In his 20-plus years as Saracens chairman, Nigel Wray has presided over wins of more significance than this, but if the urgency of his charges’ performance is any gauge they were of a mind to pay him handsome tribute. The circumstances of his departure will continue to divide opinion. A 10-try demolition of Worcester, as eloquent as it was brutal, suggested his players feel strongly in favour of his legacy.
The gap between Saracens and the rest of the Premiership remains at 18, but the odds are still in favour of them making it up, as the usual clutch of teams separated from each other by a handful of points squirm in discomfort above them. Worcester were squirming within a few minutes of kick-off.
“We were comprehensively outplayed by a side who played magnificently,” said Alan Solomons. “They were absolutely outstanding.”
More concerning still for Worcester was the neck injury suffered by Michael Fatialofa barely a minute after he had come on. After a lengthy break in play to tend to him, he was taken to St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, where he remained overnight.
“It is a massive concern and I’m worried about it, but I haven’t had a report from the hospital. The medics have taken all precautions and have done everything possible. We’ve contacted his partner to let her know.”
One need not have been particularly steeped in the rhythms of the Premiership to identify this as a likely candidate for messy mismatch – at least as messy as the Premiership gets. Wray’s retirement in midweek, Saracens’ defeat to Exeter last Sunday, Worcester’s pressure-relieving win – it all suggested a potential disparity in motivation levels.
Then there is that yawning deficit Saracens must traverse just to survive in this league they have dominated for so long. Leicester’s full house against Bristol, registered just before kick-off, further heightened the sense of urgency. It should surprise no one that Saracens had their bonus point within half an hour. A half-time lead of 31-0 felt, if anything, on the lenient side for Worcester, as did the final tally. Saracens were held up over the line a further three times.
Saracens’ first try was registered in the seventh minute, their second in the 11th. One of their latest problems is the form of those seemingly few among their number not in the England squad. Max Malins sat this one out with a knock to his foot, for which mercy Worcester might be only slightly grateful, but Ben Earl is another youngster likely to be on Eddie Jones’s radar. He was all over Worcester from the start, a barrelling menace with and without the ball.
He barged over from close range for the first, after Elliot Daly, Alex Lozowski and the Vunipola brothers, in that order, announced themselves in fine form before England gather for the Six Nations at the end of the month. Rotimi Segun, whistled up on the day following Sean Maitland’s withdrawal, finished the second, put away by Daly after more ferocious approach work by, among others, Earl.
Already, the prospects of a meaningful contest were bleak. Brad Barritt burrowed into an advancing maul for try No 3 before Mako Vunipola crashed over for the bonus point after a chip-and-gather cameo from Owen Farrell, whose tackle technique continues to flirt dangerously with the law. There was time for Segun to claim his second before half-time, following a yellow card for Anton Bresler.
It is not uncommon for games to even up in such circumstances, even to favour the vanquished, the victors having sated themselves. But Saracens were not sated. No need to describe every try – they were scored in a variety of ways. Special mention for Duncan Taylor’s score on the hour, after a sharp chip and gather by Segun and for the game’s eighth, a few minutes earlier, because it was scored by the Warriors. Ollie Lawrence, comfortably Worcester’s best player once introduced at half-time, set Ed Fidow away for a chip-and-gather adventure of his own.
It was a lone highlight for the visitors. With or without their chairman of yore, Saracens remain hungry and on the hunt.