Saracens equal European Cup record with Sale win
Defending champions Saracens defeated Sale 24-10 for a record-equalling 13th consecutive European Cup victory on Sunday to virtually wrap-up a quarter-final spot.
The English side have 18 points from four Pool 3 matches, eight ahead of three-time champions Toulon. They are the only unbeaten side left this year even if Sunday’s win was nowhere near as convincing as their 50-3 rout of Sale in the teams’ first meeting last weekend.
The game’s three tries all came in the last eight minutes with England fly-half Owen Farrell going over from close range after a onehanded offload by Will Skelton.
Farrell also kicked 14 points although he uncharacteristically missed two straightforward penalties. Nathan Earle added Saracens’ second try three minutes from time for a 24-3 lead before Bryn Evans scored a consolation try in the last minute for a Sale side who have lost all four games and remain without a point. The win allowed Saracens to equal the record of 13 wins in a row held by Munster since 2007 while Sale fans had the consolation of seeing Kiwi winger Denny Solomona make his debut after his controversial switch from Super League’s Castleford.
Sale’s challenge wasn’t helped by having three players sin-binned. “Across the board, it was the kind of game you can get frustrated-it seems to change from one week to the next,” said Saracens coach Mark McCall. “I think we need referees to use judgement but you’re relying on the opinion of the referee on the day. That’s potentially a dangerous thing to do.” Clermont took revenge on Ulster as a five-try, 38-19 win propelled the Top 14 leaders to the brink of the quarter-finals.
The French side were beaten 39-32 in Belfast last week, but after surviving a scare in the second half on Sunday, they stretched their lead in Pool 5 to 17 points, eight ahead of Bordeaux and Ulster. Clermont scored three tries in the first 25 minutes through Isaia Toeva and a brace from English full-back Nick Abendanon.
HALFPENNY FALLS SHORT
The bonus point was assured just after the interval thanks to an interception try from flyhalf Camille Lopez as Clermont swept to 28-0 lead. But Ulster rallied with three tries of their own through Tommy Bowe, who scored two, and Franco van der Merwe to cut the deficit to 28-19. Clermont steadied the ship with a Lopez penalty after 69 minutes before a penalty try was awarded three minutes from the end.
“It’s a good victory but at 28-0 ahead we should not have let them back in the game,” admitted Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra, who converted all five of his team’s tries.
Toulon suffered their second defeat in four games, going down 22-21 to the Scarlets. Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked all of Toulon’s points on his return to South Wales with seven penalties.
However, his last-minute attempt from long distance missed the target as Scarlets kept their quarter-final hopes alive. Centre Scott Williams scored the only try of the match for the Welsh region in the first half with Rhys Patchell kicking the remainder of the Scarlets’ points.
“The boys will enjoy this. We don’t get opportunities to play a side like Toulon, with their experience and history, too often,” said Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac.
“It would have been pretty cruel if we had lost it at the death.” In Pool 4, Castres edged fellow French side Montpellier 29-23 in a game where the losing side had Paul Willemse redcarded for charging into a ruck. Three-time champions Leinster lead the pool, five points ahead of Montpellier and seven in front of Castres, after handing Northampton a record European Cup defeat in a nine-try, 60-13 demolition on Saturday. — AFP
PARIS: Denny Solomona fails to gather the ball cleanly under close attention from Saracens’ Chris Wyles during his debut for Sale. — AP