Saracens beat Zebre Rugby 10-39 at the Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma, scoring five tries in an impressive perfomance in Pool 3 of the Heineken Cup.
First half tries from George Kruis, Ernst Joubert and Chris Wyles gave Saracens a 0-25 lead at the break and after a David Strettle try was controversially ruled out by the match TMO, Chris Ashton scored the first of two tries to secure the bonus point.
Saracens dominated the first half as the home side rarely made it out of their own half, and had two players sin binned for repeat infringements as Zebre struggled to deal with Saracens attacking play.
Saracens got off the mark with a Charlie Hodgson penalty in the 6th minute, as Zebre were penalised at the breakdown. Saracens were punching holes in the Italians sides defence with alarming regularity, with Messer’s Borthwick, Brits, Vunipola and Kruis carrying well and it was second-rower Kruis who would score the game’s first try. The 24-year-old lock powered over Zebre full-back Guglielmo Palazzani, after collecting a well-timed Neil de Kock bullet pass in the process, scoring just right of the posts -Hodgson converted.
Saracens were by far the more dominant side at this point as Zebre rarely ventured into the Saracens half. Hodgson added three more points after 19 minutes with a well taken penalty. The Saracens set-piece began to assert it’s authority, forcing the Italian side to concede penalty after penalty – and it was from a line-out where Saracens would score their second of the afternoon.
After Saracens booted the ball into to touch from a penalty, Ernst Joubert collected Schalk Brits’ intuitive throw to coast into score, evading two would-be Zebre defenders in the process. Zebre’s struggles with Saracens precision was too much for referee Pascal Gauzere who sin binned Zebre’s giant number 8 Vunisa for repeat infringements, and minutes later Chris Wyles scored in the left hand corner and in the process becoming Saracens all-time leading try scorer in the Heineken Cup.
In the build-up, Saracens England full-back Alex Goode scythed though the black & white rear-guard with a jinking run and after being hauled down, the ball was recycled and Wyles collect the ball to race away to score in the 31st minute – Hodgson converted.
Zebre’s troubles went from bad to worse as their veteran Italian international back rower (and Jacques Burger doppelgänger) Mauro Bergamasco was brandished the yellow card with four minutes left of the first half – Saracens went into the break leading 0-25.
The break served the hosts well, as they began to cause Saracens a few problems with ball in hand and were more resolute in defence. Saracens thought they had secured that all important bonus point when David Strettle collected Charlie Hodgson’s lifted pop pass to dance around the Zebre midfield to score. Unfortunately the Match TMO ruled that there was an obstruction in the build-up – however dubious the evidence was, the try was chalked off.
Saracens frustration was short lived though as Chris Ashton popped up on Marcelo Bosch’s right hand shoulder to score in the 61st minute. Ashton would repeat the feat seven minutes later collecting Alex Goode’s pass, as the England full-back powered his way through the Zebre defenders to feed Ashton. As the minutes ebbed away Duncan Taylor was sin-binned for a professional foul, and Zebre scored their solitary try of the afternoon, Samu Vunisa scoring the five pointer.
Tries: Kruis, Joubert, Wyles, Ashton (2)
Conversions: Hodgson (3), Farrell
Penalties: Hodgson (2)
15. Alex Goode; 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Chris Wyles, 12. Duncan Taylor, 11. David Strettle; 10. Charlie Hodgson, 9. Neil de Kock; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. James Johnston, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. George Kruis, 6. Billy Vunipola, 7. Kelly Brown, 8. Ernst Joubert.
16. Jamie George, 17. Jared Saunders, 18. Matt Stevens, 19. Eoin Sheriff, 20. Jackson Wray, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Owen Farrell, 23. Marcelo Bosch.