Saracens produced a stunning performance of attacking rugby against Zebre Rugby in round 4 of the Heineken Cup, beating the Italian side 64-3 at Allianz Park.
Playing their first Heineken Cup game at Allianz Park Saracens were dominate from start to finish as David Strettle, Jacques Burger, Jamie George, Richard Wigglesworth, Ben Ransom, Duncan Taylor x 2, Billy Vunipola and Chirs Ashton all scored on the day.
Owen Farrell added 19 points with the boot, only missing one kick in masterful display off the kicking tee.
Saracens raced into a ten point lead in the opening five minutes as David Strettle ran in his seventh try of the season after four minutes.
After fly-half Owen Farrell nudged over a penalty in the opening minute, Strettle collected Ben Ransom’s pass to squeeze into the left hand corner to score his seventh try of the season and his eleventh at Allianz Park – Farrell converted expertly from the left hand touchline.
The dye was cast for Zebre, who were being mauled by Saracens speed and power, with scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth pulling the strings – the 30-year-old England half-back making the most of a great platform supplied by his forward pack.
It was a member of that forward pack who would be the next try scorer, as fans favourite Jacques Burger emerging from a bottom of a Saracens driving maul to score his first try for the club – Farrell missed what a tough kick in blustery conditions.
Saracens were really enjoying themselves; Jackson Wray, Jamie George and Billy Vunipola all punched holes into a retreating Zebre defensive line, as backs Ben Ransom, Chris Ashton and David Strettle clocked up the metres gained stats with a number of breaks and darts.
Zebre were struggling, and their frustration got the better of them as openside wing-forward Nicola Cattina cynically took out George Kruis at the line-out, with referee Dudley Phillips correctly brandishing a yellow card for dangerous play. Minutes later, inevitably, Saracens scored their third of the afternoon, with Jamie George scoring his fifth of the season after Steve Borthwick collected well in the line-out. Farrell converted with aplomb.
Saracens fourth was the pick of the bunch, with Chris Ashton twice heavily involved. From a breakdown centre filed, Owen Farrell found Chris Ashton on the left hand side, after the winger had looped around from his right wing. Ashton took the ball at pace and straightened his run to feed centre Duncan Taylor with a sumptuous inside ball – Taylor raced away and Ashton, not satisfied with admiring his slight of hand, was backing up to collect Taylor’s pass and as the Zebre defence closed in on the him Ashton fed half-back Richard Wigglesworth who scored with ease. A great try – Farrell added the extras.
Minutes later Luciano Orquera scored his sides first points of the game as Saracens went into half time 29 – 3 up.
Last weekend over in Parma the break served Zebre well as they came out and produced a more competitive performance in front of their home crowd, but this week Saracens were in no merciful mood. First it was Ben Ransom after 45 minutes who inflicted more damage to the Italians – the pacey full-back supporting equally pacey Jamie George, whose blistering break got the Allianz Park faithful to their feet. Again Farrell converted.
As the game continued to open up, Saracens half-backs Owen Farrell & Richard Wigglesworth began to enjoy themselves – first it was Wigglesworth. The scrum-half quick tapped and with a lovely weighted pass found Duncan Taylor who raced into to score. Minutes later it was Farrell who was creating mayhem for the Zebre defence, as the 22-year-old outside half exchanged passes with Schalk Brits, Marcelo Bosch in the build up to Duncan Taylor’s second of the afternoon.
Billy Vunipola crashed over for his sides eighth from close range as the clocked ticked down, then Zebre enjoyed their best spell of the game in the final few minutes as they were camped out on the Sarries try line, going agonisingly close to scoring on two occasions.
Saracens though defended well, and after Zebre conceded a penalty with the majority of the crowd suspecting the game to have been all done and dusted Owen Farrell grabbed the ball and ran the penalty, feeding Chris Ashton who moved into top gear coasting past the flailing Zebre rear-guard to finish with his trademark “Ash Splash” under the posts – Farrell drop-kicked the conversion to round off a brilliant afternoon at Allianz Park.
Tries: Strettle, Burger, George, Wigglesworth, Ransom, Taylor x 2, B. Vunipola, Ashton
Conversions: Farrell 8
Saracens starting XV; 15. Ben Ransom; 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Duncan Taylor, 11. David Strettle; 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Richard Wigglesworth; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Jamie George, 3. James Johnston, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. George Kruis, 6. Jackson Wray, 7. Jacques Burger, 8. Billy Vunipola.
Replacements; 16. Schalk Brits, 17. Mako Vunipola, 18. Matt Stevens, 19. Alastair Hargreaves, 20. Ernst Joubert, 21. Neil de Kock, 22. Charlie Hodgson, 23. Alex Goode.
Zebre: 15 Palazzani, 14 Sarto, 13 Quartaroli, 12 Ratuvou, 11 Venditti, 10 Orquera, 9 Leonard; 1 Aguero, 2 Manici, 3 Leibson, 4 Geldenhuys, 5 Bortolami (c), 6 Bergamasco, 7 Cattina, 8 Vunisa.
Replacements: 16 Giazzon, 17 de Marchi, 18 Chistolini, 19 Van Vuren, 20 Caffini, 21 Chillon, 22 Iannone, 23 Toniolatti.