Paris - Depleted
European Champions Cup holders Saracens were roundly beaten 30-10 by an
upbeat Racing 92, who ripped open their visitors with four tries at the
Paris La Defense Arena on Sunday.
Saracens made the trip to Paris without seven English internationals
as they looked for an upturn in fortunes after a horrible fortnight.
They dropped an appeal against a £5.4 million fine
and a 35-point English Premiership penalty for salary cap breaches
earlier on Sunday, according to British media reports.
The points deduction will come into effect on Monday and the European
champions could be forgiven for succumbing to a concerted French effort
"The outcome of today's game was never going to change the individual
plans for those England players," said Saracens director of rugby Mark
"There were some who were considering playing next week (against Ospreys) and I'll be talking to them again early next week.
"There are a few who I don't think will because to be honest, they're not ready.
"We won't play them when they're not ready."
The defeat is doubly damaging for Saracens as Pool 4 also includes a strong Munster side, who won 32-13 at Ospreys on Saturday.
"Winning our first game of the campaign against the defending
champions was great," said Racing scrum-half Maxime Machenaud, who made
two conversions and scored two penalties.
"Next week at Munster will be another story, but we took care of our side of the deal tonight."
Virimi Vakatawa found space to run through the Saracens defence and
place the ball between the posts for the first try on 10 minutes, with
Frenchman Teddy Thomas extending the lead 16 minutes later.
In the second half, Finn Russell rounded off a brilliant move before
Wenceslas Lauret burst out of a scrum to force himself over the line for
a try that assured a precious bonus point for Racing in what promises
to be a tight group.
For Saracens, Alex Lozowski
gave a brief glimmer of hope with the slickest try of the day after an
interception and exchange of passes brought them to within eight points
of the French on 51 minutes.
Earlier, French Top 14 leaders Lyon came crashing down to earth at
Franklin's Gardens as they slipped to a 25-14 defeat in their opening
Pool 1 match against Northampton.
French spirits took a double dip as Montpellier were squeezed 23-20 by Connacht in their Pool 5 encounter in Galway.
Northampton, winners in 2000, opened up a 19-0 lead at half-time
thanks to a converted Rory Hutchinson try and four penalties from Dan
But in a fractious second half which saw the game interrupted on
several occasions by outbreaks of fighting, Lyon began to show their
worth with replacement centre Thibaut Regard crashing over twice.
Lyon were denied a defensive bonus point, however, by two further
penalties from Biggar who finished with a personal haul of 20 points.
Montpellier took the early initiative against Connacht with former
All Black Aaron Cruden going over for a try in the first minute.
The home side hit back with a penalty from Jack Carty and two tries
just before half-time from flank Paul Boyle and hooker Tom McCartney.
Trailing 13-10 at the break, Montpellier levelled through a Benoit
Paillaugue penalty but Connacht soon pounced for their third try as
scrumhalf Caolin Blade darted through a gap close to the French line.
With 15 minutes remaining, Montpellier drew level again at
20-20, Anthony Bouthier getting the better of McCartney to sprint
through, Paillaugue adding the extras.
Four minutes later replacement flyhalf Conor Fitzgerald converted another penalty and Connacht clung on for the win.
The result means all four Irish provinces won on the opening weekend of the Champions Cup.
European Champions Cup results on Sunday:
Northampton (ENG) 25 Lyon (FRA) 14
Connacht (IRL) 23 Montpellier (FRA) 20
Racing 92 (FRA) 30 Saracens (ENG) 10
Played on Saturday:
Leinster (IRL) 33 Benetton (ITA) 19
Glasgow Warriors (SCO) 13 Sale (ENG) 7
La Rochelle (FRA) 12 Exeter Chiefs (ENG) 31
Bath (ENG) 16 Ulster (IRL) 17
Clermont (FRA) 53 Harlequins (ENG) 21
Ospreys (WAL) 13 Munster (IRL) 32
Played on Friday:
Gloucester (ENG) 20 Toulouse (FRA) 25