Rugby Union: Lynagh the difference for Saracens

Saracens 21 Wasps 17
Click to follow
The Independent Online
To say Saracens reached the quarter-final stages of the Pilkington Cup for only the third time in 26 years of the competition is perhaps stretching a point. It would be more accurate to say that Michael Lynagh kicked them there.

There were times in a scrappy match when they needed his boot applied to their backsides as much as they needed his accurate kicking. If it had not been for the intelligence of the former Australian international stand-off's tactical kicking, which repeatedly knocked Wasps on to the back foot, and the accuracy of his goal kicks (five out of five) not forgetting his two superbly struck drop goals, then it would have been Wasps, who managed the only try of the tie in the last seconds through Michael White, going into today's draw.

As it was Saracens were able to retain their record of not losing at home this season despite being off colour and off the pace. They began well enough and their scrummage was consistently good throughout, but they lost it after the interval when Wasps finally got their act together.

Some of the most exciting moments of the match came in the second half courtesy of the Wasps backline - once they began to link up with Chris Sheasby and the rest of the useful back row.

That was something that Wasps did not really manage with any notable degree of success when they were going forward. Too often they lost possession or their heads, or both.

Thankfully Lynagh, the world record points scorer in internationals with 911, and discarded England scrum-half Kyran Bracken kept theirs. It is difficult to understand why Bracken has not made it on to the England bench for this weekend's Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham. His performance was close to immaculate; muscular, thrusting runs, towering, testing box kicks and a staggering tackle count - including one on Damian Cronin when the Scottish lock was in full, heavyweight flight.

It was Bracken's exemplary service that made it so much easier for Lynagh. The Saracens stand-off was given so much time to pick his option, and invariably he picked the correct one. "I thought Kyran had a wonderful game today," Lynagh said. "I was a little bit surprised when England dropped him off the bench, but he is not finished as an international."

Saracens: Penalties Lynagh 5; Drop goals Lynagh 2. Wasps: Try White; Penalties Rees 4.

Saracens: M Evans; K Chesney, P Sella, S Ravenscroft, R Wallace; M Lynagh, K Bracken; T Daly, G Botterman, P Wallace, P Johns, T Copsey, F Pienaar, R Hill, T Diprose (capt).

Wasps: G Rees; J Ufton (M Wood, 80), A James, N Greenstock, S Roiser; A King, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, D Macer (S Mitchell, 62), W Green, D Cronin, R Kinsey, L Dallaglio (capt), M White, C Sheasby.

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm).