Saracens upset the formbook to overcome Frampton Cotterell
BRISTOL Saracens produced one of the defensive displays of the season to claim a superb 8-7 home win over high-flying Frampton Cotterell in Gloucester Premier.
The visitors had a big height and weight advantage up front and totally dominated in terms of territory as well as claiming at least a 75 per cent share of the ball.
But, in the final analysis, it mounted up to only a losing bonus thanks to tremendous tackling by Sarries, typified by the magnificent efforts of back row trio Will Harding, Karl Venn and Laurence Collison.
Skipper Harding may have been one of the smallest and lightest players on the pitch yet he was also a fearless and inspirational figure around the pitch and at the breakdown, securing a series of vital turnovers.
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He said: "That's easily our best win of the year. Not so long ago nothing seemed to be going right for us and heads were down, but we've worked really hard and things have started to happen."
Coach Ben Massey added: "It's been a long time coming.
"Having a settled side has helped the last few weeks but we've also got great club spirit, and the trick is to now find that same level of performance in every game."
Sarries celebrated at the final whistle as if they had secured promotion, and while that's quite a stretch for the now comfortably mid-table outfit, this result represented a massive triumph after a miserable run of early-season form.
The home side, in surprisingly good conditions considering the number of postponed games across the city, had to show their defensive steel virtually from the outset.
And they then took the lead with a classic sucker-punch on virtually their first meaningful attack, winger Mike Wright latching on to a loose pass on the halfway line and breaking before kicking ahead and then winning the race for the touchdown.
Frampton turned around with their noses in front, a driving line-out producing a try for replacement flanker Josh Creed converted by Matt Lawrence.
But despite continuing to hold the upper hand, the visitors were simply unable to find a way through the barricade before Sarries, on a rare foray down the other end, won a penalty 22 metres out for offside which Ian Werrett comfortably booted over.
That set the scene for a breathless final ten minutes in which Frampton threw everything they had at the line, including the kitchen sink, only for Sarries to hold firm.
This was a second successive defeat for promotion hopefuls Frampton following a home reverse against leaders Drybrook. Coach Paul Beet said: "We couldn't match their intensity today, and maybe confidence has been hit by the Drybrook result.
"But we have to stay positive, keep believing that we can win games and bounce straight back. You don't become a bad side overnight."
St Mary's, meanwhile, racked up their third successive win – and fourth from their last five outings – to further boost hopes of avoiding the drop.
The latest success for Mark Gabey's squad was a 16-11 triumph at Widden where No 8 Keith Wilkinson bagged an important try, converted by scrum-half Shaun Phillips who also booted three penalties.
In Division One, Kingswood went down 30-5 away to fellow strugglers Richians and face an uphill battle to stay up. But resurgent Chipping Sodbury made it three in a row with a startling 46-22 win at Colstonians to move up to eighth.
Try scorers included stand-in fly-half Dan Bradley, Ryan Halford, Ryan Hall (2), prop Lee Ralph and Max Gallagher.
Sodbury are now four points clear of third bottom Bishopston who put up a brave fight before succumbing 14-5 at home to high-flying Cheltenham Saracens.
Division Three side Old Elizabethans could not raise a side for their trip to Cryptians and have been deducted five points.