MATCH REPORT | SARACENS MEN 35-20 OSPREYS
Saracens Men marched in to the Quarter Finals of the Heineken Champions Cup as they completed a brilliant comeback to beat the Ospreys 35-20 at StoneX Stadium.
The Men in Black trailed for large periods of the match, but two tries from Max Malins, one from Duncan Taylor, one from Tom Woolstencroft and 15 points from the boot of Owen Farrell set up a showdown with La Rochelle next weekend in the last eight.
In a tight opening it was Sarries who edged ahead on the 10 minute mark. A succession of penalties which meant the referee issued a final warning allowed Owen Farrell an easy shot from straight in front, and he put his side 3-0 in front.
The Ospreys hit back though and stormed in front just two minutes later. A break from Morgan Morris and a lovely inside pass put Mike Collins straight through a gap and he had the pace to race clear from just outside the 22. Owen Williams added the extras to give the visitors a four point advantage.
That seemed to wake the hosts up, however a couple of chances passed them by in the StoneX sunshine. A five metre lineout got the maul going, but just as Jamie George went to dot the ball down a host of bodies got under him and the Ospreys earned a goal-line drop out.
Then came some stunning rugby as Max Malins and Maro Itoje both stepped deep in to the 22, but when the ball was recycled down the left George was bundled in to touch with the line at his mercy.
Their lack of a clinical edge came back to bite them as the Ospreys crossed for their second to send the travelling fans in to raptures. Justin Tipuric’s charging run towards the line took them to within touching distance, and then the ball was zipped to the right where Kieran Williams was waiting to dot down in the corner. A brilliant conversion from the touchline then put them 14-3 up.
Itoje’s chargedown from the restart threatened to kickstart a comeback before the break, but the ball dribbled in to the in-goal area and the Welsh side could clear.
Then came a potentially crucial moment as the Ospreys looked to pull away with a five metre lineout, but brilliant work from the Sarries pack held the maul up and got the ball back.
Sarries then had a huge chance to get back in to the game when they had a penalty just 10 metres from the line, but after going quickly a huge hit dislodged the ball and the visitors got the scrum.
From the resulting scrum though Sarries got a penalty, and Farrell successfully kicked it straight through the posts, cutting the gap to eight points.
Kieran Williams was then sent to the sin-bin for the visitors as he killed the ball following Earl’s rampaging break, and they made them pay straight away as Malins crossed in the final play of the half to get his side right back in it.
A scrum was won against the head and the ball was quickly moved to the England winger who did sensationally well to stretch and dot down. Farrell’s excellent conversion meant the hosts trailed by just one point at the break.
The hosts looked to up the tempo at the start of the second half, and Mako Vunipola’s excellent break saw him escape the 22 and head up towards half way but his inside pass to George saw the Ospreys defence scramble back in time.
Sean Maitland was then pinged at the breakdown for holding on, and that allowed Williams to nail his third kick and extend their lead to four points.
A golden chance then came for Sarries as Tompkins hammered his way up to the line, and then the ball popped up from the ruck but it went to ground and the visitors survived.
A breathless passage of play then gave the Ospreys another chance to stretch their lead, a powerful break from Nicky Smith ended in a penalty and Williams made no mistake as they went 20-13 ahead.
A moment of magic then got Saracens level as StoneX rose to its feed to celebrate a second try for Malins. Alex Goode’s terrific grubber in behind was gathered by Andy Christie, and he drew in the final defender before popping the ball inside to Malins who strolled over with a huge grin on his face. Farrell’s conversion made it 20-20 as we headed in to the final quarter.
That sparked Sarries in to life and they were now very much on the front foot, rewarded with another penalty and Farrell put them in front with 63 minutes gone as his penalty sailed through the posts.
Then came the game deciding moment when Duncan Taylor picked the pocket of the Ospreys with an intercept to send StoneX wild. The visitors tried to take a quick lineout but the Scotland centre spotted it and plucked it out of the air for an easy stroll to the line. Farrell’s extras from right in front gave his side a 10 point lead.
There was still time for Tom Woolstencroft to put the cherry on top of the last 16 cake, as with the final play of the game a rolling maul thundered over and the hooker was there to dot down. Farrell’s extras went just wide, but StoneX could now celebrate a sensational win as the passage to the Quarter Finals became clear.