“As statements of intent go, it’s hard to think of a more emphatic one,” said Gavin Mairs in The Daily Telegraph. After their “year of soul-searching” in rugby’s second division – imposed for breaching the salary cap – Saracens returned to the top flight last Friday with a resounding 26-9 victory over Bristol Bears, who finished top of the Premiership Rugby table last season.
It was a performance reminiscent of Saracens’s Premiership and Champions Cup double in 2018-19 – one marked by grit and defensive resilience and “embellished by a sensational kicking performance by Alex Lozowski”, who scored seven penalties. Their level of play was particularly impressive given that all five of their British & Irish Lions players were being rested, said Owen Slot in The Times. If Saracens can play this well minus their best players, “you wonder what they’ll be like” when they’ve their full squad to choose from.
Bristol, for their part, were surprisingly conservative, said Gerard Meagher in The Guardian. Neglecting the expansive style that marked their title run last year, they instead tried to out-kick their opponents. The strategy failed badly: it was the first home match in two years in which the Bears have failed to score a try.
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Saracens, by contrast, were “suffocating, stifling and ultimately supremely successful”. They are already the bookies’ favourites for this year’s title – and on this evidence, they deserve to be.
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