Vu­nipola brothers shine as Sara­cens re­main un­beaten

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Champions Cup - By Kate Rowan at Mat­mut Sta­dium de Ger­land

Sara­cens pro­duced a clin­i­cal and ef­fi­cient per­for­mance as they scored four tries to con­tinue their un­beaten run in Europe.

With both Glouces­ter’s and New­cas­tle’s Cham­pi­ons Cup hopes ex­tin­guished and Ex­eter fac­ing a trip to Mun­ster’s Thomond Park in a win­ner-takes-all clash on Satur­day, the north Lon­don­ers re­main Eng­land’s stan­dard bear­ers in the Cham­pi­ons Cup.

The bonus-point vic­tory against Lyon, who are still with­out a win in Europe, guar­an­tees Sara­cens a quar­ter-fi­nal place, and suc­cess against Glas­gow at Al­lianz Park on Satur­day would mean they qual­ify as top seeds.

Mark Mccall, Sara­cens’ di­rec­tor of rugby, was par­tic­u­larly happy hav­ing col­lected a full set of away wins. “We’re re­ally pleased, it’s our third away win in the com­pe­ti­tion and away wins in this com­pe­ti­tion are price­less,” he said. “To come to Lyon and get a bonus point is mas­sive for us and sets us up for next week­end with a huge game against Glas­gow. We’re in a good po­si­tion, in the quar­ter-fi­nals, and we want a home tie now.”

There was the added bonus for Ed­die Jones that Sara­cens’ Eng­land con­tin­gent came through un­scathed, with Billy Vu­nipola im­press­ing in his sec­ond ap­pear­ance back after 12 weeks out re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken arm.

While there were a few fleet­ing nervy mo­ments in the first half when Owen Far­rell looked to be rub­bing his hip and stepped out of the game mo­men­tar­ily, al­low­ing Alex Goode to take a kick from hand, the Eng­land co-cap­tain said after the game that he was in good shape. Sara­cens’ only in­jury con­cern is Scot­land wing Sean Mait­land, who went off early in the first half with a tight ham­string and looks un­likely to face Glas­gow.

Far­rell’s on-field pres­ence and lead­er­ship was cru­cial in al­low­ing out­side cen­tre Nick Tomp­kins to shine. The 23-year-old con­trib­uted a brace of tries, scor­ing the vis­i­tors’ first after 20 min­utes as he raced un­der the posts off the back of a sweet pass from Mako Vu­nipola. The loose­head prop was in in­spired form as man of the match and that was the first of two as­sists as he also set up flanker Jack­son Wray for Sara­cens’ sec­ond try.

Far­rell was not in any way sur­prised by the prop’s abil­ity as a try maker. “Mako does that in train­ing all the time,” he said. “He picks his head up and plays what is in front of him, it’s no sur­prise. He’s al­ways like that and backs it up with a bit of phys­i­cal­ity as well.”

Mccall praised the Vu­nipola brothers for their con­tri­bu­tions and seemed re­lieved at Billy’s progress, con­sid­er­ing the player had opened up re­gard­ing his anx­i­eties sur­round­ing his tor­rid run of in­juries.

“Mako is pretty good at that [try as­sists] and his over­all game was re­ally strong to­day. Billy was on a dif­fer­ent level to where he was last week as well,” he said. “It was a re­ally good team per­for­mance, as well. We dom­i­nated field po­si­tion and made them do things they didn’t want to do.”

In the sec­ond half, Tomp­kins sealed his brace when he scored off the back of a driv­ing maul.

Re­place­ment scrum-half Ben Spencer se­cured the bonus point be­fore the hour.

One sour note for Sara­cens was the yel­low card for Maro Itoje in his first club ap­pear­ance since chip­ping his knee cap while on Eng­land duty. The lock was sent to the sin­bin by ref­eree An­drew Brace for slap­ping the ball out of Lyon re­place­ment Charl Mcleod’s hand.

It was Lyon who had the fi­nal say in the game with a try by wing Alexis Palis­son.

Dou­ble top: Out­side cen­tre Nick Tomp­kins races away for one of his two tries

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