Challenge Cup: Dominant Saracens seal semi-final place after thrashing Gloucester

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Saracens’ European experience came to the fore as they produced a fine performance to overcome an excellent Gloucester side 44-15 at Kingsholm and move into the Challenge Cup semi-finals.

The Cherry and Whites have enjoyed a fine season and are in play-off contention in the Premiership, but they were no match for Sarries on Friday.

In the Challenge Cup because of their relegation for salary cap breaches and subsequent promotion, the three-time Champions Cup winners controlled every aspect of this contest.

They got off to the perfect start, going 13-0 ahead thanks to a pair of Owen Farrell penalties and an Aled Davies try, before the hosts responded through Jack Singleton.

Farrell then moved the Londoners 16-5 ahead at the break before they utterly dominated the second period. Tries for Maro Itoje and Nick Tompkins effectively killed off the tie, and Jamie George and Duncan Taylor rubberstamped the win in the fourth quarter.

There was still time for some Louis Rees-Zammit brilliance but Gloucester were well and truly outplayed by Saracens in this quarter-final clash.

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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 lineout, 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.

Saracens looked set for their second try when Elliot Daly and Rotimi Segun combined to give Davies a sniff of the line, but an excellent cover tackle from Chris Harris saved the day.

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 lineout 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 lineout 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 for the visitors’ fifth, but Rees-Zammit finally gave home supporters something to cheer with an excellent solo try.

READ MORE: Challenge Cup: Teams go in fully-loaded for quarter-final showdowns

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