Racing Metro 28-37 Saracens, Heineken Cup
Farrell delivers kicking masterclass to see off Racing
January 12, 2013
Date/Time: Jan 12, 2013, 16:40 local, 15:40 GMT
Venue: Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Racing Metro 28 - 37 Saracens
Half-time: 25 - 18
Tries: Ducalcon, Imhoff 2
Cons: Descons 2
Pens: Descons 3
Tries: Wyles
Cons: Farrell
Pens: Farrell 10
Saracens' Owen Farrell goes for the posts, Racing Metro v Saracens, Heineken Cup, Beaujoire Stadium, Nantes, France, January 12, 2013
Owen Farrell booted 32 points to propel his side to the brink of the Heineken Cup quarter-finals
© Getty Images

Saracens produced a superb second half display to claim a famous 37-28 victory over Racing Metro and take a big step towards the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

If Pool 1 rivals Munster slip up against Edinburgh tomorrow then the Premiership side will be assured of a place in the last eight. That prize can also be secured with a victory over the Edinburgh when they visit Vicarage Road next weekend.

Owen Farrell kicked a tournament record 10 penalties and converted a Chris Wyles try as Sarries survived two yellow cards, a dominant first-half display from the hosts and a worrying injury to David Strettle to pull off a vital victory.

It looked to be a different story when Racing Metro led 22-9 after just 25 minutes. Saracens arrived at Stade de la Beaujoire on the back of four straight wins top of the group but this first Heineken Cup tie in Nantes could not have got off to a worse start.

Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins

  • Owen Farrell may have booted an incredible 32 points to punish an indisciplined Racing Metro and propel Saracens to the brink of a quarter-final berth but the England fly-half is so much more than a prolific goal kicker with his resilience in the face of a far-from-welcoming Stade de la Beaujoire crowd setting the tone for gutsy showing from the Premiership side.
  • So assured was Farrell from the tee that it is easy to forget he is only 21-years-old and only made the step up to the Test match stage in last year's Six Nations. His game-defining contribution will have done little to silence those critics who point to Sarries' lack of tries as a clear weakness in their armoury but will have boosted his chances of retaining the England No.10 shirt for the Six Nations opener against Scotland next month.
  • It was not such a great day for potential England wingers with David Strettle stretchered from the field following a cheap shot from Racing's Fabrice Estebanez and Chris Ashton caught out at least once by the Racing speed of thought and execution. Strettle's woes and a record-breaking hat-trick from Wasps winger and England reject Tom Varndell may have Stuart Lancaster scratching his head.
  • But it was Saracens' team spirit that was perhaps the most impressive aspect of this famous triumph. Many sides would have capitulated in the face of Racing's blistering opening with three tries in 20 minutes seemingly putting the French side on the course for victory. But all the team-building at the Munich beer-fest and beyond continues to pay off for the Premiership free-thinkers whose enviable mental strength ensured they weathered the storm before turning the game on its head.
  • Quarter-final qualification may not yet be assured but a win-less Edinburgh are unlikely to provide much of a barrier to a bullish side that loom once again as title contenders.

Strettle was floored by what appeared to be a swinging forearm from behind by Fabrice Estebanez. The England wing was left bloodied and prone on the floor as play was stopped for almost 10 minutes for treatment before he was carried off. Duncan Taylor took his place but the loss of their wing clear disrupted Saracens.

Racing Metro seized early control of the scrums that put their back row on the front foot and their backs thrived on the possession. No.8 Masi Matadigo made inroads, Juan-Martin Hernandez weaved close to the line before prop Luc Ducalcon crashed through Joel Tomkins and Brad Barritt on the line to score the opening try which was converted by Sebastien Descons.

Farrell responded with his first penalty but Chris Ashton's fumble ended with Argentina wing Juan Imhoff scampering clear for Racing's second. Farrell again kept Saracens' score ticking over but again, Racing responded with a try.

Hernandez launched an ambitious attack from inside his own half after slipping out of Tomkins' grasp before timing his pass to Imhoff to perfection as the wing raced over to the joy of the home crowd. Descons again converted.

Farrell kicked a third penalty but Saracens looked in trouble when Will Fraser was ordered to the sin bin for striking Hernandez in the face with his elbow in a late challenge. Descons kicked the penalty to open a 22-9 lead. Farrell and Descons traded penalties before Farrell kicked two more before the break, the second after suffering a shoulder barge that saw second-row Jone Quvo Nailiko binned.

That fuelled Saracens' belief and when Fraser supplied possession from a lineout, Farrell and Tomkins combined to send Wyles flying over before the conversion tied the scores at 25-25 after 48 minutes. Farrell's seventh penalty handed Saracens the lead for the first time after 53 minutes though the French response was inevitable.

Neil De Kock's desperate tap tackle on Estebanez prevented a try only for Ashton to put his team under greater pressure when he was shown a yellow card for striking the Racing centre off the ball as the pressure grew.

Yet Saracens dug in and survived the 10 minute spell with a penalty apiece before their impressive defence pinned back their hosts time and again. Farrell then added two more penalties including a last-minute strike from distance that crucially denied Racing even the consolation of a losing bonus point and effectively knocked the French giants out of the cup.

Saracens drive Racing Metro's Antoine Battut © Getty Images

Saracens boss Mark McCall commented: "In the last four years we have been building in this competition and a win against a very good French side in France continues that. It was a fantastic performance and we're very proud of the team after bouncing back from the setbacks in the first half of the early injury, the tries and a yellow card. We were off our game in that first half and not working hard enough. But we knew at half-time that if we rectify things then we could win the match."

McCall also confirmed on the club's website that Strettle was already on the mend. "Thankfully, Strettle was up and about after the game and there appeared to be no long term damage."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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