Mens Match Reports

Men’s 1st XV v Abu Dhabi Harlequins (01 Feb ’19)

Congratulations Saracens on making it 5 wins in a row and remaining undefeated in 2019! And of course to make it just that little sweeter was to win well against our cross-city counterparts, the Harlequins. It was good to welcome back our Captain, JT from injury as well as to see other previously unavailable players back in the jersey.

From a coach’s point of view it wasn’t our best “rugby”. We’ve played and won nicer recently however what continues to be a great hallmark of the season are the same factors which I believe are driving our success: commitment, passion, discipline and depth. Even though we didn’t really reach the rhythm of the style and format we wanted to play, our structure was there and still being executed. We are confident more than ever to be able to utilise the strength of our talented player depth to substitute for injury and tactically at any given moment. 

Sarries opened the scoring up after only 3 1/2 mins when Matt Luxmore went over for a try, which went unconverted. Then something that I believe we’ve all known was coming was a typical strong, wall-breaking run by Hans through the Quins players to see him run untouchable another 25 metres to score beneath the posts for a converted try at the 12 minute mark.
Unfortunately the rhythm we were searching for allowed us to become exposed in our reading the oppositions attack and hence we allowed Quins to make it 12-5. Francesco (“Cappuccino”) was as always eager for some points and crossed the try line after 25 mins, as did Alex at the just before half time to have the score 29-5 at the break: another great game from both players. 

We kicked off eager to allow our scrum to be the dominant force we knew they were over Quins. With such a talented forward pack our scrum is definitely a very large aspect of our game and something we will continue to improve, especially when our opposition use tactics to counter our scrum supremacy. Kava was his usual bustling best and went over to score the first of his 2 tries after 51 minutes. Again however we allowed ourselves to lose focus on the opposition attack and numbers which allowed Quins to score 2 tries within 10 mins to claw back the scoreline to 34-17. Although receiving a large cut over his eye Louw Marais was able to return to the field to score (& converted by Lucian Ruiters) with 10 mins remaining in the game, and then followed by Kava’s second try.

The final score was 46-17 to Saracens. Apart from the win and the determination of the players what was surprising, and humbling for me, personally to see was the appreciation of our supporters who gathered to clap and cheer the team after the game had ended. In my 5 years at Saracens I’ve never seen our supporters as passionate and full of confidence, hope and happiness.

The Man of Match was well deserved by Vice Captain Lucien Ruiters for his strong game and brilliant game management. Kava of course was a close second as was Hans.

There is no game this weekend so please stay informed via the website for updates on training.

Well done ALL Sarries for another well deserved win as we continue to fight toward the finals campaign of the 2018/19 season!!

Men’s 1st XV v Dubai Dragons (25 Jan ’19)

WHAT A GAME! What a CLUB and what a TEAM! In this report I’m just going to cut straight to it and say how proud it is to see Saracens achieving the goals we’ve set ourselves not only as rugby players, but as a Club and Team.

We went into the match knowing that the Dragons would be a tough and physical opponent. Despite a few disruptions due to injuries and unavailabilities the team had the job at hand & was completely focussed all week. There’s no better respect we can pay those team mates who can’t be with us than to represent them as if they were by carrying their passion and fire for them.

It took over 38 minutes for Sarries to score our first try, and after Josh Dransfield was sent from the field for an alleged high tackle (which he has since been cleared of and the red card over-turned). Alexandre Lassut captilised on the pressure he put on the opposition to recover a loose ball and run away with a well deserved try, and converted by Louw Marais. This sent Sarries into the break 0-7 up, to play out the rest of the game with 14 players. At half time we discussed how much we as a club relish these times: when our backs are against the wall, when the numbers are stacked against us and we prove our determination and fighting spirit. 
The second half opened to see Sarries score at the 44th minute mark. It was no surprise to see Francesco “Cappuccino” work his magic to score over the try line, and then converted by Louw Marais to see us 0-14 ahead. Despite some fantastic defence by Louw (all game!), and a brilliant game by Matthew Luxmore to read the play and secure ball from the blind wing, the Dragons scored an opportunistic try that went unconverted to make the score 5-14.

