Saracens' starry new signings, Chris Jack and Brent Russell, could not have enjoyed an easier introduction to life in Watford. The heavens opened over Vicarage Road and it rained tries, 10 of them by the home side to one for their outclassed if always resolute Italian opponents. It was a record Heineken Cup score for Sarries which made it ever more likely that the pivotal match in Pool Four will be when Biarritz come here in January.
The arrival of Jack and Russell might be expected to add "dog" to Saracens; in fact it brought the touch of quality suggested by 67 and 23 caps earned for New Zealand and South Africa respectively. Russell has the turn of foot and killer sidestep to remind supporters of past overseas recruits Tim Horan and Thomas Castaignde. After a delayed start to his Premiership career caused by a broken collarbone the former Springbok utility back must hope to avoid that duo's sad injury record from now on.
Rain is not unknown in Cape Town, where Russell spent much of his career to date with Western Province, so he was alert to the risk of running the ball from everywhere. There was though a first glimpse of his dash and, in the teeming rain, splash with a 30-metre sprint midway through the first half. Jack was busy showing off his handling skills: the 29-year-old lock thought he had made a try for Kameli Ratuvou until the referee called a forward pass. Jack smilingly half-remonstrated with the touch judge, having earlier in the week criticised those of his Kiwi compatriots who savaged the English referee Wayne Barnes after New Zealand's World Cup quarter-final defeat.
Viadana had restricted Biarritz to a 19-11 win in northern Italy in round one and were cheered on by a dozen supporters wearing fluorescent, lettered bibs which spelt out the club's name. The writing was on the wall in the third and 36th minutes, nevertheless, when Saracens, in identical positions close to the left corner, threw to Hugh Vyvyan at the line-out and drove over for tries by the flankers, Sakiusa Matadigo and Richard Hill. The bonus point for a fourth try arrived after 39 minutes, when Richard Haughton went in for his second score of the half after Andy Farrell gave a miss-pass and Russell broke a tackle by Roberto Mariani.
A neat backhanded pass by Jack made Saracens' fifth try for Ratuvou right at the end of the first half, at which point the hosts were 36-0 up. Viadana were missing their injured Italy players Kaine Robertson and Josh Sole and two more frontline backs, Hayden Reid and Hayden Pedersen. Their opponents had 11 internationals in their starting line-up.
Sarries must be pushing hard against the salary cap, even if that boundary has long possessed the malleability of chewing gum. Premier Rugby chairmen are due on Tuesday to consider raising the cap, and do away with the confusing range of allowances which mean the current figure of 2.182 million is in practice more like 3.5m.
Saracens' favourite line-out ploy worked again four minutes into the second half, Cencus Johnston scoring.
Viadana's Calvin Howarth ran 70 metres for an interception try. The fly-half converted himself but it was just a blip before Haughton completed his hat-trick from Russell's chip. With the conversion by the fly-half, Glen Jackson, it was 50-7.
There was a hint of mystery afterwards when Alan Gaffney, Saracens' director of rugby, revealed that a new kicking coach has been at work with Jackson, but that he was not at liberty to name him. Jackson, a New Zealander now qualified for England on residency, accumulated 26 points with 10 successful kicks out of 11 he coped nonchalantly with every possible angle and a try after 56 minutes when he ran through easily from a ruck near the posts.
Farrell, who is reported to have agreed a two-year extension to his contract from next May, made way for Adam Powell just after Ratuvou slid in for his second and Saracens' ninth try.
Gaffney also said Jack would be missing from the return next Saturday, due to a prior engagement with the All Blacks in Paris. Viadana will surely present more of a test at home. They sent on a hooker called Santamaria during the second half but they had been saying their Hail Marys from an early juncture. A penalty try after a collapsed scrum finished them off.
Saracens: B Russell; R Haughton, K Sorrell, A Farrell (A Powell, 67), K Ratuvou (E Thrower, 73); G Jackson, N de Kock (capt; A Dickens, 54); N Lloyd, F Ongaro (A Kyriacou, 57), C Visagie (C Johnston, 40), H Vyvyan (I Fullarton, 70), C Jack, S Matadigo (D Seymour, 32), B Skirving, R Hill.
Viadana: G Law; R Mariani (C Spadaro, 40), S Pace, M Harvey, A Accorsi; C Howarth (C Pilat, 57), S Bortolussi (C McGrath, 40); P Sciamanna, A Moretti (capt; R Santamaria, 58), I Rouvet (M Cagna, 57), C Bezzi, D Waller, S Harding (A Benatti, 40), M Vella (J Erasmus, 40), L Persico.
Referee: P Gauzere (France).Reuse content