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Saracens set sights on home European Champions Cup quarter-final tie

Mark McCall targeted a home European Champions Cup quarter-final after holders Saracens secured a last-eight place for the sixth successive season.

It might not have been the way Saracens envisaged progressing from Pool Three - Owen Farrell's conversion of a last-gasp Chris Ashton try secured a 22-22 draw at the Scarlets - but ultimately it was a case of job done.

Victory over Allianz Park visitors Toulon next Saturday will guarantee a home tie, and rugby director McCall was relieved to have avoided an ambush in west Wales.

"The feeling is a little bit mixed," he said.

"From a performance point of view, there were a lot of things we didn't do all that well, whether that be our penalty count or how poor we were at the breakdown.

"But we found a way to be resilient and hang in there and give ourselves a chance, and in the last 15 minutes we had a number of chances. To find a way to get two points out of it is a good achievement."

The Scarlets looked to have kept alive their hopes of qualifying thanks to Wales centre Scott Williams' second-half try and 17 points from fly-half Dan Jones.

But Ashton struck twice and his fellow wing Nathan Earle also touched down, with Farrell adding a penalty and two conversions, yet the visitors completed a first European game without winning since being beaten by semi-final opponents Clermont Auvergne in April 2015.

Had they won, it would have given them a record 14th successive European victory.

"It makes it exciting for next week, which will be a big, big game," McCall added.

"Assuming Toulon got what they wanted today (against Sale Sharks), we are playing to win the pool next week and, more importantly, to try to get a home quarter-final.

"We all know that in this competition a home quarter-final is a good thing to have. But if we have to go away, we don't mind.

"Given the disruption we've had and how many of our front-line players weren't involved today, we can be pleased with a draw.

"Both Chris' tries were tries we are accustomed to him scoring. He runs outstanding support lines, which is what he has been doing for years and years. He's a natural finisher."

A Scarlets victory would have given them an outside chance of progressing as one of three best runners-up across the tournament's five groups, but they were thwarted by the Ashton and Farrell late, late show.

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said: "The dressing room is a very sombre one. It was a game that got away. We did enough to win it.

"It was a massive effort and the players deserve credit for the way they played. We certainly turned around our performance against Saracens earlier this season.

"It is a pretty tough pool, but to beat Toulon and then have this game run so close, we have made a lot of improvements but we want to keep improving.

"We want to keep building. We have come a long way from the start of the season, but there is still work to be done and we don't want to sit back and think we are the bee's knees at all."


From Belfast Telegraph