Toulouse 17-28 Saracens: Sarries make it six wins from six in the pool stages and confirm their place as one of the top two seeds
Saracens held out for an impressive 25-17 Champions Cup away victory against Toulouse in France
Three penalties from Charlie Hodgson gave Sarries a 9-7 lead at the break
Ben Spencer’s score combined with 14-points from the tee via Owen Farrell secured a sixth straight win in Europe for the Premiership champions
It wasn’t pretty from Saracens, but they made it six wins from six in the pool stages and confirmed their place as one of the top two seeds with a 28-17 away victory against Toulouse.
With the Premiership champions already through while the French side’s chances of progression already over the game took a while to kick into gear
Charlie Hodgson demonstrated some fantastic kicking to put Sarries nine points ahead before Luke McAlister’s score, converted by Toby Flood, brought the hosts back within striking distance heading into half-time, 7-9.
Saracens began to turn the screw after the break, demonstrating yet again that their attacking play is much better this season with replacement scrum-half Ben Spencer touching down.
McAlister’s second score followed by a try from fullback Maxime Médard brought Toulouse back into the game heading into the closing stages but a significant penalty from Owen Farrell with six minutes to go edged Sarries clear.
The England fly-half then knocked over another penalty to secure the win for the Premiership champions while at the same time bringing an end to what has been a European campaign to forget for four-time winners, Toulouse.
Hodgson opened the scoring from the tee after eight minutes, before doubling the lead four minutes later with a calmly struck drop goal.
In the first of several missed opportunities for Saracens, Jackson Wray had a chance to score the game’s first try, but after breaking clear, he failed to hold on to the ball when the tackle came in.
Veteran fly-half Hodgson though continued his fine kicking form to extend the lead to nine points.
Toulouse reduced the deficit when they opened the try-scoring three minutes before the break with McAlister dotting down after an excellent multi-phase move.
Former England international Toby Flood slotted the extras confidently to reduce further the deficit to two points, 7-9.
Saracens turned on their attacking style with Owen Farrell, who replaced Hodgson at half-time, slotting a penalty soon after the restart, 7-12.
The visitors then touched down their first try with replacement scrum-half Spencer chipping over the last line of defence to score following a break from fullback Alex Goode. Farrell then added the conversion to put Sarries clear, 7-19.
The England fly-half though dropped the ball while under the posts for Saracens with no one near him soon after.
Toulouse though came back again with McAlister crossing for his second of the match. The fly-half stepped between the two Saracens defenders and using his strength to get himself beyond the try line. Flood though couldn’t add the extras, 12-19.
And it was game on when fullback Medard dotted down the hosts third following a great initial break from wing Paul Perez after 70 minutes. Flood though pushed the conversion past the face of the posts, but Toulouse were very much in the game heading into the closing stages.
However, two further Farrell penalties settled Sarries as they kept their 100% record in the competition with a sixth successive win.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Saracens: Jamie George
The massive effort from the hooker was important to Saracens winning so many penalties within striking range. His lineout was steady, his tackling was hard and his overall performance was excellent.
Toulouse:15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Toby Flood, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Paul Perez, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Gillian Galan, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Nemiah Tialata, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Gert Muller, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 Gregory Lamboley, 21 David Mele, 22 Gael Fickou, 23 Maxime Médard
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Duncan Taylor, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Hayden Smith, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Ben Ransom
Date: Saturday, January 23
Venue: Stade Ernest Wallon
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales),Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)