The Wanderers have secured their place in next Monday’s Aviva A League final with a well deserved 16-12 win over Saracens Storm in an exciting match at Franklin’s Gardens.
The opening phases saw both sides seeking territory but Saracens were penalised and JJ Hanrahan made no mistake with his long range penalty attempt to give the Wanderers an early lead in the fifth minute.
Saracens then had a penalty attempt of their own just two minutes later but Ben Spencer was wide of the mark from the left.
The visitors then looked dangerous with a half break from winger Mike Ellery, before the Wanderers’ Jamie Elliott almost scored in the corner, but the kick through from Tom Kessell was just too long.
With the 15 minute mark approaching, the Wanderers gave themselves some great field positions inside the Saracens half before Rory Hutchinson made a superb angled run in the 24th minute, at speed, releasing Elliott on the right but Elliott couldn’t quite run on to his grubber.
Saracens then began an attack on the Wanderers 22 before full back James Wilson kicked an excellent touch finder to take play back to the Saracens 22.
Just minutes later the Wanderers scored the first try of the match after an excellent driving maul saw Ben Nutley crash over on the left wing to extend the home side’s lead to 8-3 in the 38th minute. Hanrahan was just wide of the mark with his conversion attempt.
The second half started brightly for Saracens who quickly made their way deep into the Wanderers 22 and they were rewarded with a penalty. Spencer was successful with his kick to make the score 8-6.
The Wanderers responded immediately, however, with Hanrahan slotting his second penalty of the evening to restore the home side’s five point advantage after 46 minutes.
A third Spencer penalty then cut the deficit again to just two points before a fourth after 59 minutes made the score 11-12 to give Saracens the lead for the first time in the match.
The Wanderers were then awarded a penalty with Hanrahan opting for the line out instead of taking the three points. His decision was vindicated as a strong driving maul took the home side up to the Saracens five metre line. Play was then taken out to the left, allowing scrum half Kessell to sneak over for a 65th minute try. Hanrahan pulled his conversion to the left of the uprights to leave the score at 16-12.
Winger Tim Collins almost added a third try after 75 minutes after Kessell found him in space on the left, but he was dragged into touch five metres from the whitewash.
With the match entering its final stages, Saracens withstood a Wanderers attack, with Nils Mordt’s excellent touch finder taking play inside the Wanderers’ 22. It was too little, too late, however, and the Wanderers cleared their lines to book their place in next Monday’s Aviva A League final at Sandy Park.
WANDERERS Wilson; Collins, Hutchinson, Olver, Elliott; Hanrahan, Kessell; Beesley, Williams, Denman, Paterson (capt), Craig, Nutley, Ludlam, Bennett
Subs – Fish, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Parkins, Onojaife, Moon, Duschene, Furbank, Packman
SARACENS STORM Gallagher; Ellery, Streather, Tompkins, Earle; Mordt (capt), Spencer; Barrington, Saunders, Lamositele, Smith, Low, Nay, Maka, Vunisa
Subs - Taylor, Adams-Hale, Alo, Isiekwe, Earl, Whitley, Morris, Segun
4 mins WAND Pen Hanrahan 3-0
7 mins SARRIES Miss Pen Spencer 3-0
16 mins SARRIES Pen Spencer 3-3
37 mins WAND Try Nutley 8-3
HALF TIME Wanderers 8 - 3 Saracens
44 mins SARRIES Pen Spencer 8-6
46 mins WAND Pen Hanrahan 11-6
50 mins SARRIES Pen Spencer 11-9
59 mins SARRIES Pen Spencer 11-12
65 mins WAND Try Kessell 16-12