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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 28 October 2020
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Liveblog

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Good afternoon and welcome to our liveblog for this much-anticipated Champions Cup quarter-final between Leinster and Saracens.

It has been billed as the tie of the round with good reason, Saracens beating Leinster in last year’s final by 10 points in Newcastle. For their part, Leinster have rattled off 25 successive victories ever since.

That’s only one reason why they are favourites to win today, the absence of seven of the XV who started for Saracens in that 2018/19 final victory over Leinster being the secondary factor.

Kick-off is at 3pm, so get settled in.

Remember when Saracens last defeated Leinster in the 2019 Champions Cup final, they had George Kruis (now playing in Japan) and Will Skelton (now at La Rochelle) in their second row, Ben Spencer (currently on Bath’s books) and Owen Farrell – who is suspended – at half-back. Liam Williams (Scarlets), Alex Lozowski (on loan at Montpellier) and Titi Lamositele (at Montpellier) also played that day in Newcastle.

They still have an impressive team – although their bench does not look anywhere near as strong as Leinster’s. The key for Saracens today is the performance of out-half, Alex Goode, who relocates from full-back to replace the suspended, Farrell.

It is worth noting that Goode also played out-half in the quarter-final stage last year, when Sarries beat Glasgow Warriors. He excelled that day although Leinster are a tougher opponent.

They have made big calls for this game, Johnny Sexton’s return an inevitable one but the decision to opt for Will Connors over Josh van der Flier was something of a surprise. Luke McGrath joins Sexton at half-back with Sean Cronin getting the nod over Ronan Kelleher.

Here are the teams –

Leinster

15. Jordan Larmour
14. Hugo Keenan
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Jonathan Sexton (Captain)
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Sean Cronin
3. Andrew Porter
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Caelan Doris
7. Will Connors
8. Jack Conan

Replacements

16. Ronan Kelleher
17. Ed Byrne
18. Michael Bent
19. Ryan Baird
20. Josh van der Flier
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Rory O’Loughlin

Saracens

15 Elliot Daly
14 Alex Lewington
13 Duncan Taylor
12 Brad Barritt (Captain)
11 Sean Maitland
10 Alex Goode
9 Richard Wigglesworth

1 Mako Vunipola
2 Jamie George
3 Vincent Koch
4 Maro Itoje
5 Tim Swinson
6 Mike Rhodes
7 Jackson Wray
8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements

16 Tom Woolstencroft
17 Richard Barrington
18 Alec Clarey
19 Callum Hunter-Hill
20 Calum Clark
21 Aled Davies
22 Manu Vunipola
23 Dom Morris

Both teams out on the pitch warming up. Elliot Daly banging over the kicks from all sorts of angles. Johnny Sexton and Mark McCall had quick catch-up, earlier.

mark-mccall-with-johnny-sexton Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Here is what the main men had to say in advance of today’s game.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: “Saracens on their day, we know the threats that they have, they’ve had some changes but they still have such quality throughout their team, some world class players in there so we need to make sure we’re peaking week on week basically at the moment.”

Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall: “It’s definitely going to be a little bit different (to the team that played last season’s final) but the core of the 23 is identifiable as a team who have played a lot of knockout rugby over the past five years.”

The teams are about to come out

johnny-sexton-with-pascal-gauzere-and-brad-barritt-at-the-coin-toss Sexton with Pascal Gauzere and Brad Barritt at the coin toss. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Saracens on the charge and a penalty in front of the posts

Alex Goode knocks it over.

LEINSTER 0-3 SARACENS

Leinster win a penalty within Sexton’s range

And he knocks it over – was not the cleanest of strikes but six minutes in and it is Leinster 3-3 Saracens

Billy Vunipola carry leads to another Saracens penalty 

Alex Goode, standing in for Owen Farrell, puts it between the posts

Leinster 3-6 Saracens

Great tempo to the game so far, Saracens pressurise Robbie Henshaw and Sarries have another penalty in front of the posts. Ten minutes on the clock, Sarries on top

And Goode nails another one. It is Leinster 3-9 Saracens after 11 minutes. 

Yet another penalty conceded at the breakdown – this time by Saracens, just inside their half, but Sexton kicks to the corner

Leinster on the charge inside the Saracens 22 

Ringrose darts at an angle, Toner also carries, so too Doris. Now Lowe, Leinster edging closer

But Itoje intercepts Will Connors’ pass and Saracens clear their lines

Quality of Wigglesworth’s box-kicking is exceptional as Saracens test James Lowe in the air.  Big scrum here inside the Leinster half

Leinster’s pack do their stuff. Leinster force play over half-way

Better stuff there for a brief spell from Leinster. But just when it looked like they were beginning to find their rhythm, Saracens force another knock on

Incredible line speed from the Saracens defence. Just as Leinster were trying to build through the phases, they kept running into a defensive wall. The English side edging it here, six points ahead with 22 minutes on the clock.

Saracens do their stuff at the scrum and win a penalty at half-way. 

