Saracens stun Racing in the snow
December 17, 2010
Saracens' Kelly Brown stretches the Racing defence on a snowy night in Paris
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Saracens kept their feint Heineken Cup hopes alive with a battling 19-14 victory over Racing Metro in their Pool 2 clash at a wintry Stade Yves du Manoir.
A first half try from centre Brad Barritt and 14 points from the boot of man of the match Owen Farrell saw the Premiership side hand their Top 14 rivals their first home defeat in almost a year. The hosts rallied in the second half with tries from winger Mirco Bergamasco and scrum-half Nicolas Durand but they eventually came up short and had to settle for a losing bonus point that was still good enough to take them to the top of the pool.
The win still leaves Saracens with a mountain to climb if they are to progress to the last eight but the character shown by Brendan Venter's side will have been welcomed by Leinster and Clermont Auvergne - the pacesetters in an ultra-competitive pool - who meet on Saturday.
Saracens looked hungry from the off and had Racing under pressure straight from the re-start and were rewarded with a penalty. Farrell hit the upright with his kick but the hosts failed to secure the ball and a knock on gave Saracens the feed at the scrum. A pick and drive from No.8 Kelly Brown took his side close but they had to settle for three points with Farrell slotting a simple penalty from straight in front.
Racing rallied immediately with a hack through putting Saracens on the back foot but the visitors held firm before launching an impressive counter of their own and although they were thwarted in their attempts to notch the opening try they did double their lead through a Farrell drop goal.
Racing started to find their feet in the icy conditions but Saracens' superior work rate ensured the hosts could not settle and in the end it was the Premiership side that threatened next with winger David Strettle denied a try in the corner by Racing No.9 Durand and the Television Match Official.
Snow started to fall again midway through the half and caused problems for Saracens with an error from Wyles leading to an opening for Racing flanker Karim Ghezal who was eventually forced into touch inside the visitors' 22. Saracens continued to play with confidence but their adventure was matched by Racing with wing Benjamin Fall making big gains on a strong run down the touchline. However, his team-mates failed to show the same kind of ambition with the attack coming to an end with a poor drop goal attempt from fullback Juan Martin Hernandez.
Saracens' industry soon brought them more reward with their forwards hammering away at the Racing defence before Farrell almost danced his way over. But the pressure finally told when the ball was recycled and shipped out to Barritt who had the strength to weather the combined tackle of Fall and tight-head Juan Pablo Orlandi and crash over for the opening try. Farrell's excellent conversion stretched his side's lead and there was still time for the young fly-half to notch another penalty before the break as Racing continued to labour.
Saracens looked to pick up where they left off following the re-start with a good break from wing James Short taking him into the Racing 22 but the defence held firm. Instead it was Racing who would earn the first clear scoring opportunity of the half with a penalty at scrum time offering fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski the chance to put his side on the board - but he pushed his kick wide of the posts.
But they were back in the game just a couple of minutes later with an opportunistic score from Bergamasco. A fumble by Strettle inside his own 22 as he looked to take a tap penalty put his side under pressure and scrum-half Neil de Kock's attempt to clear the danger was charged down by Bergamasco who then pounced on the loose ball for the score that was converted by Wisniewski.
Buoyed by that score they were soon on the front foot again with a chip through from Durand putting wing Sireli Bobo into space and De Kock was forced to concede the 5m scrum as he cleaned up on his own line. But Racing turned the screw at the scrum and another penalty allowed Durand to take a quick tap and dart over for his side's second try that was again converted by Wisniewski to bring his side to within two points.
Deterioration in the snowy conditions threatened ruin the contest as a spectacle but to their credit both sides refused to change their high-tempo approach to the game. Pressure from Racing forced a rare penalty from Saracens just past the hour mark but centre Frans Steyn could only pull the long range kick wide of the uprights.
A clever chip through from Wyles then caused problems for Racing and a wild pass from replacement Dan Scarbrough on his own line resulted in a 5m scrum for Saracens but they were guilty of wasting the opportunity.
Racing's forwards attempted to drive their side to within drop goal range as the game entered the last five minutes but Saracens conjured a priceless turnover and wrapped up an impressive victory with one final penalty for Farrell with the last kick of the game.
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