Rugby Union: Cameo by Turner a real gem

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Saracens 44 Bedford 13

MAYBE IT was the alarm call given to them by London Scottish in the previous match seven days go. Perhaps it was Saracens owner Nigel Wray's pep talk during training last Thursday, a clarion call to arms, one of those "We are all in this together chaps" type of thing.

It might even have been the sight of their ageing assistant, coach Paul Turner, sitting on the bench, as the north London club make do and mend their way through an injury crisis. Whatever it was, it worked. Saracens returned to winning ways at the expense of a gutsy Bedford and slipped back into third place in the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

Turner, who left Bedford earlier this season and had not played at this level since last season, actually joined the fray with some 17 minutes left, taking over at stand-off from Gavin Johnson, who still lacks the vision and decision making required at No 10.

The 39-year-old Turner's impact was immediate, his deft touches transformed Saracens' midfield approach, and they added 17 points in that period. But, by then, Bedford had pretty well played themselves out. And that was sad.

It could all have been so different had it not been for Bedford's propensity to throw away the ball, and the consequent scoring opportunities, so frequently. Especially throughout the first half, Saracens looked to be off the boil and would have had their work cut out to recover, even given their marked second-half improvement.

Beford's inventive threequarters frequently pioneered pathways through seemingly impenetrable Saracens defences. But, at the last, if Bedford did not fluff it then Saracens would snuff it.

In truth neither side really shone, and it was probably just as well that yesterday's crowd of 6,593 was the smallest at Vicarage Road for a rugby match.

Saracens' solitary try in the first half was a bright moment, a glittering break by Ryan Constable finished off by Richard Wallace down the left. But most of the entertainment had been provided by lowly Bedford, with burly centres Alistair Murdoch and Dan Harris ripping into the opposition and trying to send someone, anyone who could hang on to the ball, in for the kill.

After the interval things changed, albeit slowly. It needed a concerted forward effort at a line-out to manufacture Saracens' second try, which saw the Ireland lock Paddy Johns touching down.

When Brendon Daniel slipped and slithered his way through flailing hands and failing tackles before gathering himself for a 35-yard run to the line it looked as if it was all over. But Saracens let in Junior Paramore, who charged down Matt Singer's casual chip.

The first of Danny Grewcock's two tries was a belter, set in motion by England flanker Richard Hill, who looked to be in fine touch. Turner sparked Grewcock's next eight minutes later in the 70th minute, and was also a key player in scrum-half Marcus Olsen's sharply taken chance three minutes from the end. It left Bedford languishing a place off the bottom and coping with the knowledge that only Bath have put more points on them this season.

Saracens: Tries R Wallace, Johns, Daniel, Grewcock 2, Olsen; Conversions Johnson 4; Penalties Johnson 2. Bedford: Try Paramore; Conversion Yapp; Penalties Yapp 2.

Saracens: M Singer (P Turner, 63); B Daniel (B Free, 80), R Constable, S Ravenscroft, R Wallace; G Johnson (J Thomson, 72), M Olsen; D Flatman (A Olver, 72), G Chuter (G Botterman, 71), P Wallace, C Yandell (P Johns, 41), D Grewcock, T Coker (P Ogilvie, 63), A Diprose (capt), R Hill.

Bedford: B Whetstone; R Underwood, A Murdoch (capt), D Harris, D O'Mahony; A Yapp, R Elliott; A Ozdemir, J Richards, C Boyd, D Zaltzman (J Beardshaw, 64; V Hartland, 75), S Murray, J Cockle (R Winters, 53), J Paramore, J Forster.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).