Saracens start to repay Wray's vision

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The Independent Online
DAVID LLEWELLYN

Saracens 25 Leicester 21

Saracens presented their saviour Nigel Wray with an early dividend by pulling off an unexpected coup against Leicester, the defending Courage League champions, for the first time in the north London club's history. The City entrepreneur has the Midas touch in his business dealings and hereafter is likely to be nicknamed Goldfinger by the ecstatic Saracen hordes, who cheered themselves hoarse as their heroes trooped triumphantly off the Southgate pitch.

In those few moments as the players filed into the dressing-room those two precious league points looked to be worth more than the pounds 2m which Wray has sunk into the club. "I think my contribution to that victory was absolutely nil," Wray said.

But exhilarating as the win was, Saracens need to strengthen their squad and sort out their ground. Wray is convinced Saracens can reverse the trend of recent years, when promising players have left in droves seeking their fortunes further west.

"I believe we can attract players here," Wray said, dropping names such as Andre Joubert and Jonah Lomu into the conversation. "We will look anywhere. I am prepared to ask anybody. I hope to be a catalyst, to make things happen.

"We also need to improve our facilities. We need to get the council on our side, we deserve their support. But ground sharing also makes commercial sense and we have a few ideas of where we'd like to move. This club lies between two football clubs, Enfield and Barnet."

At the moment moving up the table is the concern. Sterling line-out work, notably from David Brain and Anthony Diprose, and the boot of Andy Lee, who helped himself to 20 points, as well as some dogged defence and flashes of inspiration went a long way to achieving that aim.

Leicester had the services of Niall Malone, who like London Irish's Conor O'Shea, had put club before country in opting to skip part of the Ireland training session this weekend, but it made little difference. Not even John Liley's eclipsing of Rob Andrew's overall League record of 748 points could put a smile on the Tigers' faces. What possession they had was thrown away, just like their lead. Defeat has almost certainly cost Leicester the title, a fact which their captain, Dean Richards, acknowledged.

He said: "It's nigh on impossible to retain the title now, Bath will need to slip up at least three times and they won't do that."

Saracens: Try Harries; Conversion Lee; Penalties Lee 5; Drop Goal Lee. Leicester Tries Hackney, Robinson; Conversion Liley; Penalties Liley 3.

Saracens: A Tunningley; M Gregory, J Buckton, S Ravenscroft, P Harries; A Lee, B Davies (capt); R Andrews, G Botterman, S Wilson, D Brain, C Yandell, J Green, R Hill, A Diprose.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, R Robinson, R Underwood; N Malone, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, P Grant, M Poole, J Wells, W Drake-Lee, D Richards (capt).

Referee: D Chapman (Scunthorpe).

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