Richmond 3-32 Saracens: Visitors secure bonus-point win as Mark McCall’s star-studded side continue quest in Premiership Rugby promotion
If Jamie George makes the Lions tour this summer the tourists’ flight to South Africa will soar right over Richmond’s Athletic Ground.
Here on Sunday he continued his quest to make a second trip on the back of a terrible English Six Nations and with the lowest key Championship season to find form in.
He was not focused on that, though, with Saracens’ league fate still uncertain after an opening-day Championship defeat by Cornish Pirates.
Jamie George (centre) was on the scoresheet as Saracens beat Richmond on Sunday afternoon
George scored in the victory, from a rolling maul, as Sarries took their time to seal a bonus-point win that took them fourth in the table.
‘Some people have said the future of this club rides on the next few games – you don’t get more pressure than that,’ the England hooker, whose cousin Tom used to captain Richmond for years, said after.
‘I loved it. There’s no crowds in the Six Nations either! Although there was a fair bit of sledging directed at me, but it’s all fun and games.’
Geographically this was as close to Twickenham as you can get below the top tier, but as a setting worlds apart from the Six Nations.
The Kew Gardens pagoda poked out from behind the trees beyond the superbly stripy pitch as the wind whistled round a ground open on three sides.
Playing against a semi-professional outfit – with coffee shop owners, trade brokers and financial analysts among their number, who had just two 90-minute training sessions after work this week to prepare – was always going to be strange for Saracens, fighting to return to the Premiership.
For all 240 caps-worth of experience, two Lions, multiple European Cup and Grand Slam winners, they hardly had it all their own way.
George’s lineouts were three times nicked by lock Freddie Hosking, the accountant, in the first-half; his sums not adding up.
Perhaps former Saracens chairman Nigel Wray, watching on from behind his trademark dark glasses, could have done with the Richmond second-row when organising his co-investments that saw his club break the salary cap so spectacularly.
Richmond had early joy in the game of their lives. Back-rower Myles Scott – or ‘Big Sexy’ as he is apparently known – smashed to his heart’s content and won turnovers too.
Vincent Koch, the South African World Cup winner, gave away an early penalty kicked by fly-half Ted Landray after an epic siege.
It would be the only points Richmond took, but they fought well, dragging Sarries into a battle in which they took 66 minutes to seal the bonus-point.
Two rolling maul tries, one slick move to send Rotimi Segun in, Andy Christie’s individual effort and a Ralph Adams-Hale short biff were enough for the win despite an Alex Day sin-binning.
‘We’re not above this,’ said Sarries boss Mark McCall after, who roared ‘go get ’em!’ throughout.
‘We all started at places like this – we’ve got no shame coming to these places.’
With both unbeaten Doncaster and Ealing Trailfinders coming up in April for Saracens the fight goes on.
‘The greatest regret is we didn’t have 4,000 people here,’ said Richmond’s proud boss Steve Hill, whose players are back at their desks on Monday morning.
‘But if Saracens come third, we’ll have 4,000 here next season instead!’