Leicester Tigers v Saracens: Man for man marking


Leicester Tigers

Scott Hamilton 6/10

Probably Leicester's most dangerous back, or if not – given the size of Tuilagi's thighs and the imprints they left on a few Saracens faces – their most often used. Not to much effect, though, and he couldn't quite stop Short's try with a pleasingly flying effort at a tackle.



Horacio Agulla 6/10

Tried a 55-metre drop-goal in the first half and was shouted at by Flood, as Leicester had a four-man overlap when he did it. That said, Leicester's game plan in the first half seemed to be to avoid four-man overlaps at any cost.



Matt Smith 6/10

The great search for a suitable Doctor Who joke peters out in a bunch of half-ideas about the Tardis and the nature of space and the lack of it in the Twickenham midfield. Perfectly solid, like everyone else in there.

Anthony Allen 6/10

Stepped in to scrum-half when Youngs was in the bin and had a bit of a Mauro Bergamasco moment when he passed the ball over Flood's head in the in-goal area. Managed to tidy that up; spent the rest of the afternoon bashing about.



Alesana Tuilagi 6/10

Threatened to get away a couple of times, after smashing through a couple of tackles, but his most promising break was snuffed out by Brits catching him and bringing him down.



Toby Flood 6/10

To be harsh, his two missed penalties in the second half cost Leicester the league title. It would all have felt a bit odd if they had won it, though, and generally the England fly-half was... OK.



Ben Youngs 6/10

No point applying much censure for the yellow card – he probably stopped Sarries scoring a try, by stopping the ball coming out of a ruck, and in the 10 minutes he was away the score progressed to a princely 3-3. Otherwise, the England scrum-half was... also OK.



Marcos Ayerza 6/10

Part of a Tigers pack that had the upper hand, or appeared to, and then didn't, or appeared not to. What could have been the decisive scrum penalty was won by his replacement, Stankovich, who had been sent on to do just that. Fascinating tactical minutiae or depressing indictment of an absurdly technical game? Take your pick.



George Chuter 6/10

Was in the Saracens side that won the club's first trophy, the Tetley's Bitter Cup in 1998. Couldn't quite stop them winning a second despite his usual industry at the nasty end of things.



Martin Castrogiovanni 6/10

Up, down and back up again against Stevens. Put in an absolute gut-wrencher on Brits in the first half, so wouldn't have seen the remarkable offload Saracens' South African hooker still managed to get away. Probably just as well. Off for Cole later.



Steve Mafi 6/10

Pretty much an anonymous grunt in a platoon working to their limits in the rugby equivalent of a route march. Which is what you generally get from Leicester second rows, which is what this rangy and athletic chap doesn't actually look like.



George Skivington 6/10

As above, so below – a pretty fearsome shift put in for, ultimately, no reward whatsoever. Tough life, a lock's.



Tom Croft 6/10

The Tigers' nearest thing to Brits, being a forward capable of breaking a game open like a back – particularly a game like this one, one might have thought. Came into things a bit more in the second half and occasionally looked like making the necessary break. But didn't.



Craig Newby 6/10

As in the thick of it as any All Black would be, leading from and at the front. Didn't last, though, and was replaced by Crane, who had already gone off.



Jordan Crane 6/10

Richard Cockerill's selection of Crane over Waldrom indicated what Leicester would do – play a narrow, heavy-duty, battering game. It didn't work, at the start or in those 30-odd phases at the end. This chap was in the thick of it.

Replacements

Thomas Waldrom On for Crane. Dan Cole On for Castrogiovanni, as per. Seems a bit of a waste of an England tighthead. Rob Hawkins On for Chuter. Ed Slater On for Mafi. Billy Twelvetrees On for Hamilton. Boris Stankovich On for Ayerza.

Saracens

Alex Goode 7/10

Very solid with a rare touch of flair, rather like the whole Saracens team. Has dropped back in the fly-half rankings, hence dropping back to full-back, but he looks good in that position in a very English way. Which could be good news for England.



David Strettle 7/10

Also looked a bit dangerous without ever really having the chance to actually be dangerous, thanks to the nature of the game. Worth a cheeky bet for a World Cup squad spot.



Chris Wyles 7/10

A genuine American and genuinely a good, solid player. Could replicate the write-ups for the two Saracens above, really – and had more about him than his opposite number.



Brad Barritt 7/10

Showed faster feet and slicker hands than most of the others stuck in the midfield minefield, although to say that might just be to say so on the evidence of one half-break and feed, to De Kock early in the match, that led to Youngs's trip to the bin. Otherwise, again, solid.



James Short 8/10

Sparked a couple more things than Strettle did in a slippy, sevens-y, sprinter's legs-y way that might have had something to do with his playing with his socks down round his ankles. Tsk. But he took his try very well indeed, and that's what you pay your wings to do. So, an extra mark.



Owen Farrell 8/10

Excellent kicking display, knocking over six out of six against Flood's six out of eight, which in the most simple analysis explains why his team won the Premiership title. Evidently has good hands too and can tackle perfectly well, which all means he should be on his way up the England pecking order relatively soon.

Neil de Kock 7/10

Was always going to be substituted after 50 minutes, having apparently won the starting place from Richard Wigglesworth on the toss of a coin. Looked relatively dangerous in Saracens' strong start to the game.



Matt Stevens 7/10

Scrums went this way and that, producing penalties for both sides and no clear sense of which of the props deserved a higher mark. On the balance of who did more round the pitch, Stevens shaded Castrogiovanni.



Schalk Brits 9/10

The most dangerous runner on the pitch, backs included, so it was a shame, in a way, that he skinned Ayerza, a prop, to set up the try for Short. If you'd given him a Leicester back he'd have made him look silly and I'd have been able to make a stronger point about how pedestrian the Tigers were. Tackled and offloaded like a fiend, too.

Carlos Nieto 7/10

Rather like Saracens' centres and wings resembled each other in build and performance, so did the props. If we did fractions of marks he'd get a fraction less than Stevens for work around the field and a fraction more at scrum time.



Steve Borthwick 7/10

Kept the most consistent line-out in the Premiership working... consistently, and kept the men around him working hard. Of course he did – a very English rugby player at the heart of a very English game of rugby.



Mouritz Botha 7/10

About to become a Saxon – and unlike most of the sillily named England second team, at least he's big and blond enough to look like one. He's also, evidently, South African, but eligibility rules are eligibility rules and the national management can point to this display to explain themselves. Tore up one Leicester driving maul on his own.

Kelly Brown 7/10

It makes sense to stick a Scot in with a couple of southern Africans, what with such back-rowers being specifically bred for what Jim Telfer called 'stoosh', of which there was quite a bit here.



Jacques Burger 7/10

One tough Namibian – among a couple of million of the buggers. The former farmer who'd give a lion an Auckland handshake waded about, dealing it out. Would have positively enjoyed the 30-odd-phase defence at the end.



Ernst Joubert 7/10

Finished with a proper shiner. Badge of honour, etc. Had to go off for a bit in the first half, so must really have been hurt.

Replacements

Andy Saull On/off for Joubert. Richard Wigglesworth On for De Kock. Rhys Gill On for Stevens. Hugh Vyvyan On for Botha. Petrus du Plessis On for Nieto.

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