Saracens 21-24 Racing Metro, Heineken Cup, December 11
Racing too good for Saracens
December 11, 2010
Saracens' David Strettle is wrapped up by the Racing Metro defence during their clash at Vicarage Road
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Racing Metro maintained their push for Heineken Cup honours with a 24-21 over Saracens that effectively ends the Premiership side's interest in this season's competition.
A first half try from fullback Juan Martin Hernandez and another after the break following a moment of magic from wing Sireli Bobo powered the Top 14 side to their second win of the campaign with fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski and centre Frans Steyn weighing in with the boot.
Saracens took an early lead with a try from wing Noah Cato and No.10 Owen Farrell kept the hosts in touch before a late score from centre Brad Barritt offered hope of a dramatic turnaround but they were unable to rescue the game and their Heineken Cup campaign.
Sarries dominated the early exchanges but struggled to turn their possession into points in the face of a resolute Racing defence until a strong run from fullback Chris Wyles and then Barritt carved the visitors open. The ball went down in midfield as flanker Andy Saull looked to join the attack but the move was kept alive and the ball was worked wide to Cato who had the pace and power to cross for the opening try of the game.
Farrell was unable to add the extras but he was on target with a penalty moments later to stretch his side's lead. But the Parisians were soon on the board Wisniewski slotting his first effort from long range on the quarter hour after Barritt was penalised at the breakdown. And Racing were back within two points shortly after with Steyn making the hosts pay for some back chat from Rhys Gill with a monster penalty from halfway.
Racing had the lead midway through the half with a try that came gift-wrapped from Saracens. A chip through into the Saracens' 22 by Bobo looked to have wasted possession but Barritt's decision to throw a wild pass back in-field as he slid to claim the ball proved costly with Hernandez pouncing for his side's first try. Wisniewski made it a seven-point score with the conversion.
The Top 14 side were soon knocking on the door again with their decision to put width on the ball causing trouble for Saracens but Wisniewski was wide with a drop goal attempt in a major let off for the hosts. Hernandez was also wayward with a drop goal attempt as the half drew to a close to leave his side with a five-point lead as the sides headed for the tunnel.
The honours were even in the early second half exchanges with defence dominating proceedings following eye-catching runs from first Racing No.8 Sebastien Chabal and then Saracens duo Saull and Jacques Burger.
A penalty against Hernandez handed Farrell the chance to notch the first score of the second half but he could only pull his kick wide of the left-hand upright before both sides opted to ring the changes in a bid to wrestle control of the game.
Replacement Saracens prop Carlos Nieto was the guilty party the next time the whistle went at the scrum and Steyn punished his crime with another excellent long-range penalty from just inside his own half that took his side out to an eight-point lead. However, an offside call against Chabal offered Saracens am immediate chance to respond and Farrell kept his side's euro hopes alive with a little help from the post.
And his next brought Saracens even closer to a turnaround in the game before Wisniewski gave his side a little more breathing room as the game approached the final 10 minutes. But the game was al l but decided as a contest a couple of minutes later with a moment of magic from Bobo. The winger made the initial incision to put Saracens on the back foot with Chabal lending support with his sizeable frame. The ball then found its way back to Bobo who injected an electrifying burst of pace to leave Burger grasping at air before he coasted round Wyles on his way his side's second try.
Wisniewski was unable to land the conversion but the miss was not as costly as it could have been after Saracens failed to make the most of a golden opportunity moments later. Centre David Strettle hit the line at pace and cut Racing wide open and he was hauled down just short by replacement Dan Scarbrough. And just when they needed it most the home side lacked the composure and precision to convert the position into a try.
Saracens continued to press forward with Strettle and lock Steve Borthwick both involved deep inside the Racing 22 only to be frustrated by some scrambling defence. However, the home side remained patient and worked the ball wide to Barritt who showed good strength to force his way over in the corner for a try that was converted by Farrell to bring his side within three points and set up a grandstand finish.
But Racing secured the ball from the re-start and closed out the game to claim their first victory on English soil and all but end Sarries' Heineken Cup hopes for another season.
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