We’ll probably look back at this one and say it was a match we could, or perhaps, should have won, but on the day the performance wasn’t as good as our two previous Super League matches and we didn’t earn it.
Still, it was a loss by a relatively narrow margin and the team showed spirit, pushing for a bonus point until the final minute and dominating for large parts of the 2nd half.
We are going to need to improve for the remaining matches and turn any periods of domination in to a lot more points and at the same time, cut out the errors that put us under pressure.
Things did not start well, with Conor Cheng, who has been in outstanding form for Super League and through NICC previously, joining Rhys Mackley on the injury list and having to with draw from the match day squad Sunday morning. The loss of Tsuyoshi Saimyo with a calf strain during the warm-up, only made matters worse, forcing changes to the starting line-up at the last minute.
Those injury woes were put aside though, and the team started very brightly. It was only 3 minutes in when we took the lead via a John Stapleton penalty after UiTM Lions went off their feet at a breakdown.
The resulting re-start was well taken and returned with interest deep in to the Lions half, but a poorly coordinated kick chase and a couple of weak tackles saw the counter attack end in a soft try conceded.
On 8 minutes, things on the injury front got worse with Ben Mitchell having to leave the match with a thigh injury. The following 10 minutes though saw plenty of ball for Saracens, but errors at set-piece saw possession coughed up and no points added – we very nearly conceded a try from a lost line-out, but were fortunate when the Lions outside centre knocked on over the try line when under little pressure.
The loss of prop Adam Yates on 20 minutes saw us again going to the bench a lot earlier than planned, but the score remained unchanged until 30 minutes when we lost possession in contact, a sharp counter-attack punished us with a 2nd try for UiTM.
This was followed by more bad news on the injury front with Rob Hollingsworth having to come off with back trouble.
The enforced substitution of another prop at the break wasn’t ideal, but at half time and only down by 7 points, the match was still there to be won and the message simple – cut out the errors and get a lot more aggressive in defence!
Early 2nd half pressure and the requested step-up in defence resulted in the hit of the day for Amer assisted by Sean – Luc had a bunch of tackles through the match that competed! – and Saracens were showing potential, including and outstanding break by Kudo Shojin, that unfortunately did not result in points when support was a little slow to arrive, resulting in a turn-over.
It doesn’t take much to undo all the hard work though and a poor missed tackle and failure to organise defence in broken play, saw Lions cross for their third try on 55 minutes. That was added to on 59 minutes by the fourth, when Saracens failed to react to a blind-side scrum move.
The balance of the match was controlled by Saracens, but apart from a converted try on 75 minutes, which saw Troy Looms touch down after sustained pressure and multiple phases, we just couldn’t score and the match ended 10-20.
A tough loss to take, but the willingness to work for each other the full 80 minutes impressed the coaching staff again and leaves the club confident the first win will come!
Plenty of positives to take with Luc’s tackling and work rate very impressive and earning him the touchline nickname of “Lumberjack Luc”. George Aird again stood out in the back line, controlling things well and leading from the front in attack and defence.
KL Saracens: Adam Yates (Pete Scargill, 20 mins), Bob Kenny, Morgan Smith (Finn Sinnott, 40 mins), Sean Muirhead (Kudo Shojin, 50 mins), Henry Wilkinson, Rob Hollingsworth (Troy Looms 31 mins), Luc Riou, Will Tasker, George Aird, John Stapleton, Amer Sharrif Bin Rashid, Ben Mitchel (Akif Mohsin, 8 mins / Jotham Young, 70 mins), Jesse Doell, Ramez Alazmeh, Gabe Lingan
Unused replacements: Aadli Nazli Hamdi