European Challenge Cup - Game of the Week
Saracens triumph in France
December 11, 2009
Richard Haughton stretches the Castres defence
© Getty Images
Saracens got their European Challenge Cup campaign back-on-track with a 23-9 victory over Top 14 leaders Castres at the Stade Pierre Antoine.
Outstanding young openside Andy Saull and Springbok hooker Schalk Brits scored tries for the side at the summit of the Guinness Premiership, with veteran Kiwi fly-half Glen Jackson chipping in with 13 points thanks to two penalties, two conversions and a drop-goal. All of Castres' points came from the boot of fullback Thomas Bouquie during the first-half.
Both sides have enjoyed excellent starts to their domestic campaigns, with Saracens still unbeaten on the domestic stage and Castres sat atop the Top 14 after 15 rounds. They've mixed it with the big boys in French rugby so far this season and backed up their promise by routing Toulouse.
Laurent Labit's men slipped up against Bourgoin last weekend, though, and were always going to be tested by a Saracens side treating the game as a genuine cup-tie after slipping to defeat in their last away game, against a free-flowing Toulon at the Stade Mayol.
Bouquie's boot provided a 9-3 lead at the break, worthy reward for their dominance of possession. The home side were unable to punish Saracens while flanker Justin Melck was in the sin-bin for a cynical bout of playing the ball on the floor however, with only three points arriving during his time in the bin.
As the second-half progressed Saracens grew in stature and their first try came as the result of a bullying drive from the forwards. A catch and drive saw the ball mauled to the 22, where Brits burst clear to the line. The hooker was hauled down just short but Saull was on hand to crash over from close range.
Jackson converted and was on hand to do the same on 72 minutes when Brits sealed the victory with their second try. With Saracens under pressure and struggling to deal with a Castres' counter-attack Brits picked off an errant pass from scrum-half Alexandre Albouy and raced away to score under the sticks.
Toulon's Heineken Cup final victory over Clermont Auvergne may have ended a long title drought for the Top 14 club but two of their players are no strangers to success
We bring you our pick of the best pictures from around the world in the last seven days with the battle for Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup glory taking centre stage
"If you listen carefully you should be able to hear them mining the granite for the statue of a certain Jonny Wilkinson" Graham Jenkins reports from the Heineken Cup Final
Quade Cooper's defence is better than it was 12 months ago and Robbie Deans has erred in omitting him from the core Wallabies squad to play the Lions, Greg Growden writes