De Beer's diamond performance

Saracens 43 Rotherham 17
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Saracens just cannot get through a game these days without suffering one injury or another. Jannie de Beer might have made a sparkling returned to action, but Francois Pienaar was last night contemplating the prospect of his captain Abdel Benazzi being out for anything up to six weeks.

The former France international lock was carried off early in the second half and a specialist's initial diagnosis suggested suspected damage to the posterior cruciate ligament of his right knee.

"That is a minimum of six weeks, which would mean him missing the quarter-finals of this Cup," pronounced a glum Pienaar. "But even if it is not quite as serious, the swelling around the joint will definitely rule him out for a fortnight."

There was some consolation for the chief executive in the performance of his youngsters, who have been forced to accelerate their development to almost supersonic speed to keep Saracens a competitive force.

They looked rather good yesterday, in the forwards and out wide, even though Rotherham are a league below them. However there were penalties given away early on and not enough chances were put away.

De Beer's presence at outside-half gave them a tactical pivot, as well as 23 points, and together with Kyran Bracken at scrum-half there was scant chance of Rotherham overcoming the Watford-based club.

The Yorkshire side proved a tough proposition, none the less. The National League One leaders displayed true grit, although they were unable to sustain pressure for long enough to produce points.

The forwards were magnificent in keeping the ravening Saracens hordes at bay, however, even turning them over in the tackle in a fiery spell in the first half, but in general lacked the streetwise nous of their opponents, as well as the pace of Darragh O'Mahony, Brett Sparg and Adryan Winnan, who injected doses of muscular excitement into the match.

One move involving left wing O'Mahony saw Saracens surge 75 metres upfield in a move which De Beer rounded off with his second try. But having contained Saracens with not too much difficulty for 50 minutes Rotherham folded suddenly.

When Robbie Russell was helped over the line by his team-mates following a scrum and Winnan scorched over it all became too much for Rotherham, despite their Argentina-born, Italian international fly-half Ramiro Pez knocking over penalties and a 45 metre drop goal (taking him past 150 points for the season).

Saracens: Tries Bracken, De Beer 2, Roques, Russell, Winnan; Conversions De Beer 5; Penalty De Beer. Rotherham: Try Wood; Penalties Pez 4; Drop goal Pez.

Saracens: A Winnan; B Sparg (G Arasa, 57), B Johnston, K Sorrell, D O'Mahony; J de Beer (L Smith, 79), K Bracken (N Walshe, 76); D Flatman, R Russell (M Cairns, 76), P Durant (S Phillips, 53), A Benazzi (capt; K Benazzi, 46), S Cheesebrough, R Hill, B Cole (K Roche, 57), A Roques.

Rotherham: P Massey; O Ripol, J Keyter, J Cannon (A Northey, 79), M Wood (S Dickinson, 64); R Pez, C Harrison (D Scully, 61); J Thorp (capt), H Toews (A Gravel, 79), S Bunting (L Bone, 58), H Parr (M Schmid, 58), G Kenworthy, L Greeff, A Tooala, N Spence (M Schmid 12-19; R Earnshaw 37, 58).

Referee: A Rowden (Thatcham).

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