They say the Premiership has never been so competitive but no one has told Saracens. For the second consecutive Sunday they devoured their opposition to the point where there was precious little left on the plate, the hunger of their omitted England contingent unmistakeable.
Eighteen tries in two games reflects their bullish collective mood. In fairness to a bruised, battered Wasps side it was never likely to be a comfortable afternoon with at least 20 players either rested, unavailable or injured. To compound their woes they also lost four players to injury in the first 35 minutes and, in the circumstances, conceding “only” eight tries was almost par for the uneven course. As was the case in Bath a week ago, it made for wincingly one‑sided viewing at times.
There was also another bountiful haul for England’s Max Malins, who added another four tries to the hat‑trick he collected at the Recreation Ground. If you include last season’s semi-final when he was still on loan at Bristol, it was the athletic Malins’ third hat-trick in his last five club games and further bolsters his claim to start for England next month.
The 24-year-old is usually happiest wearing 15 but, with Leicester’s Freddie Steward also in the mix, it may well be that Eddie Jones opts to deploy him on the wing. “It’ll be interesting,” said Mark McCall, Saracens’ director of rugby. “He prefers 15 but he looked pretty good on the wing there. He’s a very talented player and can play in a number of positions, like a few guys on our team.”
For the second successive week, though, many of Saracens’ most eye‑catching players will be absent from England’s preparatory camp in Jersey this week. Nick Isiekwe lost little in comparison with his second row partner Maro Itoje while Billy Vunipola again thundered around like a man with a serious point to prove. Nick Tompkins also had an excellent game at centre but is unavailable to Wales for the Test against New Zealand in Cardiff on Saturday.
What the final scoreline says about the league is a question perhaps better answered in a few more weeks’ time when the effects of having no relegation this season become even more marked.
For all the benefits of young players being given more game time the Premiership has long been marketed on the slimness of its margins and mismatches like this do few people any favours.
Without a good few knock-ons and the odd aberration – notably Vincent Koch’s butchering of a chance which should have seen an unmarked Mako Vunipola canter under the posts – it could even have been a first‑half beating on a par with Bath’s 45-0 half‑time deficit the previous weekend.
With only 13 minutes gone, Jamie George found himself running clear to the line after incisive approach work from Billy Vunipola and Koch and Malins’ first try allowed Saracens to ease out to a 20-3 lead in almost as many minutes. The 24-year-old has an enviable knack for being in the right place at the right time and also stood out for playing the game clad in a pair of black leggings, as has now been permitted by World Rugby who are anxious to prevent players sustaining nasty grazes on artificial surfaces. Billy Vunipola, too, fully deserved his close-range score just before half-time when seemingly the only remaining question was how many points Saracens would rattle up. Malins again showed good pace to beat Ali Crossdale and Zach Kibirige to a kick ahead to make it 32-3 within a couple of minutes of the restart only for Saracens, momentarily, to ease off the gas.
Quickfire tries for the ever-competitive Jimmy Gopperth and Kibirige, the latter a length-of-the-field effort after Itoje’s potential scoring pass at the other hand had fallen to earth, briefly staunched the bleeding but the arrival of some fresh Saracens’ reserves made sure the last quarter reverted to type. The black‑clad Malins, lurking out on the left like the oval-ball version of the Milk Tray man, delivered two more tries in the space of four minutes before Alex Lewington and Alex Lozowski combined to send the latter over for another.
By the time the industrious Ben Earl added his side’s eighth try in added time to take his side past 50 points, Saracens’ minds were already turning to the potentially stiffer challenge of Harlequins next weekend. Wasps, who are due to travel to Bath, will be hoping to be much more competitive in north-east Somerset than they were in north London.