Saracens edge Toulon in tense battle

Date published: January 21 2017

Saracens secured a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup with a hard-fought 10-3 win over Toulon at Allianz Park on Saturday.

A losing bonus point was enough for Toulon to also progress as one of the best runners-up.

Early in the match Josua Tuisova missed a golden opportunity to set Toulon going after he dropped the ball when trying to touch down in the corner.

This was the only clear-cut try-scoring chance of the half, but Owen Farrell’s penalty was enough for Sarries to secure a 3-0 lead at the break.

Toulon-bound Chris Ashton showed his loyalties were still with Saracens when he scored the game’s only try with an hour played.

This meant that Toulon had to secure a losing bonus-point to ensure qualification. Leigh Halfpenny obliged, powering home a trademark penalty from long-range to reduce the deficit to the required seven points.

Meanwhile, the French side pushed for an equalising try, but Sarries held strong to secure a home quarter-final. Toulon’s 16 points in Pool 3 sees them through as one of the best runners-up.

On the half-hour mark Toulon were reduced to 14 men, Duane Vermuelen sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle. Farrell slotted home the resulting penalty with ease to nudge Sarries into the lead.

Farrell missed his second penalty attempt in the 58th minute, with a long-range effort from 40 metres sent just wide from the right boot of the England international. This did not prove to be too costly as Saracens scored the game’s first try on the hour mark.

Ashton receiving the ball out wide, evading the attentions of Ma’a Nonu and Matt Giteau, before touching down in the corner. Farrell’s conversion made the score 10-0.

Halfpenny brought Mike Ford’s side their first score of the match range with a penalty from just short of halfway in the 67th minute.

In the final minute, Halfpenny had the chance to make sure of the losing bonus point with a penalty from the 22 but he could not score and the match finished 10-3 to the hosts.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Try: Ashton
Con: Farrell
Pen: Farrell

For Toulon:
Pen: Halfpenny
Yellow Card: Vermeulen

Saracens: 15 Alex Lozowksi, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Tim Streather, 23 Nathan Earle

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Mamuka Gorgodze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Laurent DelBoulbes
Replacements: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Marcel Van der Merwe, 19 Liam Gill, 20 Jocelino Suta, 21 Pierre Bernard, 22 Jonathan Pelissie, 23 Samu Manoa

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)