Weakened Saracens too strong for Bristol: Rugby

Saracens 33 Bristol 15
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The Independent Online
While the country may be divided over the issue of Europe and whether it is good to belong, Saracens are in no doubt that a federated competition is the way forward and their comprehensive, and at times clinical, dissection of Bristol yesterday revealed that they have the strength in depth to achieve their goal.

The win took them above Gloucester and into fifth place. They have two games in hand over their rivals for a top-four place and on this form they look capable of making it. But it will not come easy. Their next Courage League match is on 30 March and presages a heavy run in which they will be expected to play nine crucial games in 35 days. That explained, in part, some notable absentees yesterday.

Saracens left out their England flanker Richard Hill to give him more time to recover from his ankle injury (he thinks he should be fit to face Wales in Cardiff on Saturday) and their bench was warmed by the backsides of Michael Lynagh and Tony Daly.

Their pack demolished Bristol in just about every phase. Bristol had some big guns up front, England's Mark Regan and Simon Shaw and the captain, Martin Corry, but with the honourable exception of Eben Rollitt, who scored one of their two tries, they offered only token resistance.

Once the forwards had asserted themselves, the back row - with Tony Diprose showing his versatility by playing out of position on the open-side flank - were awesome at times and when the backs took over they used the ball well.

Andy Lee was exceptional at stand-off with fast hands, quick thinking and nippy on the hoof. His kicks from hand were tellingly accurate and invariably put his side into superb positions. Behind him Matt Singer, the Cambridge Blue, had a startlingly good first game of the season. He has pace, safe hands and a sharp footballing brain and he opened the scoring after seven minutes following some brilliant work to keep the ball alive by Kyran Bracken.

How Bracken, a former Bristol player, could be overlooked by England is difficult to comprehend. He is the complete scrum-half, making few mistakes and adding a deal of beef to the defensive cover, especially around the fringes.

He is an opportunist, as is the bulk of the Saracens team, well demonstrated by Diprose seconds before the interval, when he intercepted Fraser Waters' pass before sending Philippe Sella away for their second try. Gary Clark and Paul Wallace scored second- half tries, while Bristol managed a consolation one at the end from Kevin Maggs. They have now lost 11 league games and sit uncomfortably close to the relegation zone.

Saracens: Tries Singer, Sella, Clark, P Wallace; Conversions Lee 2; Penalties Lee 3. Bristol: Tries Rollitt, Maggs; Conversion Burke; Penalty Burke.

Saracens: M Singer (A Tunningley, 77); R Wallace, P Sella, S Ravenscroft, K Chesney; A Lee, K Bracken; A Olver, G Botterman, P Wallace, C Yandell (M Langley, 49), T Copsey, J Green, T Diprose (capt), G Clark.

Bristol: P Hull (J Lewsey, 61); D Tiueti, F Waters, K Maggs, B Breeze; P Burke, R Jones; D Hinkins, M Regan, K Fulman, S Shaw, C Eagle, M Corry (capt), D Corkery, E Rollitt.

Referee: T Rossall (Liverpool).