Saracens seize control of group

By
Updated: December 17, 2012

It was sweet revenge for Saracens as they defeated Munster 19-13, and in the process seized top spot in group one.

Having made heavy weather of their win against struggling English side Sale in last weekend’s fixture they had no such worries back in France, trouncing the same opponents 62-0 to move five points clear in Pool Six.

Their fellow Top 14 side Castres had opened the day’s proceedings with a dire display in a 10-8 home win over Scottish outfit Glasgow to move second in Pool Four, three points behind Ulster.

Saracens’ victory saw them move onto 14 points, two clear of Racing Metro with Munster, who took a point with a defensive bonus, a further point behind with two games remaining.

“It was a very, very important game and this time round we did the little things really well which was crucial,” said Saracens captain Steve Borthwick.

His Munster counterpart Doug Howlett took defeat graciously but said that they were far from out of contention.

“It was a hard-fought battle where defence was the dominant factor,” said the former All Black, who scored his side’s only try.

“There are a lot of what ifs from the game. However, we have lost the battle but not the war.”

Richard Wigglesworth created Saracens try, his deft grubber kick into the corner catching the Munster defence flat-footed, which was touched down by England wing David Strettle.

Owen Farrell added the conversion to give the hosts a 10-3 lead 21 minutes into the match.

However, a loose pass by Farrell four minutes later saw centre James Downey intercept just inside Munster’s half.

The former Northampton back charged down the pitch but realising he was not going to make the line, he offloaded to Howlett who scored his 10th try in the competition. Ronan O’Gara converted for 10-10.

Farrell subsequently missed two relatively simple kicks at goal and O’Gara showed him how to do it with a delightful long-range penalty with 30 minutes remaining to give Munster the lead for the first time 13-10.

However, Farrell recovered his composure in the pouring rain to kick two penalties to give the hosts a 16-13 lead.

Saracens, though, were reduced to 14 men in the 62nd minute when French referee Jerome Garces showed a yellow card to flank Will Fraser for what he adjudged a high tackle on Howlett.

The visitors, though, were unable to take advantage of that with O’Gara missing with a drop-goal and then a penalty in the unrelenting rain and with less than five minutes remaining, Farrell added another penalty.

Toulon ran rampant against Sale, who have failed to register much of a revival since former All Black coach John Mitchell took over at the end of last month, with nine tries, seven of them in the second-half.

Several of their foreign stars got in on the try feast, former Springbok Joe van Niekerk scoring two while the Armitage brothers Steffon and Delon also scored a try apiece.

France flyhalf Frederic Michalak contributed 20 points, including a try.

Castres only secured their win – their 14th successive home victory – when the visitors were reduced to 13 men with 10 minutes remaining and they scored their only try of the game through Yannick Caballero.

Glasgow, who along with Edinburgh have yet to secure a win for the Scottish sides in their eight games this season, had a chance to win it but Scotland fly-half Ruaridh Jackson’s penalty hit the post.

Defending champions Leinster are on the brink of losing out when they were defeated again by Clermont in Dublin.

Clermont’s victory in Dublin, built on 23 points from France star Morgan Parra’s boot, saw them move onto 18 points in Pool Five while Leinster are on 10 points after grabbing a defensive bonus point right at the death when Fergus McFadden touched down.

“We are very happy as every other time we have come here we have lost,” said Parra.

“Our defence was the difference, which meant we got to control the ball.”

His captain Aurelien Rougerie paid a handsome tribute to the France scrumhalf.

“He was everything to do with this victory. It is down to him.”

Exeter are a point behind Leinster as they secured a second successive win over Welsh side Scarlets, with a 30-20 victory at home.

Clermont led 9-6 approaching the break when they landed a huge psychological blow as they scored a superb try.

Wesley Fofana burst over the line after Napolioni Nalaga had been brought down just short. Parra landed the conversion to give them a 16-6 lead at half-time.

Parra and Jonathan Sexton each converted a penalty early in the second-half.

However, the hosts’ chances of getting back into the match got slimmer in the 50th minute when flank Sean O’Brien was sin-binned for a dangerous challenge on Sitiveni Sivivatu and Parra landed the resulting penalty for 22-9.

Parra added another in a peerless display of kicking but the Irish side, at last showing some fire, saw Shane Jennings go over for only their second try in this season’s tournament and Sexton added the conversion for 25-16.

Parra, though, added yet another three points leaving the hosts 10 minutes to recoup something from the match which they did when Sexton burst from the halfway line and fed McFadden, who secured a crucial bonus point.

Ulster’s 13-match winning run came to an end in Belfast when Northampton avenged last week’s 25-6 defeat in Pool Four with a hard-fought 10-9 win.

Saints scored all their points in the opening 40 minutes with a try from No.8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze along with a conversion and penalty from Stephen Myler.

Ulster’s points all came from the boot of Paddy Jackson.

The Irish side had a chance to snatch victory at the death but Ruan Pienaar went wide with a 40-metre penalty.

Despite the defeat, Ulster still lead the group by five points.

Ospreys restored some pride to Welsh club rugby with an impressive 17-6 victory over four-time winners Toulouse in Pool Two.

The Ospreys, whose two wins in this season’s competition are the only ones from 12 games Welsh sides have played in, scored the one try of the game through man of the match Eli Walker against a Toulouse side that totally under-performed.

Leicester went top of the pool after they eked out a come-from-behind 14-13 win over Treviso in Italy.

The English side, who travel to Ospreys in the next round of matches in January, lead Toulouse by a point with two games remaining while Ospreys are five points adrift of the pool leaders.

Leicester host Toulouse in what should be a thrilling final pool game.

Toulouse general manager Guy Noves conceded that his side had not deserved to win.

“We knew that we wouldn’t earn our spot in the knock-out stages even if we won here and similarly we knew if we lost we wouldn’t be eliminated,” he said.

The key moment came with Toulouse’s second yellow card in the game close on the hour mark when experienced flank Jean Bouilhou was sin-binned for a high tackle on the outstanding 20-year-old wing Walker.

Walker made them pay double for that as he was released on the left wing and evaded a dreadful attempt at a tackle by opposite number Yoann Huget to touch down.