Racing 92 19-15 Saracens: Last-gasp try sees Sarriess crash OUT of the Champions Cup semi-finals… ending the holders’ era
- The Saracens era ended in the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday night
- The holders crashed out at the semi-final stage to Racing 92, losing 19-15 in Paris
- Saracens were 15-12 up until Juan Imhoff’s 76th minute try ended their hopes
- Racing 92 will now move into the final, where they are set to face Exeter Chiefs
Saracens suffered late Heineken Champions Cup heartbreak as Racing 92 claimed a dramatic 19-15 semi-final win in Paris.
Alex Goode had kicked five penalties as Saracens overturned a 9-6 interval deficit and boost hopes of a fourth Heineken Champions Cup title in five years.
But the champions were undone in the 76th minute when leading 15-12, Virimi Vakatawa charged clear and wing Juan Imhoff accepted Finn Russell‘s pass to score the game’s only try which Maxime Machenaud converted.
Racing 92 have reached the Champions Cup final after a late comeback against Saracens
It marks the end of the Saracens era, with the holders crashing out at the semi-final stage
Juan Imhoff’S try in the 76th minute was the difference in the end, bursting to the try line
Teddy Iribaren (three) and Machenaud had earlier kicked penalties for Racing – losing finalists in 2016 and 2018 – as the 1,000 fans allowed in at the Paris La Defense Arena savoured a famous home victory.
Saracens kept the same side that floored Leinster in the quarter-final, with Goode continuing at fly-half in the place of the suspended Owen Farrell.
Russell and Simon Zebo were part of a dangerous Racing back division whose efficiency was reflected by the fact the French club had managed the most clean breaks in the competition this season.
Racing lost flanker Fabien Sanconnie to a third-minute head injury and the subsequent delay appeared to effect both sides, who struggled for fluency during a scrappy opening.
Imhoff buried Saracens, turning the scores around after being down 15-12 in the dying minutes
Iribaren broke the deadlock with an 11th-minute penalty before Saracens centre Duncan Taylor was forced off with a shoulder injury and replaced by Dominic Morris.
The Vunipolas, Mako and Billy, combined neatly in Saracens’ best passage of play and Racing were punished by referee Nigel Owens for not using ruck possession quickly enough.
Goode levelled the scores from in front of the posts and Saracens were beginning to win the battle for field position.
A second Goode penalty gave the visitors the lead on the half-hour mark, but Iribaren immediately replied to tie the scores at 6-6.
Camille Chat’s careless knock-on allowed Saracens a prime attacking opportunity, but indiscipline at scrum-time let Racing off the hook and Teddy Thomas’ break down the left set up one final first-half chance.
The match was kept close throughout but Racing 92 will be the ones progressing to the final
Racing won a line-out penalty and Iribaren’s kick was classed as good, even though there was some confusion whether it had actually flown inside the post.
Parity was soon restored at the start of the second half as Antonie Claasen knocked on deliberately and Goode stroked over his third penalty.
Goode quickly added a fourth goal for a 12-9 lead as an effective kick-and-chase game began to turn the screw on Racing.
Morris forced another turnover with a crunching hit on Zebo and Goode’s fifth penalty provided some breathing space as the lead stretched to six points for the first time.
Elliot Daly holds off a charge of Racing 92 players as Saracens build a narrow lead in Paris
Alex Lewington might have put the issue beyond doubt on a breakaway, but he chose to gather rather than hack on and was held up by backtracking Racing defenders.
Saracens mainstay Brad Barritt was forced off inside the final quarter and his departure galvanised Racing, with Machenaud cutting the gap to three points.
Vakatawa was at the forefront of a thrilling home attack and, although Racing were denied on that occasion, the centre ran clear again and Saracens’ grip on the Champions Cup was loosened.
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