Jan 25, 2015
Saracens progress despite Clermont defeat
Saracens booked their place in the European Champions Cup quarter finals as one of the competitions best runners-up, after they were beaten 18-6 by ASM Clermont Auvergne at the Stade Marcel-Michelin.
In a bruising encounter, two tries from the French League leaders was enough to see them defeat a spirited Saracens side who will console themselves with a quarter final date away to Parisians Racing Metro.
The first half was a brutal affair. ASM Clermont Auvergne, roared on by their fervent blue and yellow following burst out of the traps in the opening exchanges, with Les Juanards commander-in-chief Morgan Parra dictating the tempo of the game with a series of quick tap penalties that were designed to catch Saracens off guard.
The Vulcans looked dangerous, with former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon in particular causing Saracens problems with his incisive running from the blindside of the ruck.
The home side scored the first points of the contest, when they edged in front after the Saracens midfield was adjudged to have drifted offside. Camille Lopez made no mistake from bang in front of the uprights.
Saracens responded well. Billy and Mako Vunipola carried manfully when called upon, and the visitors had a chance to level things up on the tenth minute mark, but Owen Farrell’s attempt drifted wide.
Mark McCall’s side continued to plug away, and looked to have the French league leaders on the back foot when a Farrell show-and-go split the Clermont defence. The home side scrambled well, and Farrell was unfortunately injured in the process. Charlie Hodgson replaced him at outside half.
Hodgson had a chance to level things up for Saracens minutes later, but his attempt frustratingly drifted wide.
The home side responded expertly, when Nick Abendanon crossed for the games first try, collecting a bullet Morgan Parra pass to break through the Sarries line to score. Lopez converted.
Saracens responded minutes later, when a Hodgson added a penalty of his own, to make the scores 10-3 to the hosts at the break.
Saracens were handed a boost, when Clermont lock Vahaamahina was yellow carded for taking a man out at a Sarries lineout.
With the man advantage, Saracens pressed, poked and probed the Clermont defence, but could only muster three points from a prolonged spell of pressure via the boot of Charlie Hodgson.
Then the turning point. Chasing down a towering Alex Goode punt, David Strettle was adjudged to have tackled Nick Abendanon late. Although the incident seemed innocuous, referee George Clancy deemed it worthy of a yellow card.
This provided the French side with much needed momentum, and when Vincent Debaty crossed for his side’s second try the game looked to be slipping away from the north Londoner’s.
Morgan Parra added a later penalty as the game finished ASM Clermont Auvergne 18 Saracens 6, with both sides progressing into the last eight of the competition from a incredibly tough Pool 1.
ASM Clermont Auvergne: Nick Abendanon; Noa Nakaitaci (rep Guildford 78min);Jonathan Davies, Wesley Fofana, Naipolioni Nalaga; Camille Lopez( James 62); Morgan Parra( Radoslavjevic 78); Thomas Domingo( Debaty 51); Benjamin Kayser( Ulugia 70); Davit Zirakashvili( Ric 62);Julien Pierre( Jacquet 70);Sebastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly (capt), Julien Bardy( Bonnaire 54); Fritz Lee.
Replacements: John Ulugia, Vincent Debaty, Clement Ric, Loic Jacquet, Julien Bonnaire, Ludovic Radoslavjevic, Brock James, Zac Guildford.
Tries Abendanon 31 mins; Debaty 54.
Penalties Lopez, James
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Chris Wyles, Brad Barritt( Streather 78);David Strettle; Owen Farrell( Hodgson 18); Richard Wigglesworth( De Kock 55);Mako Vunipola( Barrington 78); Jamie George( Sharman 78); Petrus du Plessis( Johnston 55); Jim Hamilton( Itoje 78); Alistair Hargreaves (capt), Kelly Brown( Joubert 59);Jacques Burger, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Brett Sharman, Richard Barrington, James Johnston, Maro Itoje, Ernst Joubert, Neil de Kock, Charlie Hodgson, Tim Streather.
Penalties Hodgson 2