Apr 01, 2018
Saracens' reign as European champions ended by Leinster
Saracens' hopes of a third consecutive Champions Cup title were dashed in Dublin as Leinster progressed to the semi-finals with a 30-19 win.
Johnny Sexton's boot and three tries from Garry Ringrose, Dan Leavy and James Lowe cemented the Irish province’s place in the last four, alongside a Fergus McFadden conversion.
Sarries replacement Blair Cowan crossed to give the Men in Black late hope and Owen Farrell was successful with five kicks, as was Marcelo Bosch with one, but it wasn’t to be for the back-to-back European champions.
Farrell recovered from a quad injury to start after missing last weekend’s win over Harlequins. George Kruis returned to lock while Mako Vunipola was promoted to the front row.
An epic noise and a sea of blue welcomed the two sides to the field and the 50,000-strong crowd were vociferous once more four minutes into the game as Isa Nacewa raced down the left and sent Ringrose in unopposed.
Farrell replied with two penalties before Sexton increased Leinster’s lead with three points of his own.
The two traded kicks once more and a monstrous boot from Bosch made it 13-12 at half-time before the hosts raced into a 11-point lead early in the second period.
Sexton added a long-range penalty and moments later James Ryan's cute pop inside was gathered by the onrushing Leavy who scampered under the posts – the home crowd once again in fine voice.
Brilliant, spirited defending with big hits from Liam Williams and Vunipola keeping the home side at bay but a strong driving maul gave Leo Cullen’s outfit the platform to score their third and decisive try; Lowe dotting down craftily on his back following a great shunt from three blue shirts.
Sarries’ response was good with Maro Itoje carrying well and Alex Goode jinking in and out of a number of Leinster defenders.
They eventually, and deservedly, got themselves on the try count. An accurate line-out superbly taken by Nick Isiekwe and a compact maul saw Cowan cross for his first for the club.
The game was set for a grandstand finish with Williams almost finishing off a free-flowing move, only to be denied by the last-gasp heroics of Rob Kearney.
Devin Toner was sent to the bin with five minutes remaining for kicking the ball out of Ben Spencer’s hands but Saracens couldn’t capitalise on their one-man advantage.
15. Rob Kearney 14. Fergus McFadden 13. Garry Ringrose 12. Isa Nacewa (O'Loughlin 79') 11. James Lowe 10. Johnny Sexton (Carbery 68') 9. Luke McGrath (McCarthy 65'); 1. Cian Healy (J.McGrath 54') 2. Sean Cronin (Tracy 60') 3. Tadhg Furlong (Porter 66') 4. Devin Toner 5. James Ryan 6. Scott Fardy (Ruddock 65') 7. Dan Leavy, 8. Jordi Murphy (Deegan 79').
Replacements 16. James Tracy 17. Jack McGrath 18. Andrew Porter 19. Rhys Ruddock 20. Max Deegan 21. Nick McCarthy 22. Joey Carbery 23. Rory O'Loughlin.
Tries: Ringrose (4'), Leavy (47'), Lowe (58')
Conversions: Sexton 2/2, McFadden 1/1
Penalties: Sexton 3/3
Yellow card: Toner (75)
15. Alex Goode 14. Liam Williams (Wyles 63') 13. Marcelo Bosch (Lozowski 60') 12. Brad Barritt 11. Sean Maitland 10. Owen Farrell 9. Richard Wigglesworth (Spencer 60') 1. Mako Vunipola (Barrington 77') 2. Jamie George (Brits 52') 3. Juan Figallo (Lamositele 65') 4. Maro Itoje 5. George Kruis (Day 77'), 6. Nick Isiekwe 7. Schalk Burger (Cowan 60') 8. Jackson Wray
Replacements 16. Schalk Brits 17. Richard Barrington 18. Titi Lamositele 19. Dom Day 20 Blair Cowan 21 Ben Spencer 22 Alex Lozowski 23 Chris Wyles.
Tries: Cowan (64')
Penalties: Farrell 3/3, Bosch 1/1
Man of the Match: Dan Leavy