The 51 minute mark saw Sarries down to 13 players due to a yellow card for Louw for his unrelenting defence on his opposite player, and therefore Stefan Van Zyl take over the kicking duties. But with only 13 players on the pitch the team rallied: our scrum maintained dominance and backline unbreakable. Stafan slotted a penalty goal to keep our points ticking over. A true mark of how far Saracens have come this year to absorb all the difficulties and still go forward…. (This was unthinkable only 3 years ago).
The player count was later reduced to 14 players from the Dragons as a player was sent from the field for stomping. In true form Sarries didn’t retaliate but turned the opposition’s ill discipline into points as Loic Denomatsom scored a well earned tight forward’s try and then in the dying minute a try to the Sarries Captain, Stephan Marty “Martoch” as he folded around the side of the breakdown to score in the corner. The final soreline ended 5-27 to Sarries.

Alexandre Lassut was a well deserved Man of the Match for his “never-say-die” attitude to chase down every player and every ball. It was another stand out performance from our tight 5, especially our second row combination of Hans and Mario. Louw Marais was thrown into the flyhalf position and truly excelled – well done. Every Saracen from the Chairman to our Ladies, and most passionate supporters are what has bought us this far.
We have a long way to go and need to focus on our game against the Harlequins this Friday, 1st February at Al Ghazal (5 pm kick off). We have the respect for our cross-city rivals to show them the best we can train for and deliver on match day.


Men’s 1st XV v Dubai Knights (11 Jan ’19)

We made a conscious decision to begin 2019 from a higher platform from where we left 2018. While happy & confident with our form we knew we could raise the bar even further, & continue to do so into 2019.

Our match against the Knights gave us the ability to expose our depth of players to the pressures of starting for the 1st XV as well as develop more strength to the depth we have worked so hard to create. We were able to consider player positions & options & assess what & where we needed to work on amongst our ranks. To that end I am confident we succeeded & utilised the full capacity of our players ranks.

The game started slowly for Sarries. From the videos it was evident we had the energy running on to the pitch but it took 15 minutes for us to “get into the game”. In those first 15 mins we saw some strong attacks close to & on our line which were match only by our well executed defence & commitment at the fringes of the ruck. Great commitment & great determination to have held the Knights out as the players did.

This was the wake up call we needed in order to get into the rhythm we train for & structure we know how to play in. The momentum changed & it was from there Sarries began to really step up the pace. This momentum really was evident when strong runs were made by players like Alexandre Lassut, we capitilised on the metres gained, did not panic, re-formed our structure to force 2 more well performed phases which allowed us to score a fantastic team try which began deep in our own territory.

10 minutes before the second half saw many of the bench take the field. We wanted to build on the platform created & now turn the pressure into a strangle-hold of the game. Mairihia Taraufau bought some fantastic strength to our scrum & did everything asked of him, & more. He was replaced by Silipeleto Kavaufea who entered the game with his typical passion & fire – taking off from where Tara had so well left us. Johannes Fourie regained his superb 7’s form to set a strong foundation & was replaced by our try scoring machine Francesco Balestrieri. Matt Luxmoore was replaced by Stefan Van Zyl as he moved from the wing to halfback in order to allow Marcel Botha on to the other wing. Our locks (Mario & Hans) were extraordinary in the game play – thank you. Mario Toral was replaced to nurse a niggling hamstring injury as Kurt Ohlsen took the field to be the breakdown legend he’s become. Lastly & by no means least is whom we all know & respect to be one of the best players honouring the Sarries jersey, Stephan Marty came on to give Armando Kruger a well deserved break from the amazing work he does week in & week out.

From a 19-0 lead at half time Sarries ended the game as 60-0 victors on our home ground. What was most pleasing to see as a coach was that after every try our players were running back into position demanding “one more” from themselves. We showed our opposition the respect to not take our foot off the accelerator but to play till the final whistle. When we made errors we fixed them & re-gained our structure within a 1 or 2 minutes – something that we have been working on all season.

Hans Taniform was a deserved Man of the Match for his composure & amazing play all game, closely followed by Mario Toral & the ever incumbent Joel Lane: our tight forwards leading the charge.
Well done Sarries. We continue to improve every week. This Friday 18th January sees us playing agains the Dubai Eagles in Dubai.

