Saracens took a giant step towards the Heineken Cup quarter-finals on Sunday with a 20-16 victory over Biarritz at Vicarage Road.
Saracens took a giant step towards the Heineken Cup quarter-finals on Sunday with hard-fought 20-16 victory over Biarritz at Vicarage Road.
The result means that Sarries need just a single point from their clash away to Teviso next weekend to assure their qualification.
Saracens held a 14-6 lead at half time courtesy of three Owen Farrell penalties and a well-taken try from young scrum-half Ben Spencer.
The hosts were well and truly on top in the opening half as they built off the platform of a dominant scrum.
But Biarritz came back strongly in the second period with scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili scoring on the hour-mark to set up a nail-biting last quarter.
Yachvili opened the scoring for the visitors after ten minutes before trading penalties with Farrell to leave Biarritz 6-3 ahead nearing the end of the first quarter.
But Saracens moved ahead when Farrell hacked a loose ball ahead and David Strettle used his pace to set up a try for Spencer, whose snipping run saw him dive over in the corner.
Farrell missed the conversion but landed two more penalties to give the hosts an eight-point advantage at the break.
The Basques were first to score in the second half however when Yachvili charged down replacement scrum-half Peter Stringer and then added the conversion to his try to narrow the gap to a single point.
Farrell held his nerve to land another three-pointer for the home side only to see Yachvili reply to leave the scores at 17-16 with eleven minutes to play.
Biarritz pushed hard but Farrell would have the last laugh, landing his fifth penalty in the 78th minute to hand Saracens victory.
more to follow…
Pens: Farrell 5
Pens: Yachvili 3
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Owen Farrell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 John Smit, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Petrus du Plessis, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Adam Powell, 23 James Short.
Biarritz Olympique: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Charles Gimenez, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Ilikena Bolakoro, 10 Marcelo Bosch, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Florian Faure, 7 Benoit Guyot, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 JÃ©rÃ´me Thion, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Romain Terrain, 1 Fabien Barcella.
Replacements: 16 Arnaud Heguy, 17 Sylvain Marconnet, 18 Eusebio Guinazu, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Jean-Baptiste Roidot, 21 Julien Peyrelongue, 22 BenoÃ®t Baby, 23 Dane Haylett-Petty.
Venue: Vicarage Road, Watford
Referee: George Clancy