Ulster 9-27 Saracens: Sarries score 27 unanswered points to go top of Pool 1
Saracens came from behind to record a 27-9 bonus-point away victory against Ulster in the European Champions Cup on Friday evening
Sarries stretch their winning run in all competitions this season to seven straight victories
The Irish hosts had led 9-5 at half-time thanks to nine points from the boot of Paddy Jackson
Tries from Alex Goode and Duncan Taylor after the restart added to Chris Wyles opening 40 score put the visitors ahead
Billy Vunipola’s last-gasp try in the final few seconds snatched Sarries the bonus-point
Saracens scored 27 unanswered points as they swooped eight points clear at the top of Pool 1 with a hard-earned 27-9 Champions’ Cup win against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium.
Ulster’s Paddy Jackson opened the scoring with a penalty on 16 minutes before landing a drop goal five minutes later ahead of his second three-pointer of the evening.
But that was as good as it got for the home faithful as a Chris Wyles try cut the deficit to four points, leaving the score at 9-5 to the home side at half time. And Alex Goode put the visitors ahead for the first time on 61 minutes in what looks set to be one of the plays of the weekend, Owen Farrell converting.
Sarries were in again within minutes as Duncan Taylor rumbled in for an eight-point lead, which Farrell supplemented with a penalty on 73 minutes, before he added another penalty ahead of Billy Vunipola’s converted try with minutes to go which secured a bonus point.
With Saracens sitting pretty at the Premiership’s summit and Ulster in a modest fifth place on the Pro12 ladder, a tight start unfolded.
After Pienaar and Farrell traded early missed penalty attempts, Sarries then survived the controversial sin-binning of Michael Rhodes, but it was Ulster, backed by their ever-vocal fans, who finally got the game’s first points through Jackson, notching a from a simple angle as Rhodes was roundly booed on his return to the field.
And Jackson was on target again soon after, bagging a drop goal to make it 6-0 to the fervent hosts after 21 minutes.
He then put his side nine points up on 26 minutes, hammering over his second penalty of the night, a long-range effort on the back of a penalty for a ‘no-hands tackle’ by Jacques Burger.
But Saracens struck back with a fine try through American-born wing Wyles after a slick right to left shift involving Farrell and and an arching run from Andy Goode.
Farrell failed to convert, but Sarries had halted the home side’s early momentum and would have gone into half time just a point adrift of their hosts were it not for Farrell’s missed touchline penalty.
A second half filled to the brim with sheer aggression followed with no points forthcoming before the hour, the major flashpoint seeing Billy Vunipola shown a yellow card for a shoulder charge, to the dismay of the visiting contingent.
But the 14-man Fez-Boys were inspired despite that setback and they went ahead for the first time in the match as Goode streaked over on 60 minutes, finishing a move he started following a superb inside offload from Taylor on the back of a clever chip and chase from the full back.
And it was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man as Farrell added the two from wide out before showcasing his stunning ability on the ball to create his side’s second try in six minutes.
After being felled on an earlier dummy-drop goal play, the 24-year-old playmaker was undeterred and pulled the move off again just minutes later, this time evading a flailing Ulsterman before splitting two more defenders with an exquisite dummy to send Taylor over for a walk-in.
Though the England man hooked his conversion attempt wide, the visitors suddenly held a commanding 17-9 lead with 14 minutes to play.
And RUCK’s Man of the Match Farrell thrashed over a further three points from in front of the posts to produce an 11-point lead soon after, which Mark McCall’s men held until the final whistle, Vunipola rumbling over for a bonus-point try from close range on 79 minutes, Charlie Hodgson with the two, to fire themselves well clear of the chasing pack in Pool 1.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Saracens: Owen Farrell
The 24-year-old has been in fine form this year and showed crucial flashes of his ability again tonight. The Wigan-born fly-half had one of his quieter nights, but his sparky moments class proved crucial as the game turned on its’ head around the hour mark.
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Kyle McCall, 17 Rob Herring, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Peter Nelson
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Marcelo Bosch
Date: Friday, November 20
Kick-off: 21:45 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Cyril Lafon (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)