Match Report: Saracens 33-17 Ulster Rugby

Luke Marshall

Luke Marshall scored Ulster’s opening try

Ulster were outplayed and outscored as they fell to a 33-17 defeat at Allianz Park to a dominant Saracens side in the European Rugby Champions’ Cup.

Despite taking the lead through an early Luke Marshall try, Ulster went in at half-time behind on the scoreboard after Billy Vunipola’s late try and two Owen Farrell penalties.

After the break Farrell pulled the strings from fly-half, setting up Duncan Taylor for the second try before the pack took over with scores from Maro Itoje and Schalk Brits securing a try bonus point for Mark McCall’s men.

Ian Humphreys scored a late intercept try for Ulster, but they were easily beaten on the day and it means their qualification hopes go down to the final weekend when they will need a bonus point win over Oyonnax to stand a chance of reaching the last eight.

Farrell opened his account after a bright opening for Saracens through a second minute penalty, but Ulster immediately hit back with an early try that stunned the Allianz Park crowd.

Inside centre Stuart McCloskey made the initial break on the outside from inside his own half and made his way into the Saracens 22 and, with a penalty advantage, returning man Jared Payne stabbed a kick through which Luke Marshall gathered to score.

Paddy Jackson landed the conversion but Farrell brought Saracens back to within a point with a penalty midway through the half, however he had missed another effort at goal shortly before that.

Ulster were soaking up a lot of pressure and Saracens were playing the game with a lot more possession and territory and they should have retaken the lead through another Farrell penalty but the English fly-half hit the post.

Initially Ulster were taking the game to their hosts and turned down a kick at goal to go to the corner, but after Saracens turned over a line-out they opted for the posts the second time around which Jackson pushed wide.

Ulster then suffered a double blow before half time as they lost Wiehahn Herbst to injury and then they went in at half-time behind after Billy Vunipola crashed over from the back of a driving maul for the hosts’ opening try.

Farrell landed the difficult touchline conversion and having been behind for most of the first half the English side went in at the break with a 13-7 lead.

Straight after the break it was Ulster who were on the offensive and Jackson rewarded a powerful driving maul with three points however Farrell was on hand only four minutes later to put over another of his own.

Saracens were continuing to batter away like they did in the first half and although Ulster held out bravely, Farrell was able to slip a tackle from Robbie Diack and feed Duncan Taylor who strolled over for the score.

Mistakes from Ulster were letting Saracens get momentum and after another maul that drove into the Ulster 22 the ball was recycled with Maro Itoje diving over from close range following Schalk Brits’ intial dive.

Farrell missed both conversions and it looked like Saracens were on their way to a second successive bonus point victory over their Irish opponents with 20 minutes still to get the fourth try.

Their task was made a lot easier when Ulster winger Craig Gilroy was sent to the sin bin for repeated offences and almost immediately after Brits peeled off a driving maul and scampered over for the bonus point try in the 62nd minute.

But it would be the Ulstermen who would have the final cheer of the game as, after holding out Saracens remarkably for the final minutes, Ian Humphreys intercepted the ball and ran the length of the pitch to score a consolation try.

 

The scorers 

For Saracens

Tries: B Vunipola, Taylor, Itoje, Brits

Con: Farrell

Pens: Farrell (3)

For Ulster

Tries: L Marshall, Humphreys

Cons: Jackson, Pienaar

Pen: Jackson

 

SARACENS

(15-9) Ben Ransom (Charlie Hodgson 61), Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch (Nick Tompkins 71), Duncan Taylor, Chris Wyles, Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth (Neil de Kock 63); (1-8) Mako Vunipola (Richard Barrington 65), Jamie George (Schalk Brits 56), Petrus du Plessis (Juan Figallo 56), Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Michael Rhodes, Will Fraser (Jackson Wray 63), Billy Vunipola.

Sub not used: Jim Hamilton.

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall (Rory Scholes 71), Stuart McCloskey, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson (Ian Humphreys 61), Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall 75); (1-8) Kyle McCall (Callum Black 74), Rory Best (Rob Herring 61), Wiehahn Herbst (Ricky Lutton 35), Alan O’Connor (Lewis Stevenson 74), Franco van der Merwe (Clive Ross 66), Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Roger Wilson.

Yellow card: Craig Gilroy (61’)

 

Man of the Match: Owen Farrell (Saracens)

Referee: Jerome Garces (Fra)