Rhodes stars as Saracens hold off Leinster
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Michael Rhodes put in a man-of-the-match performance to help Saracens beat Leinster 25-17 in their European Champions Cup quarterfinal in Dublin on Saturday.
It was a blistering first-half display from Saracens which laid the platform for victory, but they did not have it all their own way in the second half.
The defending champions had to hold off a Leinster onslaught in the second half with tries from Andrew Porter and Jordan Larmour closing the gap but the English side held on for a famous success and a spot in next weekend’s semifinals.
Stand-in flyhalf Alex Goode was another hero for Saracens, scoring 16 points and he opened up a quick lead with a simple penalty kick but Johnny Sexton soon hit back after Porter won a turnover at the breakdown.
The rest of the opening period was dominated by Saracens who were on top at the scrum, allowing Goode to keep the scoreboard ticking over with a pair of three-pointers.
A remarkable performance from Mike Rhodes, your @Heineken Star of the Match 🌟
Who else stood out for you this afternoon? pic.twitter.com/rUnIM9bWH6
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) September 19, 2020
That dominance continued but it would be Elliot Daly this time who slotted over a further brace of penalties from long-range with the wind in his back, putting Saracens 15-3 ahead 27 minutes.
Saracens then went further clear with a stunner from European Player of the Year Alex Goode who found Duncan Taylor and collected the one-two before selling a dummy and diving towards the tryline for the opening five-pointer.
He then stepped up and slammed over the conversion to make it 22-3 at the break.
Leinster would not lie down and started to edge possession and territory, piling on the pressure and it would pay off as Andrew Porter went over at the posts, with the try awarded once the TMO had a look at the grounding. Sexton converted and it would get better for the Irish province on the hour mark.
From a stable driving maul, Leinster worked it round the corner and Sexton was able to find Jordan Larmour who blitzed the Saracens line, sprinting clear of Duncan Taylor before dotting down. That made it a five-point game with another straight-forward conversion but that was as good as it got for the hosts.
Despite two late misses from the kicking tee from Daly and Goode, the latter would get a second chance and stepped up in nerveless fashion to step up and slam over a penalty with 10 seconds left on the clock to ensure Saracens’ defence of their European crown would go on.
They will face either ASM Clermont Auvergne or Racing 92 in next weekend’s Champions Cup semifinals.
Man of the match: Michael Rhodes was the star of the show. He bullied opponents up front and won several turnovers in crucial areas on the field.
Tries: Porter, Larmour
Cons: Sexton 2
Pens: Goode 4, Daly 2
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Hugo Keenan, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Will Connors, 6 Caelan Doris, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Rory O’Loughlin.
Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Manu Vunipola, 23 Dominic Morris.
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Joy Neville (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)