Yesterday at Twickenham Stadium Saracens defeated Bath 28-16 to win rugby’s Premiership. It was not the result that romantics like me were hoping for but – fair play to the victors – they ran out to a 25-3 lead by half time and dug deep to retain control after Bath’s second half efforts that swung the momentum briefly the other way.
The dominant figure on the pitch was Owen Farrell. He is a big match animal by temperament, scored 18 points including a try and did little wrong – well, bar making two high-ish tackles, one in each half, the first of which removed Anthony Watson, one of Bath’s biggest threats, permanently from the fray.
The sadness, of course, was that Sarries play an essentially defensive game. They pride themselves on their ‘wolf pack’ mentality and their tactic of hoofing the ball up in the air – just the right distance so that they be challenging the catcher when it comes down – and keeping on the pressure. Yes, they do have some excellent backs and they can play flowing rugby when they want to, but their natural instincts are to win first and worry about the entertainment later.
The Bath team, for all its creative brilliance, just could not find the means to unlock Saracens’ defence. You can only bash your head against a brick wall so many times before you run out of ideas and the men from the south-west were bashing away from the first whistle.
On BT Sport, mention was briefly made in the pundits’ chat before the game to the allegations of breaches of the Premiership salary cap – of which, it was heavily hinted, both teams in the final were suspected culprits.
An hour and a bit later later, my family sat together watching the FA Cup on the BBC. Now there was a slam-dunk non-contest if ever there was one, but – even for non-committed viewers – at least Arsenal were deserved winners and playing pretty football.