A Goode fairytale: Saracens v Sale Sharks

Goode fairytale


This game had so many storylines going into it. Sanderson returning to the home of his old club, Ben Earl as captain in the Premiership for the first time, first against second and the missing England players were some of the preview headlines. However, this day belonged to one man, Saracens’ legend, Alex Goode. The fullback/flyhalf who has been perennially overlooked by England selectors showed in his 339th Saracens’ performance the talent he can offer. Before the game, there was a guard of honour of Saracens legends for Goode. It included World Cup-winning captain Francois Pienaar, previous appearance record holder Kris Chesney, Saracens’ women’s record appearance holder Sonia Green and former teammate of Goode Chris Wyles.

First half

The first half was characterised by Sale having physical dominance up front, especially at the set piece while Saracens were lethal while feeding off scraps of possession. Sale thought they had the dream start when O’Flaherty went over after Dan du Preez turned the ball over. Unfortunately, it was scratched off for a forward pass. All the pressure was on the home side though and Sale did score in the fifth minute from captain Tom Curry who went over from Sale’s first attacking maul of the game. Rob du Preez was successful with the conversion.

There was an instant response from the home side though. September’s premiership player of the month, Theo McFarland won the restart and then after Wiese shot up in the Sale defensive line, the Goode fairytale got going on the pitch as the fullback glided through the gap to score. The score was now 5-8 with the conversion missed.

Three more points for Sale came from a penalty kick from du Preez in the 10th minute. The next try was in the 16th minute. A dominant scrum from the visitors saw them enter the Saracens’ 22 again. This time Saracens were successful in their maul defence but after a second kick to the corner minutes later, referee Barnes awarded a penalty try to the visitors and sent Ben Earl to the sin bin for illegally collapsing the maul.

While Saracens’ discipline was woeful, the Sharks took until the 25th minute to give away a penalty. Here, long-range specialist Daly stepped up and converted the attempt at goal in the face of a strong wind. Three minutes later and Saracens were on the score sheet again. A turnover in midfield from Christie led to a break down the right from Lozowski. Once the ball had gone through the phases, it was spread wide and McFarland showed pace and acceleration to bust through and score from the 22.

Each side then had one more shot at goal and while Goode was successful, du Preez missed for the Sharks leaving the score 18-15 at the break.

Second half

This time Saracens were the faster team out of the blocks. Excellent work from Tompkins and Lewington down the right flank and strong carries by the forwards in the midfield laid the groundwork. Alex Goode then read the defensive line excellently and put Ben earl through a gap to score.

The teams may have changed ends, but the game’s story was the same. Sale had so much of the ball but was unable to consistently convert all this pressure. Furthermore, Saracens’ discipline prevented their attacking prowess from putting them out of sight of the Sharks. In the 48th minute, Daly saw yellow for taking out du Preez in the air and soon Tompkins joined him in the sin bin after a high shot on Sam Hill.

Even though Saracens were down two backs, Sale continued with the lineout drive in an attempt to score points. The TMO scratched off a potential Sale try for the second time after a double movement from Tommy Taylor. Sale finally breached the try line though on the 62nd minute after another maul and then Sale finally spread the ball wide for Carpenter to score. The conversion made the scores 26-22.

The game-defining moment game in the 71st minute. Once again Sale were pounding on the Saracens’ line after putting the London side under immense pressure. Warr thought he saw a gap and dove for the line only for some incredible work by Tompkins to deny him and for the knock-on in the corner. Sarries survived the scrum and were able to exit.

The final points of the game gave Goode a fairytale ending. Once again Saracens found space down the righthand side but Daly’s grubber through was swept up by Sale who cleared. Saracens then sent the ball out to the left wing and made easy metres on the edge. Finally, Goode saw Carpenter out of position and put a beautiful kick through for Tompkins to score and after the TMO confirmed the try and Goode was cheered on once again, he converted the try to make it 33-22 to the hosts.

Sale has now lost two on the bounce after winning five in a row to start the season and sit second. Saracens meanwhile sit top after winning seven from seven and collecting six bonus points.

Player of the match

On the Sale side Carpenter was impressive under the high ball and in attack while the du Preez brothers, Dan and Rob were central to everything good about the Sharks. For Saracens, Mawi was always a willing carrier in the loose and despite his yellow card, Earl was strong in his first appearance as captain. However, while McFarland was outstanding in the first half, there was only one player ever getting this award. Alex Goode scored a try, kicked goals, played fullback and then moved to flyhalf and assisted two tries as well. On appearance 339, it was a game only seen in a fairytale from Goode.

Moment of the match

There was some spectacular rugby played between these two sides but once again this has to be about Alex Goode. Goode running out with his son and all those incredible ex-players there was an emotional sight. Goode has a list of rugby achievements that is the envy of any player. However, running out for his 339th appearance in front of the Saracens’ supporters, staff, players and his family was truly special. It was a fairytale day for Goode in every way.

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