I’ve no intention of using this blog to write match reports on Tigers games. Plenty of local and national sites offer that with a level of quality and timeliness I can’t compete with. I’ll simply link to them each week.
Instead, my aim is to reflect after each game on three positives, two areas for improvement, and one talking point. I hope that framework will help foster some interesting and thought-provoking insights and observations. As always, do let me know what you think—your feedback will help this blog get better!
1) Heads not dropping when 29–13 down
You can almost hear the Tigers players saying, ‘make sure we score first,’ as they came out for the start of the second half. 22–7 down after dreadful end to the first half, they needed to get straight back into the game. Then, a mere four minutes after returning to the field, Saracens score their fourth try. Lozowski converts and the deficit is suddenly 16 points. It would have been easy for heads to drop. Especially when you consider the average age of both our front and back rows was just 21. But heads didn’t drop. Tigers rolled up their sleeves and fought their way back, narrowing the gap to two points before Saracens edged clear with a try right at the end.
2) Our young pack pushing Saracens so close
Speaking of our youthful pack, that is another huge positive to take away from the game. Who goes to Sarries with a pack of kids and expects to compete? But compete they did. Sure, Saracens’ experienced, wily pack did enough to regularly keep Tigers at bay despite our numerous entries into their 22, but the lessons our youngsters will take from that game are significant. They’ll also come away thinking, ‘we could have beaten those guys’.
3) Strength in depth at hooker
Nic Dolly hasn’t had much game time of late. Not surprising when Tigers arguably have the best hooker in the world at their disposal in Julián Montoya. With Montoya rested, Dolly got a rare start and didn’t disappoint. His lineout throwing was on point. His breakdown work was relentless. And his skill in coming away with a try from a maul that looked like it was getting away from us was impressive. Add Charlie Clare into the mix—who was also strong when he came on to replace Dolly—and you realise hooker is a position of genuine strength in depth for Tigers.
TWO AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
I don’t know if it was the windy, wet weather, or communication issues, but Tigers made a mess of three restarts during the game. The first two didn’t end up costing us. But we didn’t learn our lesson and the third time led directly to a Saracens try. These are the kind of details we’ve mostly seen eradicated in the Borthwick era. Let’s hope it was a one-off blip and that any communication or system issues are quickly addressed.
2) Back play
One of the areas where Saracens were a level above us was in back play. Every time they ran the ball through their backs, we were defensively stressed and conceded a couple of tries too. Every time we ran the ball through our backs, they never seemed stretched at all, and certainly didn’t look like conceding via that route. To be fair, it was a lineup of backs who haven’t played together much, and several of them haven’t had a lot of recent game time. It’s not outrageous to suggest though that back play is the area of our game in most need of development.
ONE TALKING POINT
1) Ford’s head-on-head collision and lack of an HIA
While many were debating whether the Saracens scrum half should have had a red card rather than a yellow for a tackle that led to a head-on-head collision with George Ford, I was more concerned by the lack of an HIA. For all the talk about player safety, it is mind-baffling how this was missed. The video footage clearly showed him having a moment where he blanks out and drops the ball while dropping to the floor. He comes round enough to put the ball back, but then struggles to get back up. I saw it watching in the pub on a small TV. The commentator pointed it out. Why did he not go off? (As to the red or yellow debate, a yellow card seemed the right call to me.)
Thanks for reading,