Ambitious Sarries tune up nicely for Europe

Gloucester 17 Saracens 19

Kingsholm

As preparation for a more determined assault on Europe than last year, Saracens could not wish for much better. After terminating Gloucester's two-year-old ground record in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday, second-placed Saracens will next weekend welcome Sale Sharks, who lie third and are now in the care of former Sarries coach, Steve Diamond.

"That will be tasty," said Mark McCall, the Saracens head coach, but he also noted that Italian side Benetton Treviso, whom Saracens entertain a week later in the Heineken Cup, scored 50 points against Newport Gwent Dragons in the RaboDirect Pro12 on Saturday. If McCall's eye, as coach to the English champions, is on Europe then so it should be.

Saracens are seldom shy about stating their ambitions, as befits a club that has just added a World Cup-winning captain to its ranks. John Smit, whose last game three weeks ago was the World Cup quarter-final defeat of South Africa by Australia, watched his new team at Kingsholm and will have recognised some of the intensity and physicality that characterised the World Cup.

In particular, Smit saw Saracens retain their composure in the face of an aggressive Gloucester defence that knocked the champions out of their stride in the first half. Most knocked about, perhaps, was Schalk Brits, another South Africa hooker but one who has become an icon in the black of Saracens; if there was one player Gloucester were determined who would not break them down, it was Brits but though they subdued him he was never completely quelled.

Nor were the younger, England-qualified brigade. The likes of Owen Farrell and Alex Goode must recognise that change is imminent for England's national side and will believe that they should be part of it; in that respect, the second-half arrival of veteran Mike Tindall in Gloucester's midfield exemplified the likely changing of the guard.

Tindall now represents England past. Farrell and Brad Barritt, who together created the match-winning score, represent the future, as do some of Gloucester's young men – Johnny May and Henry Trinder did their cause no harm at all while Charlie Sharples is already on the England radar. Behind them Olly Morgan reminded Kingsholm that he would surely have won more than two caps in 2007 but for injury.

Morgan made and finished his side's try but Gloucester's failing was converting their first-half superiority into points. Overall they made three clearcut try-scoring chances and took one; Saracens made one and took it. "We gave cheap penalties away," said Bryan Redpath, Gloucester's coach. "We should never have been in that position [to lose the game], we should have sealed it off."

He will be glad to have Tindall back, though, whatever the player's England future may be. "He has always been a good influence in this environment, he's training and playing for Gloucester now," Redpath said. "He can push on and start enjoying his rugby again."

Enjoyment is something that Saracens carry with them now, wherever they go. "We don't care whether we're home or away, we get stuck in," McCall said. "As a collective we stay tight. But we have big European games around the corner [Biarritz and Ospreys are also in their Heineken Cup pool], we have to play better."

The set-piece battle ebbed and flowed, Gloucester's scrum starting and finishing on top while the Saracens lineout worked its way into a position of equality. There will be few better contests on the gain line this season where Jacques Burger, having recovered from fractures to both cheek bones while leading Namibia in the World Cup, found Fiji's Akapusi Qera in unforgiving mood.

Significantly both teams sustained a game of high tempo though Saracens chose to barrel down the middle which left a talented back three on short commons. Twice they trailed by eight points, midway through the first half and again with 15 minutes remaining but the decision to switch goal kickers proved telling.

Charlie Hodgson managed one penalty from three (though one miss was a hit-and-hope from fully 54 metres) before Farrell stepped up to knock over three penalties and keep his side in touch. Then Farrell replaced Hodgson at fly half and, four minutes from time, slid through the delicate grub-kick which Barritt grounded ahead of Rory Lawson, leaving the conversion to Farrell which snatched the result.

Gloucester: Try: Morgan. Penalties: Burns 2, Taylor 2. Saracens: Try: Barritt. Conversion: Farrell. Penalties: Hodgson, Farrell 3.

Gloucester: O Morgan; C Sharples, H Trinder (M Tindall, 55), E Fuimaono-Sapolu, J May (D Lewis, 59); F Burns (T Taylor, 55), R Lawson; N Wood (sin bin 49-59), D Dawidiuk (S Lawson, 59), R Harden, W James, J Hamilton, A Strokosch, A Qera (D Murphy, 50-59), L Narraway (captain; P Buxton, 72).

Saracens: A Goode; D Strettle, O Farrell, B Barritt, J Short (C Wyles, 52); C Hodgson (J Maddock, 67), N de Kock; R Gill (sin bin 49-59), S Brits, C Nieto (M Stevens, 50), S Borthwick (captain), M Botha (H Smith, 52), K Brown, J Burger (D Carstens, 50-59; A Saull, 67), E Joubert.

Referee: T Wigglesworth (Yorkshire)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor