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Saracens too good for Connacht

REPORT: Inside centre Tom Hartley, making his first start in the Champions Cup, notched a brace for Saracens in a 55-36 rout of Connacht at Barnet Copthall Stadium on Saturday.

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The hosts ran in eight tries in a dominant offensive display – hooker Jamie George on the scoresheet with a pair of tries in addition to solitary scores from flank Juan Martin Gonzalez, wings Sean Maitland and Lucio Cinti and replacement hooker Theo Dan. Flyhalf Owen Farrell added 15 points from the tee.

The visiting Irish province were in the contest up until half-time with tries from inside centre Bundee Aki and scrumhalf Nathan White – the visitors trailing 17-21 at the interval.

Replacement flyhalf JJ Hanrahan, replacement lock Joe Joyce and lock Cian Prendergast earned the bonus point for Connacht Rugby with second half scores – flyhalf Jack Carty and Hanrahan contributing seven and four points respectively from tee.

Saracens opened the scoring in the eighth minute as Farrell executed a deft kick to allow flank Gonzalez to gather on the edge of the 22 and break three tackles to dot down.

The visiting Irishmen responded in kind five minutes later as inside centre Aki crossed the whitewash off the back of a rolling maul – Carty adding the extras.

Farrell then slotted the first of two penalties in the opening 40 to regain the lead for Saracens. That lead was short-lived, however, as Connacht flyhalf White dotted down after some quick thinking at the breakdown on the tryline.

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Carty extended the lead to 17-8 before two late first-half tries, both from hooker George who capitalised on the dynamic Saracens’ rolling maul, turned the first half on its head – Farrell adding a further three points from the tee as the hosts led 21-17 at the break.

Saracens turned the screw in the opening minutes of the second half, securing their bonus point try. A grubber from scrumhalf Andy Goode broke the Connacht line for inside centre Hartley to gather and score – the first try for the youngster.

Things got worse for Connacht as Pendergast was then sent to the sin bin, with the English side taking control of the contest as Farrell notched his third penalty of the afternoon.

The second half dominance continued when Farrell picked out Maitland with a delicious cross-field pass – the wing scampering over in the corner.

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Minutes later it was replacement Ivan van Zyl who was the catalyst for the sixth try – he turned over the ball at the breakdown before switching out to the right flank where Cinti dotted down.

Following a yellow card for Saracens’ Maro Itoje, Connacht notched their third try of the afternoon – Hanrahan piercing the Sarries line with a mazy run.

Saracens didn’t let up, however. Outside centre Nick Tompkins provided another grubber for Hartley to dot down for the second time.

Joyce then secured Connacht Rugby their bonus point with a close-range finish before replacement hooker Dan added an eighth Saracens try on the back of another rolling maul.

Pendergast contributed a fifth try for Connacht with the clock in the red – the flank capitalising on an errant pass on the halfway line to rumble home.

Saracens secured a vital five points with tough games against Union Bordeaux-Bègles and Lyon awaiting them in January. Connacht sit bottom of Pool One after defeats in their first two games – they travel to Lyon and host Bristol Bears in the new year.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: Gonzalez, George 2, Hartley 2, Maitland, Cinti, Dan
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 3

For Connacht:
Tries: Aki, Blade, Hanrahan, Joyce, Prendergast
Cons: Carty 2, Hanrahan 2
Pen: Carty

Teams

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Olly Hartley, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Andy Christie, 6 Juan-Martin Gonzalez, 5 Theo McFarland, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Alec Clarey, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Tom West, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Toby Knight, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tom Parton, 23 Alex Lewington.

Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Shayne Bolton, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Darragh Murray, 3 Jak Aungier, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Jordan Duggan.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Diarmuid Kilgallen.

Referee: Luc Ramos (France)
Assistant referees: Jeremy Rozier (France), Thomas Chereque (France)
TMO: Patrick Dellac (France)

Source: @ChampionsCup

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