Saracens storm into Challenge Cup semi-finals with big win at Gloucester
Owen Farrell kicked 19 points as Gloucester were handed a harsh lesson in knockout rugby by Saracens in a 44-15 European Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat.
Gloucester, not helped by two yellow cards and a malfunctioning line-out, were out-gunned throughout as Saracens set up a clash with the winners of Sunday’s game between Toulon and London Irish.
They outscored the home side by five tries to two, with Aled Davies, Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Duncan Taylor and Nick Tompkins all on the scoresheet. Farrell converted all five and added three penalties.
Tries from Jack Singleton and Louis Rees-Zammit, a conversion from Billy Twelvetrees and a penalty from Adam Hastings was Gloucester’s response, but their inept performance must surely provide major concern ahead of their two concluding games in the Gallagher Premiership.
Next up for them is a trip to Harlequins at Twickenham, before Saracens return to Kingsholm for the final fixture on June 4.
Saracens began strongly to take a fifth-minute lead when Farrell knocked over a straightforward penalty before Davies scored the first try of the game.
Gloucester full-back Santiago Carreras was penalised for not releasing and, from the resulting line-out, the visitors went through the phrases before a well-timed pass from Farrell sent Vincent Koch haring through the defence. The prop then drew the last defender before providing Davies with an easy run-in.
Farrell converted before his side suffered an injury blow when Sean Maitland left the field to be replaced by Taylor.
Gloucester’s miserable start continued when wing Ollie Thorley – on his 100th appearance for the club – was sin-binned for a high tackle, with Saracens benefiting when Farrell kicked his second penalty.
Thorley returned from the sin bin to be replaced there by Saracens hooker George following a high challenge on home flanker Jordy Reid.
That was the spur Gloucester needed as their formidable line-out drive took centre stage, with Singleton crashing over for his ninth try of the season.
George returned but not before Farrell had extended Saracens’ lead with his third penalty for a 16-5 half-time advantage.
Three minutes after the restart, Hastings reduced the deficit with a penalty, but Saracens soon scored their second try.
From a five-metre scrum, Billy Vunipola and Davies both made darts to soften up the defence before Itoje forced his way over.
Minutes later, Saracens sealed victory when Tompkins finished off a driving line-out seconds after home prop Val Rapava-Ruskin was sin-binned for deliberately slowing down opposition possession.
The scoreline became even worse for a lethargic Gloucester when George repeated the dose, with Farrell’s seventh successful kick giving Sarries a 37-8 lead going into the final quarter.
Taylor intercepted a telegraphed pass from Mark Atkinson’s for the visitors’ fifth, but Rees-Zammit finally gave home supporters something to cheer with an excellent solo try.
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