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)

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links