Men’s 1st XV v Tigers (9 Nov ’18)

It was a hard fought game at Al Ghazal for the Sarries Mens 1st XV. Despite one of their best performances top of the table Dubai Tigers managed to score penalty goal at the 80th minute to secure a 21-24 win.

While Sarries started strongly The Tigers managed an early converted try within the first 5 minutes. An Achilles heal of Sarries has been a slow start to the game, however their strength is & always will always be their ability to fight back. This determination lead to Rohan Vorster (13) crossing the line for a converted try only 4 minutes later. A subsequent penalty goal from Stefan Van Zyl (15) and drop goal from Capt Jonathan Taylor (7) took Sarries out to a 13-7 lead at the half time break.

Predictably the Tigers came out fighting with an early try after the break to again see Sarries recoup to fight back with another penalty goal to Stefan Van Zyl (15), but only to see The Tigers cross for a further converted try. Sarries’ defence began to become more and more effective with some determined line speed and aggressive tackling. Vice Captain Lucien Ruiters (10) managed to capitalise on a loose ball to kick through, regather and race over for another Sarries try at the 64th minute. Unfortunately the conversion was off the mark leaving the scoreline 21-21.

The final 15 minutes saw both teams rally with some fierce attacking lines and strong defence. At the 80th minute The Tigers were awarded a penalty from a ruck infringement 25 metres out & directly in front of the Sarries goal posts. The penalty was successful with the game declared over. Naturally The Tigers players were jubilant while at the expense of the heart broken Sarries supporters and players.

While disappointed at the loss the Saracens Mens 1st XV can take away the fact that their progress and improvement is definitely there. We must continue to work on our fitness & discipline: 2 things that can leave us exposed. Our ball retention must be regarded as uncompromising. Giving our opposition possession from hard fought efforts is something we will continue to work on and improve. As a team we have a quiver of attacking weapons however we must be able to utilise them all with confidence! We know we have another 10%-15% to improve on: something that while not easy to achieve is something that will make tight games into secured wins.

Man of the match was Kurt Ohlsen whose game at no. 8 was superb. His courage at the breakdown to secure our ball and attack the opposition’s ball was brilliant all game. Special mention also must go to Joel Lane for another standout performance of being that strong & reliable weapon up front. In fact, and once again, the entire tight 5 were strong. Winger Francesco Balastrieri was dominant at the kickoffs allowing Sarries to begin the restart deep into the opposition’s 22. His ability to turn defence into attack as well as speed with ball in hand was inspiring for all the team and spectators.

The results of the weekend’s games see Sarries middle of the table despite pushing the top of the table team to their closest game yet. We will be excited to welcome back our French contingent (“Les Bleurs”) in Sarries jerseys to bolster what is already a formidable and strong team.

Sadly this game saw us farewell one of the Club’s best. We said goodbye to Morne Basson to our regular 15’s team in typical Sarries Family style. On behalf of all Sarries who came before you, those with you today and those who will follow in your legacy, THANK YOU MORNE.

Saracens Men now will focus on the upcoming Sevens and Vets 10’s for the Dubai 7’s at the end of November. Our next home game is not until 14th December when we take on the Dubai Sharks away.

Al Ain Round 2 Match Report (2nd Nov 18)

Injuries and unavailabilities really pushed the Men’s 1st XV with only 18 players available. In true Sarries spirit the boys took on Al Ain at the Al Ain Rugby Club and never backed down. Unfortunately Sarries lost 24 – 15 against a full complimented Al Ain team. Special mention must go to the Saracens Tight Five of Big Joe, Callie, Joel, Morne and Kurt for an effort that was nothing short of inspirational. Up until the final 15 minutes Sarries were right in the game but fresh legs from the Al Ain team proved the difference. Captain Jonathon Taylor as always led with utter conviction & humbly paid tribute to Al Ain’s win in his post match speech.

Moving forward we’re learned some lessons both on and off the field….. We prepare for our home game this Friday 9th November at Al Ghazal determined to improve from those lessons.

Thank you to all Sarries supporters! See you at Al Ghazal (aka “The Fortress”!) this coming Friday for our game against the Dubai Tigers – 5 pm kick off.