Bristol 9-26 Saracens: Londoners back with a bang after their year in the wilderness
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Saracens made a stunning return to the Premiership last night by ransacking Bristol’s fortress.
In their first match back on the big stage since being demoted for multiple salary cap breaches, the Londoners picked up from where they left off.
England boss Eddie Jones was on hand to watch Alex Lozowski, the player he ruthlessly axed after one poor display in 2018, steal the show.
The fly-half kicked 21 points before expertly serving up the game’s only try for Alex Lewington 10 minutes from time.
This was some statement from a club unable to play any of its Lions contingent, as Bristol had not failed to score a try for two years.
Team boss Mark McCall said: “There was a collective energy and it was magic to be part of as a coach. We are delighted to be back.
“We were a bit unsure where we are at as we hadn’t played at this level for 20 months.
“So I feel really proud as that was a young team playing in front of 20,000 Bristol fans against a side who came top last year.
“They get a gold star for unity and effort and we will get stronger as the year goes on.”
Lozowski, back from a season-long loan in France, landed seven of his nine shots at goal – all from long range. “Incredible,” was McCall’s verdict.
“Everyone has had a tough last 18 months, not least Saracens and everyone who cares for our club,” Lozowski said.
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“To be back here playing in front of an amazing crowd means everything to us.”
On the day he signed a five-year contract extension Lam was not about to reach for excuses.
“We missed chances but you have to credit Sarries,” he said. “They are back and hassled us right the way through. Everyone knows that’s why they are favourites.”
A 19,003 attendance, English rugby’s biggest since England beat Wales in March last year, roared Bristol into an early 9-3 lead.
But they could not get away, not against a Saracens side smarting from a year of humiliation in the Championship.
Since first being found guilty at the tail end of 2019 they had taken flak wherever they went.
More than the £5.36 million fine and 70-point deduction it was what was said that most hurt and fuelled a determination within the club to come back with a real bang.
Bristol were powerless to resist, despite Charles Piutau producing the game’s one moment of magic when stepping his way past four opponents early on.
Harry Thacker and Ioan Lloyd were in support and went the length, only for Elliott Obatoyinbo and Billy Vunipola to combine to deny them at the death.
That was as good as it got for Bears on a night that belonged emphatically to Saracens.
BRISTOL – Pens: Sheedy 3.
SARACENS – Try: Lewington. Pens: Lozowski 7.