Rugby Union: Saracens hot and cold

Saracens 48 West Hartlepool 27
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The Independent Online
SARACENS' SUPREMACY was evident throughout what was ultimately a one-sided match, in which they played some sublime rugby at times. Unfortunately it was punctuated by some dreadful rugby. For all that they have hopped over London Irish and into third place again in the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

West Hartlepool remain rooted at the bottom of the table and also at Victoria Park for the time being. Any plans to merge with Newcastle have to wait until the members of the Newcastle-Gosforth shareholders' association, who have a 24 per cent stake in the club, have been given an option to buy out the remaining 76 per cent.

West Hartlepool played well in patches, but the home side committed bags of howlers in the first half. At one point West even managed to steal into the lead when a pass by France stand-off Alain Penaud was intercepted by Stephen John.

It was but a brief flicker. The Saracens pack was far too strong. Even in the bitty first half the front five never seemed under pressure. Their teenage loose-head prop David Flatman looks outstanding, while No 8 Tony Diprose has turned West Hartlepool into his rabbits. The last time he scored in the Premiership was last October against the same opponents and on that occasion Saracens passed the half-century. Despite his contribution this time around - he scored a hat-trick of tries - this was nothing like the rout it should have been.

The best of Saracens seven tries were the first and last. Penaud opened the account in the third minute, but the crowd of 5,872 had to wait until the eighth minute of injury time before they were treated to a second splendid effort. Left wing Brendan Daniel collected a kick and eluded all efforts to trap him over 45m. When he had drawn enough of the defence he fed Grewcock and the England lock jinked right, went left and left the tattered remnants for dead.

Saracens: Tries Penaud, Diprose 3, Bracken, Thirlby, Grewcock; Conversions Johnson 4, Thirlby; Penalty Johnson. West Hartlepool: Tries John, Tanginoa; Conversion Vile; Penalties Vile 5.

Saracens: G Johnson (M Singer, 72); R Thirlby, R Constable, S Ravenscroft, B Daniel; A Penaud, K Bracken; D Flatman (B Reidy, 67), G Chuter, P Wallace, P Johns, D Grewcock, F Pienaar (capt; R Hill, 65), A Diprose, R Hill (P Ogilvie, 56).

West Hartlepool: E Farrell (T Handley, 80); J Benson, J Connolly, P Tanginoa, S John; S Vile, Tu Nu'uali'itia (R Stone 53-55); S Sparks (J van der Esch, 60), S McDonald, K Fourie (P Beal, 56), P Farner, (capt), M Giacheri, M Salter, M Brewer, J Ponton.

Referee: I Ramage (Northumbria).