Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Euro agony after Ulster lose to Saracens

Ulster's players show dejection at the final whistle during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
Ulster's players show dejection at the final whistle during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Dejected Ulster players look on during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 6th April 2013 Picture by Darren Kidd Heineken Cup quarter-final, Saracens v Ulster at Twickenham. Disappointment for Ulster's Dan Tuohy and Andrew Trimble
Ulster's Iain Henderson scores a try during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
Heineken Cup Quarter-Final, Twickenham Stadium, London, England 6/4/2013 Saracens vs Ulster Saracen's Chris Ashton scores a try INPHO/Billy Stickland
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Chris Ashton of Saracens outpaces Paddy Jackson of Ulster to score his team's second try during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Wing Chris Ashton of Saracens is congratulated by teammate Brad Barritt (C) and Joel Tomkins (R) after scoring his team's second try during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Saracens fans during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Joel Tomkins of Saracens is tackled by Luke Marshall of Ulster during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Saracens' Mako Vunipola is tackled by Ulster's Paddy Jackson during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Mako Vunipola of Saracens offloads to teammate Will Fraser of Saracens as he is tackled during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Nick Williams of Ulster claims a high ball during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Prop Matt Stevens of Saracens pops out of the top of a scrum during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Iain Henderson of Ulster wins lineout ball during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Jared Payne of Ulster attempts to clear the ball under pressure from Owen Farrell of Saracens during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Ruan Pienaar of Ulster clears the ball downfield during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Jared Payne of Ulster offloads to teammate John Afoa as he is tackled by Schalk Brits of Saracens during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Saracens fans during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Ulster fans cheer on their team during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Mark Anscombe the Ulster Head Coach watches over his team's pre match warm up prior to the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Nick Williams of Ulster is tackled by Alistair Hargreaves of Saracens during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Joel Tomkins of Saracens is tackled by Luke Marshall of Ulster during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Saracens' Mike Brown tackles Ulster's Ruan Pienaar during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
Saracens' Kelly Brown tackles Ulster's Ruan Pienaar during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
Saracens' Mike Brown tackles Ulster's Ruan Pienaar during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013. See PA story RUGBYU Saracens. Photo credit should read: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire
Saracens' Kelly Brown takes a high ball during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013. See PA story RUGBYU Saracens. Photo credit should read: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire
Ulster's John Afoa attcks during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar kicks for goal during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
Ulster's Dan Tuohy attacks during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Lock Steve Borthwick of Saracens recovers the loose ball during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Iain Henderson of Ulster wins lineout ball under pressure from Will Fraser of Saracens during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Iain Henderson of Ulster wins lineout ball under pressure from Will Fraser of Saracens during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Saracens Joel Tomkins (right) in action during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013. See PA story RUGBYU Saracens. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire
Ulsters Jared Payne (left) is tackled by Saracens Kelly Brown during the Heineken Cup, Quarter Final match at Twickenham, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2013.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Ruan Pienaar of Ulster kicks a penalty during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: David Humphreys the Ulster Director of Rugby looks on during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Saracens and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on April 6, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland- 5th April 2013 Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye Ulster depart from Belfast International Airport ahead of tomorrow's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Twickenham, London. Fan Sara-Louise Busby pictured at the airport before leaving.
Northern Ireland- 5th April 2013 Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Ulster depart from Belfast International Airport ahead of tomorrow's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Twickenham, London. Left to right. Fans Miguel Robinson, Clarke Campbell and John Hewitt pictured at the airport before they leave.
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 5th April 2013 Mandatory Credit - Picture by Darren Kidd Heineken Cup quarter-final, Saracens v Ulster at Twickenham. L-R Ben, Luke and Jamie Beattie from Belfast
Northern Ireland- 5th April 2013 Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Ulster depart from Belfast International Airport ahead of tomorrow's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Twickenham, London. Left to right. Fans Daniel Soutar, Adam Glass and Simon graham pictured at the airport before they leave.
Northern Ireland- 5th April 2013 Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Ulster depart from Belfast International Airport ahead of tomorrow's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Twickenham, London. Left to right. Fans Dawn and Garth McCartney pictured at the airport before they leave.
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 6th April 2013 Mandatory Credit - Picture by Darren Kidd Heineken Cup quarter-final, Saracens v Ulster at Twickenham.
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 5th April 2013 Mandatory Credit - Picture by Darren Kidd Heineken Cup quarter-final, Saracens v Ulster at Twickenham. L-R Christos Michaelides, Ben, Jamie and Luke Beattie with Conor Loughridge
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 5th April 2013 Mandatory Credit - Picture by Darren Kidd Heineken Cup quarter-final, Saracens v Ulster at Twickenham. L-R Christos Michaelides, Ben, Jamie and Luke Beattie with Conor Loughridge
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 6th April 2013 Mandatory Credit - Picture by Darren Kidd Heineken Cup quarter-final, Saracens v Ulster at Twickenham. Jen Woodhouse
Northern Ireland- 5th April 2013 Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Ulster depart from Belfast International Airport ahead of tomorrow's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Twickenham, London. Fan Sara-Louise Busby pictured at the airport before leaving.
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 6th April 2013 Picture by Darren Kidd Heineken Cup quarter-final, Saracens v Ulster at Twickenham. Saracens fan Joel Goldman and Ulster fan Andrew McNair

