Stripped of a sextet of highly influential individuals - Thomas Castaignède, Mark Bartholomeusz, Kyran Bracken, Cobus Visagie, Simon Raiwalui and Iain Fullarton - a half-baked Saracens were wholly incapable of engaging in the decision-making process at Vicarage Road yesterday. The decisions that threatened to deny Leeds a first victory of the campaign, and a surprising one at that, came from the Yorkshire club's own hooker, Mark Regan, and the referee, Sean Davey.
Leeds, hard-nosed and organised up front, had performed superbly to open up a 10-point lead in the first quarter when Regan threw long - far too long - at a line-out deep in his own territory. The Saracens No 9 Morgan Williams, who spent much of the afternoon in a purgatory of his own making, was sufficiently clued-in on this occasion to hoover up the loose ball, and a straight spin along the back division resulted in a try for Paul Bailey.
The Yorkshiremen still managed to turn around 19-7 up, thanks to some precise goal-kicking from Gordon Ross. Yet within a few minutes of the restart, Saracens found themselves right back at the races when the referee inexplicably failed to award Leeds a scrum following Taine Randell's big knock-on in Jon Dunbar's tackle - one of the more public offences in the entire history of the genre. Nicky Little promptly chipped over an easy penalty resulting from the next phase of play to leave his opponents wondering whether this might not be their afternoon after all.
Happily for all who take pleasure in the sight of justice being done, Leeds pulled away again in the final 10 minutes and were halfway back to the Ridings by the time Little earned Saracens a distinctly fortunate bonus point with a try in the seventh minute of injury-time. Ross, Gavin Kerr, Stuart Hooper, Colm Rigney, Tom Biggs - these were the players of the day, and none of them were on the home team's payroll.
Biggs, a business student at Leeds Metropolitan University who has been known to supplement his income by working as a cinema usher and a production line operative in a frozen pea factory, may not be scratching a living for too much longer. His first-half try was a minor masterpiece of slippery finishing that left a full-back as quick as the former Tyke Dan Scarbrough clutching great handfuls of thin air. Biggs also contributed a high-quality tackle on Richard Haughton late in the day - a try-saving intervention described by Phil Davies, the Leeds coach, as "the best bit of the match".
Leeds also claimed a second try, courtesy of their former Springbok centre Andre Snyman, who blew Little away in open field and made it to the posts in heavy traffic of the M25 variety. It was no more than the visitors deserved, and it sets them up perfectly for their trans-Pennine rumble with the Premiership leaders, Sale, at Headingley in six days' time.
Saracens: Tries Bailey, Little; Conversions Little 2; Penalties Little 3. Leeds: Tries Biggs, Snyman; Conversions Ross 2; Penalties Ross 5.
Saracens: D Scarbrough; R Haughton, B Johnston, K Sorrell, P Bailey; N Little, M Williams (M Rauluni, 61); K Yates (N Lloyd, 57), R Ibanez (M Cairns, 57), B Broster, K Chesney (B Skirving, 70), H Vyvyan (capt), R Hill, T Randell, D Seymour.
Leeds: D Albanese; D Rees (T Stimpson, 57), C Bell, A Snyman, T Biggs; G Ross, A Dickens; M Shelley, M Regan, G Kerr, S Hooper, T Palmer (capt; C Murphy, 40), J Dunbar (R Parks, 57), A Popham (R Rawlinson, 74), C Rigney.
Referee: S Davey (Sussex).Reuse content