Alex Goode could have been one of the England players returning from Six Nations duty that helped Saracens to an emphatic 53-10 victory over Bath on Sunday afternoon. Instead, he was making his first Premiership appearance in more than two months, having been cut from Eddie Jones’s squad at the start of the year.
The misery of being dropped was compounded a week later when Goode tore ankle ligaments that forced him to be sidelined and not only miss England’s entire Six Nations campaign, but also a long run of domestic and European fixtures for Saracens.
He returned in style at the weekend though, finishing off a try of the season contender and also setting one up for teammate Sean Maitland. “Even in tough moments, good moments, it’s just great being out there,” Goode said after the match. “It’s great being part of a team that’s so alive, so full of energy. I love playing at Allianz Park, I love playing with Saracens full stop.”
He added: “I had torn three ligaments in my foot, spring ligaments, so has been a slow process but it was great to be back out there and it felt pretty good.
“We stayed away from the operation as that would’ve been the rest of the season. It’s probably why I didn’t kick too much, kicking was a bit painful but luckily I didn’t have to kick too often. You get into the game and you get a bit of an edge and a bit of adrenaline and you don’t think about it.”
Goode had a hand in two of Saracens’s eight tries against a Bath team that capitulated after conceding a try to the full-back on the stroke of half-time. Starting with a tap-and-go in his own 22, the Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth shipped the ball on to Goode, and from there the Sarries back line lit up – it was on.
“I think Wiggy didn’t see that Kahn Fotuali’i was coming at me and I was trying to tell him not to tap it, and then he gave it to me and I just went from there really,” Goode recalls. “It opened up, I just played there and Brad [Barrit] hits a good line and we‘re on top of them and they’re scrambling. Jamie George throws one out to Sean [Maitland] and lucky enough he flicks it up to me. I think that shows we’re ready to go from anywhere, if it opens up we can and everyone’s happy to ball-handle and do that and especially in the first-half into the wind, sometimes you’ve got to play a bit more open.”
Saracens will face a similar task this Sunday when they welcome Glasgow Warriors, the 2014/15 Pro12 champions, to an Allianz Park that will have been expanded to a 15,000 capacity for the European Champions Cup quarter-final. Glasgow have forged a reputation for the kind of running rugby that Saracens displayed in tearing Bath apart as they stuck 36 unanswered points on the West Country side in the second half, but the expectation is that Gregor Townsend’s side will not wilt quite so easily.
“They’ve come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years,” adds Goode. “They were Pro12 champions, you don’t do that without a top set-piece, a top defence, and they’re strong. They’re a good side all across the park, they’ve got a dangerous back-three, a dangerous back line, but again they can handle across the board and they want to play rugby.
“They’re used to playing on an artificial pitch as well so that won’t hold anything back for them and they’re going to come and try and put pressure on us. But that said, Bath are a top quality side and we put so much pressure on them and went back-to-back-to-back-to back, scored again and again and just kept turning the screw.”
The reigning Premiership and European champions may need to do the same again, given that Glasgow have scored 82 points combined in their last two Pro12 matches, and came through something of a pool of death that also contained Munster, Leicester Tigers and Racing 92. But Sunday felt like the real Saracens, and if they’ve hit their full stride again, this might just be the start of another ominous march to a double success.