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Saracens fan Ben Ireland analyses what the Men in Black have done to turn their form around in recent matches
1:13pm Thursday 7th March 2013 in Sport
Four weeks ago, a heavy defeat away at London Irish compounded what had been a fairly unconvincing start to 2013 for Saracens.
The results were mostly promising, including qualification for the quarters of the Heineken Cup, and the semis of the LV=Cup.
However, it was the manner of the performances which was in question.
Some of our key foundations weren't in their best shape - shaky set pieces, high penalty count, and increasing missed tackle count - none worthy of a team aiming for the very top.
And the old chestnut of "boring, boring Sarries", and various similar criticisms, were becoming hard to defend.
It didn't really look like we'd learnt our lessons from last season - despite more intent to play with ball in hand, much of our attack remained quite formulaic and toothless.
Since that game against London Irish, we've racked up three consecutive bonus-point wins – away at Leicester, and against two of the league’s more tenacious and scrappy teams in Exeter and London Welsh.
So, what’s changed?
PERSONNEL: The flat-passing game of Charlie Hodgson, and the finishing ability of David Strettle, have rarely been in doubt.
Now, however, those qualities have come together with the increased presence of Will Fraser and Ernst Joubert in the loose, quicker ball from the forwards, and the attacking fulcrum that Joel Tomkins has become.
The ex-Wigan man is top of the offload charts, and his abrasive qualities in contact create the space which his handling game can unlock.
PITCH: Much doubt and speculation surrounded the unveiling of our new artificial pitch at Allianz Park.
However, so far it has proved a triumph - improving the contests at the scrum and the ruck, and increasing the pace of the game no end.
Sarries have taken the new pitch as their cue to launch into a more free-flowing style of rugby - moving the ball wider earlier, to give the likes of Tomkins and Brits more opportunities, and with a new willingness to run from their own territory when it's on.
PERSPECTIVE: There seems to have been a slight tactical shift, away from the safety-first approach of trying to eliminate playing in our own half, for risk of conceding penalties, and away from the clinical approach of taking all points however they come.
Instead there is a greater belief that the talent in our squad should be able to cut most defences to ribbons. And long may it continue.
Of course, the coaches would prefer a situation where we were so comfortable with ball in hand that running from deep wouldn't be a risk, that we wouldn't cough up so many scoring chances with over-complicated moves.
But the only solution to the error-count is greater familiarity - which is already evident.
One coach who should be feeling pleased with himself is SuperKev Sorrell - the man in charge of our attack.
Not only has he presided over this shift in mentality, but also his ability to deconstruct an opposition defence from the comfort of a laptop - and relay that message to the players - is very impressive.
He is certainly an excellent reader of the game.
And with the spring coming – meaning better weather, even more crucial fixtures, and the return of players from Six Nations duty – you wouldn’t bet on Sarries putting their foot on the break any time soon.