Saracens' plastic pitch holds no fear for Newcastle Falcons on Sunday, according to veteran Scot Ally Hogg.
The No 8 skippered the Falcons to a 13-11 triumph over London Irish in the rain last weekend, but can expect much firmer conditions underfoot at Barnet’s Allianz Park against the big-spending Londoners, who last year became the first top-flight team to abandon grass in favour of a synthetic surface.
Hogg said: “It is always nice to play in different places, and the pitch down at Saracens isn’t something we are worrying about.
“We have our own synthetic training surface at Druid Park and, while theirs is slightly different, it is not something we are totally unaccustomed to.”
Former Sarries stars among the Newcastle ranks have been playing their part in the build-up to the Aviva Premiership clash, Hogg stating: “From speaking to Adam Powell and Andy Saull, who have trained at Allianz Park, they say it is a lot softer than other synthetic pitches.
“It will definitely make the game quicker, especially when you compare it to a grass field on a wet day like we had on Sunday against London Irish. There were guys slipping over, which you won’t get at Saracens, and the bounce of the ball will be a bit different.
“Apart from that I can’t see it being a problem, and it will be fun to get out there. It should be a good, quick game, and that forces you to make quick decisions.”
Placed nicely at eighth in the table after winning half of their six league games, Hogg is not letting results go to his head.
“We have managed to sneak a couple by the skin of our pants,” he said. “We could and should have beaten Gloucester as well, but we just need to keep building. Saracens away will be tough, but is another game we are looking to get something out of.
“After that we have two games in the LV= Cup, and it is a case of just chipping away every week.”
Coming out on the right side of a dramatic ending against London Irish last time out, the ex-Edinburgh man was among the many bemused by the time-wasting antics and subsequent penalty miss from the Exiles as Shane Geraghty’s hurriedly-replaced penalty attempt fell short.
“Aye, we were just keeping everyone on their toes,” Hogg joked.
“They got a bit of a dubious penalty from the scrum, but we are happy with the win.
“Irish wanted to run down the clock so that, if they scored it, we wouldn’t be able to have a go at replying. They used up their allotted time, the ball fell over and Geraghty slipped as he rushed to kick it. It would have been a bit unfair to lose it in that way, given how we had defended our own line for the previous 10 minutes, and it was a 50-50 call. I was actually the one who touched it down. It was maybe three or four metres short but, with the way the wind was blowing, it kept coming and coming towards the posts. I was glad to see it fall where it did!”
Keen to take on board the learning points from a hard-fought victory, he added: “The way we took our try was positive, and something we can take from the game.
“The pack had worked hard on the pick-and-go to get us in position, and it was a brilliant pass from Mike Blair out to Powelly. The pass really made that try, but the thing that will stick in our minds is the way we ground it out.
“Our forwards coach John Wells had spoken during the week about just winning the game, whatever it takes. Towards the end that meant hanging on under some significant pressure, but we did it.”