Wanderers slay Saracens Storm to secure final spot
Tries from Ben Nutley and Tom Kessell propelled the Wanderers into the Aviva A League final at the expense of Saracens Storm.
In a hard-fought Monday night encounter at Franklin’s Gardens, the home side’s ability to grab tries rather than a relentless stream of penalties proved the difference in a 16-12 win.
Saracens had gone ahead for the first time late on as scrum-half Ben Spencer landed his fourth penalty of the evening, but the Wanderers came roaring back through Kessell’s score.
And it was to be enough to set up a showpiece against Exeter Braves at Sandy Park next Monday.
The Wanderers, who had won the Northern Conference, named a strong side, which included the likes of James Wilson, Tom Collins, Jamie Elliott and JJ Hanrahan.
Southern Conference runners-up Saracens also had plenty of pedigree in their squad, but they were to fall behind early on thanks to Hanrahan’s tidy penalty.
Spencer missed the chance to issue a rapid riposte as his effort flew to the left of the posts, bringing a frustrated roar from the kicker.
But the No.9 soon made amends by landing a long-range effort, levelling the scores in what had been an even contest during the formative stages.
There was still nothing between the teams as the game meandered towards the break, but the Wanderers were to reclaim the lead just before the interval.
A powerful drive allowed Nutley to profit, with the flanker securing his fifth try in three Wanderers outings.
Hanrahan missed the conversion and Saracens cut the gap to two points five minutes into the second half as Spencer landed his second penalty of the night.
But Hanrahan responded with three points of his own before Spencer secured another penalty to ensure the deficit was two again.
And Saracens were to take the lead for the first time when Spencer registered again, to the dismay of the home fans, who were frustrated with referee Christophe Ridley’s decisions.
But Ridley found in favour of the Wanderers soon after, and the home side kicked to the corner in a bid to crank up the heat.
And they eventually managed to find a gap in the Saracens rearguard as Kessell’s clever work earned him a try.
Hanrahan missed the conversion to leave the Wanderers 16-12 up heading into the closing stages and they continued to press until the end as victory was secured.
Wanderers: Wilson; Collins, Hutchinson, Olver, Elliott; Hanrahan, Kessell; Beesley (Hobbs-Awoyemi 67), Williams (Fish 67), Denman (Parkins 67); Paterson, Craig (Onojaife 68); Nutley, Ludlam (Moon 78), Bennett.
Saracens Storm: Gallagher; Ellery, Streather, Tompkins, Earle; Mordt, Spencer (Whiteley 78; Barrington, Saunders (Taylor 43), Lamositele; Smith, Low (Isiekwe 65); Nay, Maka, Vunisa.