With just under half an hour from the end of the second leg of the championship final, and with a cumulative lead of over 80 points, Saracens rugby director Mark McCall saw fit to win his five British and Irish Lions. If this was good news for Warren Gatland, it was anything but Ealing Trailfinders.
The Saracens added four more tries without their star names on the pitch to validate their return to the Premiership with another beating.
In that sense, it was always going to be a formality. With a 60-point lead after the first leg, the Saracens had already secured a promotion, but pity isn’t a word they sound familiar with – perhaps because they feel they haven’t been shown over the past 20 months – although the whistle has at least allowed disgraced triple European champions to celebrate.
Their Lions were due to travel to Jersey on Monday morning and while the Saracens have always had a remarkably low chance of returning to the Premiership on first demand, McCall and his colleagues obviously needed the cathartic release that accompanied the trophy celebrations on Sunday. .
“We were in crisis mode around November 2019 and anything could have happened at the club,” McCall said. “But unity and unity got us through. It has lasted 18-20 months and we are looking forward to this day.
Going through moves was always unlikely, so, even before McCall decided to pick the same XV, with 12 internationals, who had won 60-0 seven days earlier. For many reasons, it was an understandable decision – this is the Saracens’ last game of the season, one of the few occasions that fans have been able to attend. And sometimes, if there’s the temptation to tinker too much, it’s best not to tinker at all.
Perhaps it was a last two-fingered salute to those who believe they should remain in Purgatory. Former aide Alex Sanderson summed it up nicely last week when he said: “People might think it’s easy to close ranks and have a siege mentality when the world hates you, but this it’s not the case. I think everyone should get behind them. They have had their day.
Another relentless performance with all the power of the Saracens would certainly have sent a message to the teams that they should be scrambling to top the Premiership table next season as well. The irony was that after failing to score for 80 minutes last weekend, Ealing took the lead after 32 seconds here – allowed a penalty try when Jackson Wray was on trial for hitting the ball near its own test line.
He received a yellow card for his problems and Ealing, considerably calmer than last week, was tied at 10-10 at interval. Elliot Daly got the Saracens’ second try just over a minute into the second half and the Saracens quickly shifted into high gear to go on to claim a 57-15 victory on the day.
“It’s been a weird old year,” said captain Owen Farrell. “We enjoyed coming back and seeing each other again after a short time at the start. There are many things to take away from this experience. Some of the younger ones will benefit. And some of the more experienced guys will grow up from what happened and get better, too.
Mandatory rest periods mean that when the Saracens start next season in the top flight they will be without their five Lions for much of the start of the campaign, but McCall will have rookies Max Malins, Ben Earl and Alex Lozowski at call. , as well as a refreshed Billy Vunipola. He rested from England’s summer plans and having missed the Lions tour, he’s taking his summer.
Manu Tuilagi, however, was called up as one of seven players added to Eddie Jones’ squad among the losing Premiership semi-finalists. His club teammates Ben Curry, Bevan Rodd and Curtis Langdon were also called up, as were Malins, Earl and Will Capon of Bristol. Northampton’s Ollie Sleightholme and George Furbank were also included in a 36-man squad.