Saracens’ young stars show they need not fear Leicester in Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final rematch
PUBLISHED: 12:32 07 February 2017 | UPDATED: 12:32 07 February 2017
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Saracens edged a step closer to defending their Anglo-Welsh Cup crown following their bonus-point 29-20 victory over Leicester Tigers at Allianz Park on Sunday – and the same two sides will face each other on the same field in next month’s semi-finals.
The Hendon-based club have reached the last four of this competition for the fourth time in a row, and they will have home advantage after racking up 17 points from their four pool games.
The attacking prowess of the young Sarries side once again prevailed at the weekend and they maintained their record of securing a try-bonus point in each of their pool matches – even the one they lost against Gloucester.
No other side in the competition have managed such a feat and Saracens’ 16 tries thus far highlights the attacking strength that coach Ian Vass has at his disposal.
In total Sarries have racked up 122 points in their four pool games, and the only side to beat that tally have been Exeter Chiefs (164), who could face their rivals in the final.
That would mean a repeat of the climax of the 2014-15 tournament, when the north Londoners lifted the trophy – which they still hold because the 2015-16 edition was shelved due to the World Cup.
With fly-half Max Malins on England duty with the Under-20s, Tom Whiteley was once again given the No10 jersey on Sunday and he produced an assured displayed under pressure, demonstrating his poise by scoring the try that sealed the game in the closing stages.
Centre Nick Tompkins also crossed the whitewash, giving him and Whiteley three tries apieces in this season’s Anglo-Welsh Cup, while the latter has become the second-highest points scorer in the tournament with 37.
Tompkins excelled again and was duly named the man of the match – but Whiteley ran him close, having been rewarded for his run of form with a contract extension that sees him graduate from the academy to the senior squad from the beginning of next season.
He is by no means alone. Centre Tom Griffiths has also penned a new deal with the club’s academy, as have Malins, utility back Matt Gallagher and props Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Billy Walker and Ralph Adams-Hale.
The youngsters have undoubtedly made their mark in this year’s Anglo-Welsh Cup and their hard work has not gone unnoticed.
“I’m very happy for them,” said academy manager Don Barrell. “These lads have worked extremely hard to get where they are and we’re excited to see them continue their development at the club. At the minute, the youth system is looking really good.”
Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall added: “Over the last seven and a half years, our academy has been at the heart of the development of the club. Hopefully this new batch will be around for a long time to come too.”
Both McCall and Vass will be relishing the prospect of yet another semi-final in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Saracens may have only gone on to reach the final in one of their last three attempts, but they are still the holders.
And, with their current calibre of players and an imperious home record at Allianz Park, it is difficult to see how Leicester will halt them in their tracks in March’s rematch.
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