Saracens have all but secured their return to the Premiership after a thumping eight-try victory at Ealing Trailfinders in the first leg of the Championship final. They take a 60-point lead back to their StoneX Stadium for nextSunday’s second leg which will be a mere formality. With Billy Vunipola to the fore and Owen Farrell imperious, put simply, they dished out a lesson to Ealing and perhaps sent a message to the Premiership sides that Saracens will not be making up the numbers next term.
Mark McCall had spoken of the excitement in the camp, of how this was a match of equal, perhaps more, importance than some of their historic European triumphs. Saracens could not afford to miss out on bouncing straight back to the Premiership and accordingly served up a vastly powerful performance that Ealing could rarely cope with. “We’ve got to be Covid-free next week, god knows what would happen if we’re not,” said McCall. “Hopefully the scoreline today would dictate that. But we’ve wanted and waited for this opportunity for many months and we were determined to take [it].”
Trailfinders have promotion ambitions of their own so the Rugby Football Union’s decision to tell them this week that they would be blocked from doing so even if they somehow overcame Saracens was, if nothing else, awful timing from Twickenham officials. In reality, next season – assuming the Premiership does further expand to 14 teams for the 2022-23 campaign – is more realistic and there can be little shame in being so out played by a side featuring 12 internationals, including half a dozen British & Irish Lions.
“Owen [Farrell] was amazing,” added McCall. “He lives for these important matches and significant games. I thought he was magnificent. I thought all the players going on tour were fantastic, physically good, right at it, Billy looked like a player who should be going today.”
Saracens were 27-0 to the good at half-time, with three tries and an obvious ascendancy. They were dominant in pretty much every facet – too powerful for Ealing in attack and robust enough to keep Trailfinders at bay on the rare occasion they threatened the scoreboard. At the set-piece too, they were dominant and their third try – on the stroke of half-time – came from a rolling maul that met little resistance. Ealing, by that stage, were out on their feet.
McCall’s side began ominously, dominating possession before going to 10-0 with a Farrell penalty and a close-range try from the fired-up Maro Itoje. Before that Ealing had two penalties inside the Saracens half and boldly kicked them both to the corner but the away side held firm. Farrell missed a sitter from the tee before Ealing won a penalty, within range, but kicked for the corner once more. Again, Saracens held out before Aled Davies and Jamie George added tries before the interval.
Billy Vunipola went over from a driving maul shortly after the restart for try No 4 before adding another with a powerful burst from the base of a scrum – having just laughed off a bit of stick from the crowd. To compound matters for Ealing, Saracens were then awarded a penalty try with Guy Thompson sent to the sin-bin for good measure. Ealing came desperately close to clinching a consolation try with a brief spell of pressure but Nick Tompkins took Saracens past the half-century with Sean Maitland rounding things off in the right-hand corner.