Tom Griffiths looks set for a bright future with Saracens after impressive debut in Anglo-Welsh Cup
PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 November 2016
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Saracens' defence of the Anglo-Welsh Cup did not get off to the best of starts on Saturday as Gloucester's last-minute try completed the home side's unlikely comeback and gave them a 36-32 victory.
Sarries fielded a youthful team in a competition which tends to be a proving ground for academy and upcoming players – and they looked set to leave Kingholm with maximum points after going into the break 25-5 up, only to concede three tries in 11 second-half minutes and then another decisive score at the death.
Perhaps complacency started to creep in but the Hendon-based outfit’s inexperience and errors told. Nonetheless, the youngsters will learn valuable lessons and Ben Spencer was able to celebrate a personal achievement after becoming the leading points scorer in the competition’s history.
Academy coach Ian Vass will be able to take comfort from the performance of centre Tom Griffiths, who slotted seamlessly into the midfield alongside Nick Tompkins and scored two tries.
The 21-year-old, who is on a dual contract with both Sarries and Bedford Blues, was one of nine debutants in Saturday’s squad but he looked like a first-team regular and opened his account for the club after just seven minutes.
His quick decisiveness and impressive footwork gave him space and time as he breached the defence and beat several opponents to put his side ahead, and his composure in the build-up to his second score will also have pleased Vass as he contemplates his team selection ahead of Saturday’s home game against Newcastle in the same tournament.
Griffiths’ accomplished display should secure a second successive start and his involvement in this season’s Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign is sure to benefit him.
Saracens have a strong track record when it comes to nurturing their academy players – the likes of Tompkins, Maro Itoje and Jackson Wray have gone through the transition to senior level, and on this evidence Griffiths has the ability to do the same.
He has the right players and coaches around him to support his development and it does not seem particularly bold to predict that it is only a matter of time before he is featuring in the Premiership and testing himself against the best players in the country.
For now, though, he just needs to keep his head down and continue what he’s doing. He will undoubtedly have gained great confidence from his debut on Saturday and, if he can maintain his impetus, he could certainly be one of the players to watch as the competition progresses.
Newcastle will have goals of their own this weekend though, having been defeated themselves in their opening cup clash against Northampton.
Only the top team will qualify from the pool and contest the semi-finals, so there is all to play for and Sarries may come to treasure the two bonus points they picked up at Gloucester.
But they will be aiming for rather more than that at Allianz Park on Saturday. And, if Griffiths and co can get the hosts off to another strong start and then put in a more composed second-half performance, aided by the experience and leadership from some old hands, they should get the job done this time.
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