44), Sharp 2 (21, 77), Wilson 2 (33, 60), Gill (75). Conversions: Spencer 4 (14, 21, 76, 77).
Scoring sequence (Bermuda Barbarians first): 0-7, 0-14, 0-19, 0-24 (half-time), 0-29, 0-34, 7-34, 14-34, 14-41, 14-48.
Bermuda Barbarians: W Harries; R Haughton, D Bishop, G Maule, T Biggs; H McAleese, R Rees; E Lewis-Roberts, M Jones, P Doran Jones, I Gough, D Schofield, N Williams, R van der Westhuizen, N Easter. Replacements: B Broster, A Landy, C Boyce, G Lamprecht, J Cedenio.
Saracens: B Ransom; M Tagicakibau, T Streather, J Wilson, J Short; J Sharp, B Spencer; R Barrington, J George, P du Plessis, E Sherrif, M Botha, W Fraser, N Fenton Wells, J Wray. Replacements: R Gill, M Everard, I Vass, A van Zyl, D Strettle, G Kruis.
Referee: T Wigglesworth (Hull)