Saracens outgun Newcastle as Wray condemns the RFU

Saracens 24 Newcastle 9
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The Independent Online

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray branded the Rugby Union unfit to regulate the game in a stinging pre-match attack at Vicarage Road. And despite seeing his team continue their pursuit of a first league title after a bit of a struggle, Wray cut loose.

Wray is furious that the RFU allowed a Super 15 fixture between Crusaders and Sharks to be staged at Twickenham, without consulting the Aviva Premiership, on the weekend when England's elite clubs were back in action after the Six Nations.

"How can you have the RFU as the regulator of the game, the person who, if you like, tells you when you can open shop for business when they are also a competitor?" Wray said. "They run competitive games, as indeed can be seen when, without a word or thought for the Premiership clubs, they organise at Twickenham a competing fixture involving Canterbury from New Zealand.

"Charity is a factor, but £5 from every £40 ticket? Why not hold it on an international weekend? Competition is fine, of course, but you cannot be the regulator as well. This is our first home game since we faced Leeds on February 20, five weeks. What a way to run a business.

"Can you imagine if Harrods told their customers they were closing for five weeks. Surprise, surprise, those customers would go to Selfridges. The season is a shambles. Competitions collide with each other, we switch from one to the other, never finishing any one off. It is hugely frustrating."

On the field, Saracens bore the look of men struggling to shake off the cobwebs after three weeks without a game. Despite a well-worked early try by James Short, Saracens made hard work of a limited Newcastle who managed to visit the home 22 just once in the opening 40 minutes.

Alex Goode experienced an off-day with the boot, missing three of his four attempts on goal before making way for Owen Farrell who kicked three penalties and a conversion.

Yet with 27 minutes remaining, the scoreline was a modest 11-9, and it took some serious words from captain Steve Borthwick to raise the pulse-rate of his charges. Jared Saunders ended the suspense with a second try after Noah Cato had sucked in three defenders to halt his powerful charge for the line.

So nothing changes – Saracens still chasing a first title, Newcastle fighting for their Premiership lives.

Scorers. Saracens: Tries, Short, Saunders. Penalties, Goode, Farrell (3). Conversions, Farrell. Newcastle: Penalties, Gopperth (3)

Saracens: A Goode; D Strettle, C Wyles, B Barritt, J Short; O Farrell, N de Kock; M Stevens, S Brits, C Nieto, S Borthwick, c, H Smith, J Melck, E Joubert, A Saull.

Newcastle: T Catterick; A Tait, L Eves, J Fitzpatrick, R Sheriffe; J Gopperth, C Pilgrim; J Golding, M Thompson , J Hall, J Hudson, A van der Heijden, T Swinson, A Hogg, W Welch.

Referee: M Fox.