Champions Cup – Itoje Scores Brace As Saracens Clinch Qualification Against Lyon

 

Saracens lock Maro Itoje scored a crucial brace of tries for Saracens as the three-time winners of EPCR’s leading competition qualified for the knockout stage of this year’s Investec Champions Cup with a 39-24 win over Lyon.

Saracens lock Maro Itoje scored a crucial brace of tries for Saracens as the three-time winners of EPCR’s leading competition qualified for the knockout stage of this year’s Investec Champions Cup.

Saracens were on their way out of the competition at half-time, trailing 17-5, but they launched a second-half comeback on a night which also saw fly-half Owen Farrell become the second-highest points scorer in Investec Champions Cup history.

The first half started well for Saracens, a quick tap-and-go allowing scrum-half Ivan van Zyl to go over for the first points of the game.

But with Saracens applying pressure on Lyon’s defence as they searched for a second, wing Davit Niniashvili suddenly intercepted the ball and ran the length of pitch to score, Léo Berdeu converting and adding a penalty soon after.

Things got worse for Saracens when centre Josiah Maraku struck as the clock turned red, Berdeu remaining perfect from the tee to leave the home side with 40 minutes to save their Investec Champions Cup campaign.

They got to work straight away, Itoje sneaking his way through the Lyon line to make up the crucial last few metres.

Farrell converted, but moments later he was charged down not once, but twice as Lyon struck back with Maraku’s second converted try to leave Saracens once again facing elimination.

The fly-half kept his cool to kick a penalty after the restart, and he converted Itoje’s second try as the home side steamed through the Lyon defence following a lineout – putting Saracens back in the knockout stage.

Farrell’s second penalty gave the home side the lead for the first time since the 15th minute – and took his Investec Champions Cup points total to 870, placing him second on the all-time list.

He added two more from the tee when he converted Juan-Martin Gonzalez’s score, which secured the bonus point for the Round of 16-bound Gallagher Premiership club.

With Lyon down to 14 after Niniashvili was shown yellow, wing Lucio Cinti crossed for a fifth, and final, Saracens try – Farrell accurate again as he finished the night on 14 points.

Scorers:
Saracens: Tries: Ivan van Zyl, Maro Itoje, Maro Itoje, Juan-Martin Gonzalez, Lucio Cinti Luna. Conversions: Owen Farrell (4). Penalties: Owen Farrell (2).
Lyon: Tries: Davit Niniashvili, Josiah Maraku, Josiah Maraku. Conversions: Léo Berdeu (3). Penalty: Léo Berdeu.

Teams

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Theo Dan, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola. Replacements: 16 James Hadfield, 17 Sam Crean, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Toby Knight, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Olly Hartley, 23 Tom Parton.

Lyon: 15 Alexandre Tchaptchet, 14 Monty Ioane, 13 Alfred Parisien, 12 Josiah Maraku, 11 Davit Niniashvili, 10 Léo Berdeu (c), 9 Liam Rimet, 8 Maxime Gouzou, 7 Theo William, 6 Marvin Okuya, 5 Ugo Vignolles, 4 Joel Kpoku, 3 Hamza Kaabeche, 2 Yanis Charcosset, 1 Jérôme Rey. Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Paulo Tafili, 19 Loann Goujon, 20 Félix Lambey, 21 Paul Dumas, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Fletcher Smith.