Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Sarries secure play-off berth

Saracens ran in 10 tries to thump London Welsh 68-17 and secure their place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs whilst also consigning sorry Welsh to a 22nd defeat in as many games.

They now face a difficult away trip to table toppers Northampton in next week's semi-final.

Chris Ashton scored four tries for Saracens, while David Strettle, Alex Goode, Juan Figallo, Charlie Hodgson and the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako also got in on the act. Owen Farrell had a perfect day from the tee, converting all nine.

Nick Reynolds and Chris Elder scored the tries for Welsh with Elder adding two conversions and a penalty. It was a spirited first half performance from them but had no answer in the final quarter to Saracens' far superior pace and power.

Tom May captained London Welsh in his final match before retiring after a 17-year senior career. Lock Josh McNally made his first Premiership start for the club with Eddie Aholelei and Jack Gilding returning at prop in place of Nathan Trevett and Ben Cooper for the bench.

Hamstring victim, Brad Barritt was still an absentee for the Saracens but half-backs, Farrell and Neil De Kock returned to the starting line-up. Up front, Billy Vunipola, Schalk Brits and skipper Alistair Hargreaves were all recalled.

Within the first minute, Welsh almost took a shock lead when Elder burst away from the kick off before kicking ahead only for the ball to run into touch 10 metres short of the try-line.

However despite playing into a keen wind, Saracens were soon in control after Welsh lost Matt Corker to the sin-bin after only four minutes. The visitors capitalised immediately as from a driving line-out they shunted Billy Vunipola over the line for Farrell to convert.

Within five minutes, Welsh were level. A strong run from McNally put Saracens on the back foot before an elusive dart from May saw him evade Jackson Wray to send Reynolds in under the posts.

Corker was still absent when the visitors regained the lead with Strettle cleverly given sufficient space to sneak in at the corner for Farrell to convert with a splendid touchline kick.

The home pack, boosted by the return of Corker, dominated the next 15 minutes as they pinned the Saracens in their own 22. The hosts declined a number of kickable penalties before opting to take one and were rewarded as Elder made no mistake.

After 30 minutes, Saracens scored their third try after their opponents carelessly lost possession at a line-out in their own 22. Goode beat a couple of defenders before Mako Vunipola forced his way over.

Even though Welsh struck back as Elder jumped highest for the restart and raced away to score, Saracens had their bonus point by half time as Ashton went over for their fourth to give them a 26-17 lead at the break.

Three minutes after the restart, Saracens moved further in front when a quickly taken penalty saw Goode run in from 50 metres to score.

This was the prelude for the visitors to dominate the third quarter with replacement Figallo scoring their sixth try to give them a 40-17 lead with 20 minutes remaining.

Goode did the creative work for two further tries for Ashton just after the hour mark, before the wing made it three individual tries in five minutes as Welsh wilted badly.

Hodgson replaced Marcelo Bosch in the centre and it he dummied his way over for the 10th try three minutes from time.


From Belfast Telegraph