Superb Saracens progress from pool with victory over Lyon
PUBLISHED: 17:30 13 January 2019
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Heineken Champions Cup: Lyon 10 Saracens 28
Nick Tompkins struck twice to ensure Saracens extended their unbeaten record in the Heineken Champions Cup and become the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals.
In making it a perfect five out of five in Pool Three by beating Lyon 28-10, the two-time champions set-up a winner-takes-all clash with second-placed Glasgow Warriors in the battle for top spot and a potential home draw in the knock-out stages.
Mark McCall was able to pick a fully-fit pack that contained four British & Irish Lions and one of them, loose head prop Mako Vunipola, played a key role in the two tries the English champions managed in the first half.
Lyon, without a win in their first season in the Champions Cup, took the lead with a drop goal in the seventh minute from outside half Jonathan Wisniewski. After that it became one-way traffic on the scoreboard.
Playing a few miles down the road from where they were first crowned European champions in 2016, Saracens opened their account midway through the first half.
With the home fans calling for a penalty against Schalk Burger for the way he twisted a home forward out of a ruck in the 22, the ball was moved infield and Vunipola picked out Tompkins with a great pass.
The centre raced to the line and Owen Farrell had no difficulty in adding the conversion. Saracens struck again on the half-hour mark and once again Vunipola, on his 50th Champions Cup appearance, was the link man.
Alexandre Menini was penalised for collapsing a scrum and Farrell kicked deep into the home 22. George Kruis won the ball, Billy Vunipola assumed the scrum-half duties, Tompkins set up the ruck and Vunipola then acted as the link man to send Jackson Wray through a gaping hole with a neat inside pass.
Farrell again improved the try and was on target again three minutes into the second half when Tompkins crossed for his second try. This time the young centre joined a driving line-out before detaching himself and powering over the final eight metres to score.
Maro Itoje, who knocked the ball out of a player’s hand at a ruck, and replacement prop Bertie Buckle, for a stamp, received yellow cards at the same time and with extra space to play with, Saracens picked up their bonus-point try in the 54th minute.
Not for the first time, Alex Goode broke the home defensive line to create a clear run to the line from 40 metres for replacement scrum-half Ben Spencer. Farrell’s conversion made it 28 unanswered points.
Former France wing Alexis Palisson scored a late consolation try for Lyon, which he also converted. Lyon head to Cardiff Blues on Saturday to try to avert a whitewash.