Saracens survive Connacht scare
October 11, 2013
Chris Henry makes some yards against Leicester Tigers © PA Photos
Saracens were pushed all the way by Connacht in Galway but managed to see off their Irish rivals 23-17 on Friday evening.
A brace of penalties from Owen Farrell were the only scores of a defence-dominated second half at the Sportsground, as 8/1 outsiders Connacht - inspired by man of the match Kieran Marmion - stayed in the hunt for a shock victory. They almost got it right at the death as bodies piled in close to the Sarries line, but replacements Aly Muldowney and Paul O'Donohoe were held up short and the relieved visitors got out of Galway with the points.
This entertaining Pool Three opener seemed to be going to script early on as converted tries from Chris Wyles and Chris Ashton saw Saracens stride into an early 14-3 lead. But, despite a further penalty from Farrell, Mark McCall's men were reeled in by half-time. Scrum-half Marmion and Danie Poolman both touched down with the latter's score - converted by Dan Parks - getting Connacht back level at 17-17.
A second Farrell penalty put the visitors ahead again in the 53rd minute and the England and Lions fly-half decisively added his fifth successful kick of the night with five minutes to go.
Toulouse are also in Saracens' group and they did what was expected and thrashed Zebre 38-5 in France.
The one sided result will do little to quell the feeling from some quarters that the Italians should not be in the tournament as they have won just one game in their two-season existence. Toulouse had the bonus point sewn up by half-time with a Yoann Huget double and further scores from Maxime Medard and Gregory Lamboley put them in the driving seat. After a raft of half-time changes, Toulouse only crossed for two more tries in the second 40 with Medard grabbing his second alongside a score from Yannick Nyanga.
Leicester Tigers were also in action and they travelled to Ravenhill to face Ulster but it was the Irish who came through with a 22-16 victory.
Five penalties and a conversion from the in-form Paddy Jackson, alongside a first-half try from Tommy Bowe - a score which was also created by Jackson - sent Mark Anscombe's men on their way to victory, although they were unable to deny the visitors a losing bonus point.
The Tigers - who have now lost all three times they have played European rugby at Ravenhill - scored a first-half try through Logovii Mulipola, while Toby Flood nailed two penalties and a conversion before replacement Owen Williams kicked a late penalty to earn Leicester their first ever point from Heineken Cup rugby in Belfast.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Download ESPN's new UK multisport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.
"Some people have it from day one and Brian did." Tom Hamilton talks to the two players who made their Ireland debuts alongside Brian O'Driscoll back in June 1999
Despite having lost all four of their 2014 Six Nations games, the future of Italian rugby is bright with the team showing a new youthful core, argues Enrico Borra
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column