Apr 23, 2016
Saracens book Champions Cup final place
Saracens produced another knock-out rugby masterclass to edge out Wasps in a nervy European Rugby Champions Cup semi-final at the Madjeski Stadium, running out 24-17 winners.
Mark McCall’s side crossed for two tries, with Michael Rhodes scoring a first half score and Referee Roman Poite awarding a second half penalty try to the Men in Black who will now travel to Lyon to contest their second Champions Cup final in three years.
This was Saracens’ fourth successive semi-final appearance in the Champions Cup, and prematch the Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall called on his side’s experience in knock-out European rugby to come to the fore as they face Dai Young’s in-form Wasps side.
They would need to call on all their big game experience right from the off when livewire halfback Dan Robson crossed for a try after just two minutes of play. Sarries hadn’t even touched the ball and they were 7-0 behind.
Sarries looked to respond with the power of their forward pack. The front eight looked strong at the set-piece and in the loose, and they provided an opportunity for Saracens’ first points of the game after Wasps were penalised for coming in at the side of a Sarries maul. Farrell couldn’t land the three points.
The Men in Black continued to plug away, and should have had a try awarded when Duncan Taylor grounded the ball after a Halai knocked on in goal. The try was chalked off though by the match TMO, who penalised Chris Ashton in the build-up much to Saracens fans bemusement.
Saracens were dominating both territory and field position, but found their progress halted by some steadfast Wasps defence. With the Vunipola’s and Schalk Brits coming to the fore as ball carries, Sarries looked to puncture the Wasps line, but were left frustrated with Dai Young’s men resolve.
It was very much welcome then when Sarries would score not through their attacking endeavour, but by their defensive squeeze forcing an error from the Wasps. Looking to exit their 22 after absorbing another free-flowing Sarries move, Jimmy Gopperth’s clearance was charged down by the industrious Michael Rhodes. The South African blindside showed great composure to regather the spiralling ball to crash over to score. Again, Farrell uncharacteristically missed an opportunity at goal but the England star dusted himself down to land a 39th minute penalty to send Sarries into the break with a slender one point lead.
If people were doubting Owen Farrell’s kicking over their halftime Bovril’s then the Sarries number ten was quick to remind them of his quality sending over two long-range penalties in quick succession to extend his side’s lead to 14-7 approaching the 50 minute mark.
The Sarries fly-half was in the thick of things, and after a high tackle he was yellow carded for a challenge where Wasps scrumhalf Dan Robson fell awkwardly into.
Gopperth sent over a penalty goal, and cut Sarries lead to four points. Down to 14-men Sarries rallied. With Billy Vunipola and Brad Barritt producing some important defensive plays as Wasps looked to cut oose with the numerical advantage.
Then another twist in a nervy game, as Wasps replacement MacIntyre was yellow carded for kicking Maro Itoje in the head in back play. The Wasps man was very lucky that card wasn’t a different colour, as Farrell stepped up to slot the penalty kick.
The game was then put beyond Wasps in the 74th minute as they conceded a penalty try for collapsing a maul when Saracens were driving for the right corner, Farrell then did the honours.
Wasps were not dead though and Johnson drove over with five minutes remaining, Gopperth adding the extras, to reduce the gap to just seven again.
It was too little too late though and Saracens held out to make their second European final in four years.
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Duncan Taylor, Brad Barritt (c), Chris Wyles; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits, Petrus du Plessis, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Michael Rhodes, Will Fraser, Billy Vunipola
Replacements: Jared Saunders , Richard Barrington, Titi Lamositele, Jim Hamilton, Jackson Wray, Neil de Kock, Charlie Hodgson, Marcelo Bosch.
Scores Tries Rhodes(29); Penalty try (73):
Penalties Farrell x 4:
Replacements used Saunders for Brits (75); Lamositele for Du Plessis (77); Wray for Rhodes (63); de Kock for Wigglesworth (77):
Yellow card Farrell (51):
Wasps: Charles Piutau; Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, Siale Piutau, Frank Halai; Jimmy Gopperth, Dan Robson; Matt Mullan, Carlo Festuccia, Lorenzo Cittadini, Joe Launchbury, Bradley Davies, James Haskell (c), George Smith, Nathan Hughes
Replacements: Ashley Johnson, Simon McIntyre, Phil Swainston, Sam Jones, Thomas Young, Joe Simpson, Ruaridh Jackson, Rob Miller.
Scores Tries Robson (2); Johnson (76):
Cons Gopperth x 2:
Replacements used Johnson for Festuccia (70); McIntyre for Mullan (61); Swainston for Cittadini (66); Jones for Haskell (70); Simpson for Robson (51):
Yellow card McIntyre (69):
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