Theo Dan makes case to be starting Saracens hooker as Gloucester blown away

Theo Dan is tackled
Theo Dan demands the full attention of Gloucester with a rampaging break - PA/Rhianna Chadwick

Saracens 46 Gloucester 24

Saracens know a thing or two about producing hookers. The current England captain, Jamie George, spent his erstwhile years as the understudy to one of the Premiership’s greatest ever overseas signings, Schalk Brits, before claiming the starting jersey for himself. With the passage of time, history seems to be repeating itself in north London, with Theo Dan looking every bit a leading light in Saracens’ No 2 jersey.

Certainly, before being replaced by George after 50 minutes of this comfortable if flawed victory over a heavily rotated Gloucester, Dan was alongside Owen Farrell and Alex Goode the shining Saracens light. One line-out throw went awry but his ball-carrying was frenzied and his tackling was both precise and pugnacious. At hooker, Saracens are blessed but Mark McCall repelled any notion of a changing of the guard, despite Dan making a compelling case to start for both club and country.

“Jamie, when he was coming through, had equal playing time with Schalk when he was at his peak,” said Saracens’ director of rugby. “Who starts, who finishes, they’ll get more or less equal minutes. Jamie has played a lot of rugby this year and Theo has not played enough. It was important he got a start and played 50.”

Saracens’s seven-try victory was not quite a game of two halves, but one of two hat-tricks. First, with only 20 minutes elapsed, wing Tom Parton scored the earliest trio of tries in Premiership history; then, in the second half, Gloucester’s Josh Hathaway pilfered an even swifter set across 13 minutes with the match long gone.

The victory takes Saracens one step closer to securing a play-off spot in a tight race and, while the hosts cruised to a dominant 22-point lead at half-time, the second 40 minutes against a Gloucester side with one eye on a Challenge Cup left director of rugby Mark McCall scratching his head at a finale which also saw promising young centre Olly Hartley taken off on a stretcher with a knee injury.

“It was mixed from a performance point of view; how we’ve been for a lot of the season,” said McCall. “Glimpses of what we can do and what we’re capable of but there’s quite a big discrepancy between us at our best and worst. We have to figure out how to get better for longer.”

Josh Hathaway touches down
Josh Hathaway scored a superb hat-trick for Gloucester - Getty Images/Henry Browne

Saracens uncharacteristically allowed Gloucester back in after the break – even if the result was never in doubt – and during their first-half purple patch the combination of Farrell and Goode was irresistible. Alongside Dan, the duo had a hand in the first two of Parton’s tries before Aled Davies sent the wing over for his hat-trick.

Parton admitted in the aftermath that his three record-breaking tries were walk-ins but the same could not be said for Gloucester wing Hathaway. The dual-qualified wing, who has played age-group rugby for Wales and England, scored three remarkable breakaway tries in the second half, with Seb Blake’s fourth adding a losing bonus point for Gloucester. It was also the hooker’s cute grubber which set up Hathaway’s opening score.

George Skivington joked that he was wary of praising Hathaway too much having already seen one Welsh-qualified Gloucester wing depart to the NFL. Only time will tell, however, whether an Immanuel Feyi-Waboso-style tug-of-war erupts over Hathaway’s precocious talent.

“Josh is a big one for Gloucester, and potentially for two different nations – I don’t want him to get too far ahead of himself because he has some other bits to work on,” said Gloucester’s director of rugby.

“If you score a hat-trick in any Premiership game, people start talking to you. If you do it at Saracens away, under as much pressure as we were today, that’s pretty good.”

Two hat-tricks, two heroes; but the day belonged to the Saracens hooker.

Match details

Scoring sequence: 5-0 Parton try, 7-0 Farrell con, 12-0 Parton try, 14-0 Farrell con, 19-0 Parton try, 22-0 Farrell pen, 27-0 McFarland try, 32-0 Willis try, 32-5 Hathaway try, 37-5 Hartley try, 39-5 Manu Vunipola con, 44-5 Cinti try, 46-5 Manu Vunipola con, 46-10 Hathaway try, 46-15 Hathaway try, 46-17 Atkinson con, 46-22 Blake try, 46-24 Atkinson con.

H-T: 22-0

Saracens: A Goode; R Segun, L Cinti, N Tompkins, T Parton (Hartley 51); O Farrell (c) (Manu Vunipola 58), A Davies (Simpson 64); Mako Vunipola (Mawi 51), T Dan (George 51), M Riccioni (Hoskins 51), M Itoje, T McFarland (Isiekwe 56), J M Gonzalez, B Earl, T Willis (B Vunipola 64).

Gloucester: G Barton (Nixon 65); J Hathaway, L Hillman-Cooper, S Atkinson (Reeves 60), J Morris (Jones 63); C Atkinson, C Englefield (Chapman 52); M Vivas (Elrington 43), S Socino (Blake 43), F Balmain (Knight 43), A Clark, F Thomas, A Tuisue (Eite 52), L Ludlow (c), J Clement.

Yellow card: Tuisue 41

Referee: A Woodthorpe

Attendance: 10,069

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