European Rugby Champions Cup: Cardiff Blues 14-26 Saracens

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European Rugby Champions Cup: Cardiff Blues 14-26 Saracens
Saracens wing Sean Maitland scored the game’s opening try
European Rugby Champions Cup – Pool Three
Cardiff Blues (14) 14
Tries: Lee-Lo, Fish Cons: Anscombe 2
Saracens (13) 26
Tries: Maitland, George Cons: Farrell 2 Pens: Farrell 4

Owen Farrell’s 16 points helped Saracens keep their unbeaten record in the Champions Cup and ended Cardiff Blues’ hopes of a last-eight place.

Farrell kicked four penalties and two conversions as Saracens completed a European double over Blues in six days.

Tries from Rey Lee-Lo and Dan Fish gave Blues a 14-13 lead at half-time, after the visitors had built an early advantage through a Sean Maitland try.

But Farrell’s boot and a late Jamie George try clinched it for Saracens.

The English champions are top of Pool Three having won all of their four European matches so far, while Blues now have no chance of reaching the last eight with three defeats and one win.

Wales flanker Josh Navidi made his comeback after two months out with a knee injury, one of nine Blues changes from the team that lost 51-25 at Saracens last weekend.

England lock George Kruis returned from a five-week stint on the sidelines as one of four alterations for Saracens.

The visitors opened the scoring with a fine try from Scotland wing Maitland, as he broke through an attempted tackle from Fish and raced into the corner.

Dan Fish races away for Cardiff Blues’ second try

Farrell converted from the touchline before adding a penalty to emphasise the English side’s dominance in the opening quarter.

Blues replied and were inspired by some expert Gareth Anscombe kicking, although the hosts turned down a penalty chance in front of the posts for a scrum.

Josh Turnbull’s decision was justified when Samoan centre Lee-Lo charged over from a well-worked set-piece, with Brad Barritt uncharacteristically missing the tackle. Anscombe converted.

Farrell slotted over a penalty after Nick Williams was penalised for an off-the-ball challenge on British and Irish Lions hooker George.

Blues took the lead with a try from nothing after makeshift wing Garyn Smith collected an Anscombe chip before unleashing Fish, who cantered away to score.

Anscombe’s conversion gave Blues a 14-13 half-time lead in an opening 40 minutes Saracens had largely controlled.

Flanker Olly Robinson replaced Samu Manoa after the break but it was Navidi who thwarted a Saracens attack with a turnover before constant pressure allowed Farrell to kick a third penalty and regain the lead.

Saracens dominated the scrum with Wales prop Dillon Lewis coming on and producing a surging run and Farrell showing his class with an outrageous offload five metres from his own line.

Blues turned down a chance to kick at goal and forced another penalty, with Australia second-row Will Skelton yellow-carded for a professional foul, but Saracens forced a turnover and cleared the danger.

The home scrum was under constant pressure and yielded Farrell’s fourth penalty to edge Saracens further ahead, before George clinched victory with a try that the TMO ruled he had grounded despite appearing to be held up by Robinson.

Farrell inevitably converted as Blues were denied even a losing bonus point.

Cardiff Blues coach John Mulvihill told BBC Radio Wales: “I was proud of the way we stuck in for 80 minutes, which we learned from last week.

“It was two tries all against a team who normally concede only one try in the Premiership.

“There were a few key areas we let ourselves down or we did not get the reward for the decisions in the second half.

“They have been the English and European champions and they showed their experience in that second half.”

Saracens coach Mark McCall told BBC Radio Wales: “Today was all about the result. We’ve had two fantastic away wins in this pool so far.

“Cardiff are a really good team and they put it to us today.

“There are aspects of our performance we would like to get better at, but when… we were down to 14 men with 20 minutes to go I thought we showed all of our experience and managed that part of the game superbly well. We were very composed.”

Cardiff Blues: Fish; Scully, Lee-Lo, Halaholo, G Smith; Anscombe, L Jones; Gill, Dacey, Andrews, S Davies, Turnbull (capt), Manoa, Navidi, N Williams.

Replacements: Myhill, Thyer, D Lewis, Earle, O Robinson, D Blacker, S Shingler, M Morgan.

Saracens: A Goode; Maitland, Tompkins, Barritt, Lewington; Farrell, B Spencer; M Vunipola, George, Koch, Kruis, Skelton, Rhodes, Burger, Earl.

Replacements: Woolstencroft, Barrington, Figallo, D Day, N Isiekwe, C Clark, Wigglesworth, Lozowski,

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)

Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Jonathan Dufort (France)

TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)

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