Andy Farrell can still do a job for England according to Alan Gaffney, Saracens' director of rugby, after watching the rugby league convert ease his club into the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup against Llanelli. The two bonus points Saracens collected were enough to send them through at Llanelli's expense.
Farrell barely featured during England's World Cup campaign and finished six frustrating weeks injured, but in the bare 25 minutes that he was on Stradey Park he brought a more clinical, purposeful approach to a hard-working, but over-eager Saracens team.
"If I were the England coach I would definitely look at Andy, and whoever ends up in charge should," said Gaffney after watching his team lose the match, but win a place in the last four. "Today was a good example of what he can do. He showed a lot of direction when he came on. We started to knock the ball into the corners and began to put a bit of pressure on Llanelli, forcing them to play out of their own 22." Direction was certainly what Saracens had lacked before Farrell's entrance.
They had had to wait until the Llanelli captain, Simon Easterby, had been sent to the sin-bin before opening their account with the first of two penalty tries after they had ripped apart the Scarlets' scrum.
Llanelli were the more enterprising throughout and they hit back immediately with a try by the lock, Scott Macleod, to put them in front again.
The fly-half, Stephen Jones, whose strength and wit were very much in evidence throughout the enthralling encounter, knocked over a penalty on the stroke of half-time and three minutes into the second half appeared to hand Llanelli an unassailable lead when he rounded off a short, sharp spell of pressure with a try of his own, which he converted.
Saracens hit back with a try from the promising young centre, Adam Powell, but Scarlets countered instantly with a rapid double. First the centre, Jon Davies, knifed through, then a flowing move put Garan Evans over on the right.
At this point Farrell was introduced, but patience was still required, as was coolness, because Jones landed his fourth penalty a couple of minutes later, although between times Kameli Ratuvou had crashed through for Saracens' unconverted third try.
Then came the intervention by the second most influential person on the pitch after Farrell the referee, Dave Pearson. A scrum close to the Scarlets line buckled once more after it had wheeled through 90 degrees. Instead of resetting it, Pearson awarded Saracens a second penalty try, to present them with a try-scoring bonus point.
Saracens had arrived at Stradey Park knowing they just had to pick up two bonus points in order to qualify for the semi-finals in March. At this stage they were 10 points adrift, and now it was Scarlets who felt the pressure. Easterby was penalised for holding on and with four minutes remaining Farrell stepped up and added the vital three points. He then added another which still left Scarlets with victory but Saracens with the rewards.
Llanelli: Tries Macleod, S Jones, Davies, Evans; Conversions S Jones 2; Penalties S Jones 4. Saracens: Tries Pen tries 2, Powell, Ratuvou; Conversions Ross 2, Farrell; Penalties Farrell 2.
Llanelli: M Stoddart; M Jones, R King, J Davies, G Evans; S Jones, D Peel; I Thomas, J Hayter, D Manu, A Eustace, S Macleod, S Easterby (capt), G Thomas, D Jones.
Saracens: F Leonelli (E Thrower, 53); R Haughton, K Sorrell (capt), A Powell, K Ratuvou; G Ross (A Farrell, 56), M Rauluni (A Dickens, 77); K Yates, F Ongaro (A Kyriacou, 63), C Visagie (C Johnston, 56), T Ryder, I Fullarton, P Gustard (K Chesney, 47), D Seymour, B Skirving.
Referee: D Pearson (England).Reuse content