Saracens put on a show against Ampthill for returning rugby fans


aracens coasted to a 69-12 victory over spirited Ampthill, waltzing in 11 tries and moving second in the Championship table to continue their march towards a two-legged play-off with Ealing.

But for 2,000 people under the Monday night lights of the StoneX Stadium in North London, this was about more than a straightforward victory. It was about fans’ return to rugby after at least six months away, and their return to this stadium after much longer still.

Not even driving rain to finish a filthy day’s weather, or the endless wait for Owen Farrell to take one of his many shots at goal could tarnish that returning sense of community finally allowed once more. The club shop heaved and the bars bulged, even while the action was on.

The crowd made themselves heard, and Saracens appeared intent to put on a show, pursuing tries and eschewing shots at goal, and Ampthill followed their lead, sending their penalties to the corner too.

A Saracens side containing 11 internationals – with another, Alex Goode, trotting off the bench after 51 minutes to the warmest reception of the night on his return from Japan – were plenty strong enough to see off Ampthill without too much fuss.

Even in a dominant victory there was still time for some for bone-crunching hits from Ampthill’s pack, fisticuffs, and for Owen Farrell to sustain a blow to the head that required significant strapping. The Saracens’ Lions would have been pleased to make it out unscathed.

There were periods of the first half in which Ampthill got a foothold in the game, sending the crowd quiet enough that Farrell’s bark – the defining sound of English rugby’s Behind Closed Doors era – was audible once more. In one of their forays into the Sarries 22, Ampthill scored a try, through hooker Syd Blackmore.

By that point, though, Saracens had three tries, with Nick Tompkins crossing twice, and Jamie George once. All three came when Saracens turned down kicks at goal.

Saracens had the bonus point wrapped by the half-hour, and a fifth try before the break, both through Scotland wing Sean Maitland.

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By the time the fifth try was scored, Saracens had lost scrum-half Will Porter to the sin-bin for taking Maitland out off the ball. Saracens continued to make their man advantage count after the break. Ali Crossdale scored on the left, from Farrell’s neat cross-kick, then Elliott Obatoyinbo finished neatly on the right.

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