Jan 15, 2017
Last-gasp Ashton snatches draw in Wales
Saracens snatched a stunning 22-22 draw in a dramatic Pool 3 Champions Cup game away to Scarlets at the Parc y Scarlets.
A second half Scott Williams try looked to be the match winner for the Welsh region, but a 80th minute try from Chris Ashton clinched an amazing last-gasp draw with Saracens staring down the barrel of a first European defeat in 13-games.
The draw now means Saracens have broken the record for an unbeaten side in Europe, extending their run to 14-games without defeat.
Scarlets outside half Dan Jones kicked 17-points in an assured display. Saracens crossed for three tries on the day with wings Nathan Earle and the man of the moment Chris Ashton the scorers.
Down to 14-men and 40 metres form the Scarlets line some superb vision from Owen Farrell unpicked the Scarlets defence. On his shoulder once again was Chris Ashton who just managed to ground the ball to send the Saracens players in raptures. This was embodiment of the famous never-say-die spirit that has seen Mark McCall’s men scale the heights of European and domestic rugby.
The first half was a played a frenetic pace. Scarlets ran everything in the first forty with their much-heralded backline showing their class as they dragged Saracens defenders across every inch of the Parc y Scarlets turf.
Centre Nick Tompkins, making his 50th appearance for Saracens, had a real job on his hands trying to keep a lid of Wales centre Scott Williams, who was a threat throughout. Tompkins, supported by the likes of Marcelo Bosch, Owen Farrell and the hard-hitting Alex Lozowski defended superbly well as the West Walians’ back division looked to test their opponents at every opportunity.
The hosts nearly scored the first try of the game when their skipper Ken Owens burrowed over after another multi-phase Scarlets move. The hooker though spilled the ball and the try was chalked off. Their consolation was a Dan Jones penalty as they edged in front after nine minutes.
Saracens hit back when Nathan Earle (a late inclusion for Chris Wyles) scored after 15 minutes, with full-back Alex Lozowski providing the assist with a fantastic piece of skill to send in Saracens’ promising wing in for his second try of the season in the Champions Cup. Farrell, kicking into a stiff breeze, couldn’t add the extras.
The Scarlets though cranked up the tempo. Livewire halfback Aled Davies sniped and scurried at every breakdown and it would be at a ruck where Saracens conceded a penalty to give the Scarlets an easy chance to edge in front. Dan Jones stepped up and landed the three points as Scarlets headed past the 20-minute mark with a 6-5 lead.
Saracens couldn’t exit their own territory as smoothly as they would have liked. A combination of a strong Carmarthenshire wind and some committed work at the breakdown from the Scarlets pack meant Sarries had to fight for every inch of territory.
Dan Jones added another penalty before the break as they headed into the refuge of the Parc y Scarlets changing rooms with a four-point lead.
Jones added another penalty minutes after the break but it was Saracens who were next to cross te whitewash as Chris Ashton dotted down after collecting an Alex Lozowski offload.
This was a classic Ashton try. Tracking the break of Lozowski after the Saracens full-back was released by a cute inside ball from Owen Farrell. Farrell converted but the Scarlets would hit back almost immediately when the impressive Scott Williams waltzed into score after a brilliant cut-out pass from the equally as influential, Aled Davies.
Saracens had chances to level the game up. In a crucial period after the hour mark the reigning European Champions went close to scoring their third of the afternoon, with Chris Ashton and replacement Will Skelton both going agonisingly close to scoring. Skelton’s effort is sure to rancour with Saracens fans, with television replays showing the ball kiss the white line, yet the on the field decision stood despite the TMO’s intervention.
Sarries dusted themselves and tried again. An Owen Farrell penalty was cancelled out by a Dan Jones effort, and they had their chances with a driving maul with two minutes left to play.
Replacement Will Skelton was yellow-carded for foul play in the closing stages to round off what looked to be disappointing afternoon for the north Londoners, but step up Messrs Farrell and Ashton.
The Wigan born pair have developed a telepathic understanding in their time in the Black of Saracens and after the Sarries skipper sliced through the Scarlets defence there was the Ashton, who carried over Scarlets lock forward Tadhg Beirne on his back to score. Farrell converted as both teams shared the spoils of Euro classic.
Final Score: Scarlets 22 Saracens 22
Saracens: Alex Lozowski; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Nick Tompkins, Nathan Earle; Owen Farrell (c), Richard Wigglesworth( Spencer68); Richard Barrington( Lamositele 51), Schalk Brits(George 51), Juan Figallo( Koch 51), Maro Itoje, Jim Hamilton, Michael Rhodes( Skelton 57), Schalk Burger( Brown 72), Jackson Wray
Replacements: Jamie George, Titi Lamositele, Vincent Koch, Will Skelton, Kelly Brown, Ben Spencer, Tim Streather, Matt Gallagher:
Scores Tries Ashton x 2; Earle:
Cons Farrell 2/3:
Penalties Farrell 1/2:
Yellow card Skelton(78):
Scarlets: Liam Williams; Johnny McNicholl, Hadleigh Parkes( J.Davies 68), Scott Williams, Steff Evans; Dan Jones, Aled Davies( J.Evans 68); Rob Evans( W.Jones 73), Ken Owens (c)(Elias 68), Samson Lee. (Kruger 64), Jake Ball( Price 79), Tadhg Beirne, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, John Barclay( Boyde 68):
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, Tom Price, Will Boyde, Jonathan Evans, Aled Thomas, Jonathan Davies.
Scores Try S.Williams
Penalties D.Jones x 5:
Scoring Sequence 3-0 D.Jones penalty;3-5 Earle try; 6-5 Jones penalty;9-5 Jones penalty;12-5 Jones penalty;12-10 Ashton try;12-12 Farrell con; 17-12 S.Williams try; 19-12 Jones con; 19-15 Farrell pen;
22-15 Jones penalty; 22-20 Ashton try; 22-22 Farrell con: