The World Cup factor gathered momentum at Vicarage Road yesterday with the triumphant return of Saracens' two England players, Richard Hill and Kyran Bracken, as bottom club Rotherham were sent packing with their 11th consecutive defeat.
Hill's 53rd-minute try crowned a fine all-round performance, gave the flanker a moment of personal satisfaction, and an even deeper glow with the knowledge that it had earned Saracens a valuable bonus point.
But underlying all the post-match and post-World Cup euphoria was the mysterious departure of two Saracens players at the end of last week, "by mutual agreement". No reason has been given as to why the fly-half, Andy Goode, and the prop Andy Kershaw have left the club, although it is believed that legal constraints have been placed on players and the club preventing any spilling of the beans.
The chief executive, Mark Sinderberry, said that there would be one further departure next week, although that would be for entirely different reasons. At least there is to be an addition to the squad with the arrival of the France hooker, Raphael Ibanez, today.
His timing could not be better, coinciding as it did with a huge improvement in performance that helped Saracens close in on the team above them, Leicester.
It was an electrifying start, Thomas Castaignède showing a fabulous turn of speed and slicing through the Rotherham defence after just 43 seconds. Denis Cech kept the French theme going when he won a chase for Castaignède's cunning grub through.
A burst upfield by Cech a quarter of an hour later was taken on by Taine Randell and finished off by Castaignède for his second try. Then Rotherham began to string phases together and were rewarded with a well worked and well deserved try for Geraint Lewis, converted by Jon Benson.
Penalties were exchanged shortly after the interval before Bracken was introduced. The England scrum-half got straight into the rhythm of the game that had been established by Morgan Williams, the Canada World Cup scrum-half, in the first 48 minutes of the match.
Five minutes later came a moment that the majority of the 5,680 crowd had come to Vicarage Road to witness - their England hero Hill, who had had a wonderful match, producing his usual phenomenally high work-rate, getting on the scoring sheet.
A Castaignède kick ahead was partially charged down but the ball was deflected, conveniently, to the right boot of Hill, who hacked on and won the chase to touch down under the posts. It earned Saracens a bonus point and Hill a well deserved rest four minutes later when he was replaced.
Saracens: Tries Castaignède 2, Cech, Hill; Conversions Castaignède 3; Penalty Castaignède. Rotherham: Try Lewis; Conversion Benson; Penalty Benson.
Saracens: R Haughton; D Cech, B Johnston, P Bailey, D O'Mahony; T Castaignède, M Williams (K Bracken, 49); E Bergamaschi (J Marsters, 77), R Russell, C Visagie (B Broster, ht), S Raiwalui (capt; K Chesney 25), A Codling (S Raiwalui, 32), R Hill (B Skirving, 57; E Bergamaschi, 80+2), T Randell, T Roques.
Rotherham: J Benson; A Elliott (J Keyter, 71), P Jorgensen, M Umaga (J Pritchard, 37), J Ewens; P Jones, J Rauluni (capt; G Easterby, 55); N Lloyd, C Johnson (P Smyth, 64), C Noon (J Rawson 77), G Kenworthy (J Pendlebury, 64), L Gross, L Greeff (R Earnshaw, 55), G Lewis, N Spence.
Referee: R Goodliffe (Sheffield)
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