Planet Rugby

Saracens shock the Ospreys

06th April 2008 14:18

Share:

Haughton Saracens Ospreyd

Hairy Moment: Richard Haughton finds a gap in the Welsh defensive line

A magnificent collective effort - and a somewhat fortuitous try - saw Saracens through to a first-ever Heineken Cup semi-final via an epic 19-10 victory over the much-favoured Ospreys at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

With Irish giants Munster booking their place in the last four following an awe-inspiring performance at Kingsholm on Saturday, the Anglo-Welsh battlers knew their fate if successful pre-game in Watford.

The star-studded Ospreys also had the carrot of a home-based passage to the title if they could overturn their hosts for the second time in as many weeks, but it wasn't to be for a group of players who never got into their stride.

Meanwhile, Saracens played in a style that was unrecognisable from the side that were dispatched so comfortably at the Millennium Stadium two weeks previously, with a Munster-esque grit in their performance.

In contrast, Lyn Jones's men were patently not expecting to face such a wounded animal, with the hosts enjoying the lion's share of possession in a drum-beating atmosphere.

On the back of a morale-boosting Guinness Premiership victory over Leeds last week, Alan Gaffney's men were led superbly by Kiwi Glen Jackson with Richard Hill defying his years on the flank against former All Black Marty Holah.

Coupled with the Ospreys' inability to complete the final pass, the contest was won through a combination of guts and brains in a flip of the EDF Energy result.

The overnight snow had threatened the early kick-off in north London. But with the respective parties remembering to turn on the under-soil heating and a hover boat brushing the powdered surface, fears were allayed.

However, it wasn't all gloom for the visitors as in the opening five minutes the Welsh started as they finished in Cardiff, warming their travelling fans with a fluid running game, which led to an early penalty goal for James Hook - no 'Paterson Syndrome' for him.

But one got the sense that Saracens were still stinging from that 30-3 defeat as mainstay Kris Chesney fired up his side with a strong tackle on hooker Huw Bennett.

Consequently, the hosts moved downfield to level the scores through fly-half Jackson before their heavy penalty count this season almost haunted them again.

From a Hook touch-finder, lock Alun Wyn Jones was called back by referee Alan Lewis for tackling Neil De Kock without the ball in the act of scoring.

Saracens duly moved on and responded as powerful tighthead Cobus Visagie earned the English a long-distance shot at goal through his set-piece efforts, edging the hosts ahead.

Then a moment of opportunism finally sparked the Ospreys into life on 19 minutes as Shane Williams and Hook displayed their Grand Slam winning form. The sprightly winger shrugged off an attempted Jackson tackle 40 metres out to race into the opposition 22, until an error once again scuppered their attack.

Two enforced changes then hit Saracens as Brent Russell preceded Andy Farrell's exit from the game with Francisco Leonelli and Adam Powell coming on in their place.

And on the stroke of the interval, yet more Saracens possession saw the TMO deny the stretching Paul Gustard with a penalty advantage subsequently wiped out - questioned by the flank as the teams jogged to the break.

However, there was no hard feelings from the home contingent as immediately from the restart an Ospreys hand played the backtracking Saracens onside and substitute Leonelli raced down the right wing to stretch the scores to 13-3.

Was there to be another Welsh comeback against the English - a la Twickenham in the Six Nations opener?

Well, as expected, the Ospreys threw all of their arsenal onto the field with Filo Tiatia attempting to repeat that international feat. But yet more handling errors thwarted the visitors' efforts before another TMO decision this time denied Hugh Vyvyan a Saracens score.

And it looked to be a Welsh flash in the pan as Saracens set about turning the screw in Watford. Then matters were made even worse for the Ospreys when Lee Byrne slapped down a certain try for the now full-back Haughton.

From then on the hosts were rarely threatened as the shape of the Ospreys had all but diminished as the game entered its final quarter.

A late score from replacement Paul James gave the Welsh hope with four minutes remaining, but a late Jackson drop-goal claimed a shock reverse at a full-house in Watford.

Man of the match: Mentions for prop Cobus Visagie's scrummaging, a knowledgeable game from Richard Hill, and Richard Haughton's all-round effort from wing before moving to fullback. However, in 50 minutes, flank Paul Gustard put in a performance many wouldn't manage in a full 80! Tireless work in defence coupled with hard running until a shoulder injury forced him from the field.

Moment of the match: So many moments summed up the Ospreys' woes! The final pass and handling errors dogged the Welsh as Saracens' complete performance saw them through to a Coventry meeting with Munster.

Villain of the match: No villains at Vicarage Road as Saracens controlled the game from start to finish - what a turnaround from Cardiff!

The scorers:

For Saracens:

Try: Leonelli

Con: Jackson

Pens: Jackson 3

Drop: Jackson

For Ospreys:

Try: James

Con: Hook

Pen: Hook

Yellow card(s): Byrne (Ospreys) - deliberate knock-on, 58.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Brent Russell, 14 Richard Haughton, 13 Kevin Sorrell, 12 Andy Farrell, 11 Kameli Ratuvou, 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Neil de Kock (c), 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Richard Hill, 6 Paul Gustard, 5 Kris Chesney, 4 Hugh Vyvyan, 3 Cobus Visagie, 2 Matt Cairns, 1 Nick Lloyd.

Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Donald Barrell, 20 Mosese Rauluni, 21 Adam Powell, 22 Francisco Leonelli.

Ospreys: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Jonny Vaughton, 13 Sonny Parker, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Justin Marshall, 8 Ryan Jones (c), 7 Marty Holah, 6 Jonathan Thomas, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Duncan Jones.

Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Paul James, 18 Ian Evans, 19 Filo Tiatia, 20 Rhys Webb, 21 Andrew Bishop, 22 Aled Brew.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)

Touch judges: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Alan Rogan (Ireland)

Television match official: Brian Fitzgerald (Ireland)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
Sunday , November 30
London Irish vs Gloucester13:00
London Welsh vs Northampton14:30
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors vs Dragons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Lyon vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Toulouse vs Grenoble20:45
Sunday , November 30
Stade Francais vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Georgia 35 - 24 JapanGeorgia vs Japan Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Treviso 24 - 24 LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
2Exeter828
3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821