England wing Chris Ashton returned to try-scoring form at Twickenham as Saracens beat Ulster to book their first Heineken Cup semi-final appearance for five years.

Ashton, who suffered a major form lapse during this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship, touched down 17 minutes from time to confirm a Twickenham last-four appointment with Toulon or Leicester on April 28.

England fly-half Owen Farrell kicked 17 points from five penalties and a conversion of flanker Will Fraser's first-half try as a crowd of just under 38,000 saw Saracens never seriously troubled.

Ulster had fleeting moments but they failed to consistently trouble Saracens defensively after the home team took control from an early stage.

Scrum-half Ruan Pienaar booted three penalties for Ulster and converted flanker Iain Henderson's late try, yet they never threatened a repeat of last season's Heineken Cup heroics that saw them reach the final.

Saracens, five points clear at the Premiership summit, looked a team in control throughout and Ulster had no answer at the crucial moments as Saracens' try-line did not look like remotely being breached.

Ulster plugged away in search of a consolation score but Saracens were having none of it, and they comfortably preserved an 18-point margin that accurately reflected their dominance.

Saracens, aiming for a domestic and European double this season, fielded their clutch of current England stars under Steve Borthwick's captaincy while Scotland skipper Kelly Brown was also among those looking to impress British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland.

Another Lions hopeful - Ireland wing Tommy Bowe - featured on the Ulster bench for his first matchday involvement since suffering a knee injury four months ago as last season's beaten Heineken finalists returned to the scene of that 42-14 defeat against Leinster.

Farrell booted Saracens ahead through a second-minute penalty but the opening exchanges were dominated by largely aimless tactical kicking from both teams as try-scoring opportunities proved few and far between.

Ulster quickly grew into the game but Pienaar missed two penalty chances in three minutes - his second attempt hit the post - but he made no mistake from close range two minutes later.

And with Saracens finding themselves under increased scrummage pressure, England prop Mako Vunipola was penalised after being demolished by Ulster tighthead John Afoa and Pienaar hauled Ulster level.

They were only on level terms for three minutes, though, as a concerted spell of Saracens pressure resulted in Fraser powering over, although it required several reviews by television match official Eric Gauzins before the try was awarded.

Farrell converted and then kicked a penalty as half-time approached, hoisting Saracens 10 points clear to give them a degree of breathing space for the first time.

And when Farrell added a further penalty eight minutes into the second period Ulster had a mountain to climb, trailing by 13 points and with seemingly little hope of replicating last season's achievement in Europe.

Ulster tried to increase the tempo but Saracens were not noticeably threatened defensively despite some powerful Ulster surges led by blindside flanker Iain Henderson.

Farrell kicked another penalty to give Ulster further cause for concern and victory was sealed when prop Rhys Gill secured possession in midfield and Ashton ran around two defenders to claim a try that he celebrated with a trademark dive.

Bowe featured off the bench late on but Ulster were already down and out, well beaten by a team whose superior organisation and collective excellence made it a one-sided affair.

Henderson had the final say, posting a try that Pienaar converted, but it was Saracens' day and they now await the outcome of events in southern France tomorrow.

 

Final Score:

SARACENS 27 ULSTER 16

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