MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 55-36 Connacht Rugby (ICC - Rd 2)
Saracens Men got their Investec Champions Cup campaign back on track with a crucial 55-36 victory over Connacht at StoneX Stadium.
The Men in Black were in the mood with their devastating attack proving too much for the Irish side to handle, as they scored eight tries to sweep aside their opponents and register an entertaining bonus-point win.
Sarries enjoyed some early ball and some nice attacking exchanges with Aled Davies moving the point of attack regularly, showing some promising signs.
Those promising signs turned in to points in extraordinary fashion when Juan Martin Gonzalez scored a scarcely believable individual try to give the hosts the lead.
The back-rower climbed highest to catch an Owen Farrell kick, and then he shrugged off four defenders single handedly to bulldoze over from 20 metres out. The conversion went just wide, but Sarries had a confidence boosting early 5-0 lead.
Connacht hit back straight away though with Ireland star Bundee Aki crossing the line for their opening try of the game. A huge touch-finder gave them a five metre lineout, and then with the maul powering over the centre was able to break away to score. Jack Carty’s conversion gave the Irish side a 7-5 lead.
Saracens then hit the front again courtesy of a routine penalty from Farrell, but in a topsy-turvy opening half Connacht then struck again to retake the lead.
They edged closer and closer to the line with multiple phases, and then eventually a snipe from scrum-half Caolin Blade allowed him to dot down from close range. Carty’s extras put them 14-8 ahead.
Gonzalez, who was having an incredible game then almost completed another brilliant piece of play when he dummied and stepped to safety by his own line, but some afters off the ball earned Connacht a penalty which Carty slotted to edge them nine points ahead.
Sarries were in search of a boost before the break and thought they had it when a maul rumbled over but the referee deemed the ball to be held up and Connacht got the put in.
That didn’t seem to bother the hosts though, as from the next attack they did strike to get back within touching distance. Another penalty took them to within striking distance, and this time the maul worked as Jamie George stayed patient at the base to dot down in the corner and bring his side within four points of Connacht.
Farrell then kicked his second penalty of the day with just two minutes until the break, but there was still time for one more score as an incredible passage of play saw Sarries take the lead right on half time.
George crossed for his second score in almost as many minutes as once again a brilliant kick took play right up to the line, and the trusty rolling maul hammered over with the England international once again at the base. McCall’s side were now running down the tunnel with a 21-17 lead.
Sarries started the second half knowing they needed just one more try for the bonus point, and they delivered that just four minutes after the restart as they looked to put the hammer down.
A brilliant break from Sean Maitland took them up to the 22, and then Alex Goode’s inch-perfect grubber bounced up to Olly Hartley who had a clear run under the sticks. Farrell’s extras meant the hosts were now 11 points ahead with almost the entire second half ahead of them.
Farrell was taking control of the game, and his incredible spiral bomb then John Porch in all sorts of bother who couldn’t gather the kick and gave the hosts the scrum in a good attacking position.
George then almost completed his hat-trick when he intercepted, but as he was hauled down
Cian Prendergast killed the ball and was sent to the sin-bin for a cynical foul. Farrell pointed straight at the sticks, and made it 31-17 as we entered the final half an hour.
The lead then grew again as the performance went up another level, this time Maitland finished off a sweeping move with a looping pass from Farrell which found the winger in acres of space in the left hand corner.
They weren’t stopping there, just two minutes later Ivan van Zyl’s superb turnover then released Lucio Cinti who raced clear from 30 metres to score his first Saracens try in scintillating style. With some wondrous attacking rugby on display, Sarries now all of a sudden had a 43-17 lead.
Maro Itoje was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle, and JJ Hanrahan capitalised straight away as he gathered an offload which more than flirted with the touchline to break clear and score.
Any hopes of a comeback were squashed though when Hartley got his second as he gathered Nick Tompkins’ kick ahead to dot down under the posts in front of the North Stand. Farrell’s conversion brought up the half century of points.
Connacht did get their try bonus point as Joe Joyce crashed over from close range, but Sarries responded with their eighth as Theo Dan had his turn to be at the back of a maul and rumble over in the corner.
Prendergast then had the final say with an interception try to score Connacht’s fifth, but that proved to be the last notable act of what was a much-needed win for Saracens who have brought themselves right back in to European contention.