Elliot Daly lining up this one

Some kick. Daly scores Saracens fourth penalty of the day, Saracens lead by nine points after 25 minutes. Wind in Sarries’ favour but still, this is a decent lead they are building

Leinster 3-12 Saracens

Saracens win yet another scrum penalty – again on half-way. Daly nails his second kick, again from distance. Leinster need to sort out their scrum Saracens 15-3 Leinster

maro-itoje-in-a-maul-with-james-ryan Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

And they do. Mako Vunipola penalised – but rather than go for the posts, Sexton kicks the penalty to the corner

Cronin throws to Ryan, McGrath feeds Sexton who tries to crosskick. Saracens offside. Penalty Leinster. Sexton goes to the corner again

Good line-out from Leinster, Cronin on form with his darts, Saracens punished again, Leinster opt to go to the corner again. They need something here from this period of pressure.

And they don’t get it. Koch and Mako Vunipola force a turnover. Scrum Saracens, deep inside their 22

Another penalty won by Saracens at the scrum. Their front row are well on top here. Saracens survive a serious period of pressure. 

Saracens set up a maul from the line out – and march Leinster down the field to win another penalty

jamie-george-and-vincent-koch-celebrate-winning-a-scrum Saracens celebrate winning a scrum penalty. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

TRY SARACENS Alex Goode Saracens 20-3 Leinster

Superb try from Saracens, Goode with the finish but the handling beforehand from the Saracens backs was magical, George involved in midfield, then Duncan Taylor, before Goode took flight, finishing easily. He added the conversion. It is now

Leinster 3-22 Saracens

Daly’s kick lands short, but at half-time it is Leinster 3-22 Saracens

Leinster have been awful so far. Beaten up in the scrum, torn apart for Goode’s try, they have also been penalised at the breakdown. Saracens have defended brilliantly and have also benefited from Sexton making basic errors. If they are to come back from this, they will need a comeback like Cardiff in 2011. Sexton’s form was somewhat better that day than it has been here. Alex Goode has been seriously good.

HALF-TIME: Leinster 3-22 Saracens

alex-goode-converts-a-penalty Alex Goode kicks a penalty. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Teams are back out on the pitch. Big second half needed by Leinster here.

And we’re back it, Sexton kicks deep and Leinster win a penalty

Sexton, yet again, goes to the corner.

Maul formed. McGrath to Henshaw, Leinster on the charge; Cronin with a carry, deep in the Saracens 22, now Healy has a go ….. but Itoje forces another turnover. Leinster, again, come away with nothing. Can’t help feeling that was a key, key moment in the game

45 minutes: Another solid scrum from Sarries – Mako, George and Koch have been superb – Taylor charges down the middle but Leinster defend well. Danger over. 

That was more like it. Great set-piece move from Leinster leads to another penalty, and yes, another kick to the corner. Leinster on the attack deep inside the Saracens 22

Porter appears to have squeezed over. Going to TMO

Checking to see if it was a double movement

TRY LEINSTER. ANDREW PORTER

48.59 on the clock and a huge moment, Porter showing strength to squeeze across the line, Leinster showing nerve and ambition, Cronin’s darts once again finding the target while the subsequent retention of possession by backs and forwards was much, much sharper than anything we saw in the first half.

Conversion added – Leinster 10-22 Saracens 

Leinster playing with much more purpose and tempo now. James Ryan collided in midfield with Maro Itoje. Leinster win another penalty and have again kicked for territory. Signs that Saracens are tiring a little. Leinster have stronger bench which could become an issue as the game goes on.

Another Leinster attack in the Saracens 22 comes to nothing – Ryan Baird held up in the tackle. Saracens have been brilliant in defence today.

Saracens, yet again, win a scrum penalty, relieving the pressure they were under in their own 22. Mako has been magnificent today.

57 minutes on the clock and just when Saracens were enjoying their best spell of the half, Ryan Baird forces a turnover. Penalty Leinster, the play is back in the Sarries half

andrew-porter-scores-a-try A view of Andrew Porter's try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

59 minutes – Leinster are emptying the bench – Baird, van der Flier and Ed Byrne all on – Doris with a great carry there, ball just outside the Saracens 22

Sexton down with an injury, no penalty given when there really should have been after Mike Rhodes caught him high. TMO reviewing it

61 minutes – Penalty awarded to Leinster but no yellow to Rhodes. There should have been. Saracens lucky to still have 14 on the field

TRY LEINSTER

TRY – JORDAN LARMOUR 62 minutes

Leinster 17-22 Saracens

Key to that try was Sexton who delivered the perfectly timed and well weighted pass to Larmour who showed his pace. Quick ball off a set-piece. A quite brilliant try, all the momentum with Leinster at the moment

65 minutes – Ringrose pressure leads to Leinster getting a line-out in the Saracens 22 after a fine chase from the centre, following Gibson Park’s clever kick. 

Michael Rhodes and Jackson Wray combine to turn it over. Saracens have a reprieve and with 13 minutes remaining, they also have a five-point lead

68 minutes on the clock – Rhodes wins a Saracens penalty in midfield. Mako being called ashore now, so too scrum-half Wigglesworth. Have Sarries steadied things?

70 minutes – Saracens win a penalty just outside the Leinster 22, Jamie George credited with the turnover. Leinster 17-22 Saracens

70 minutes – Goode lines up the kick

71 minutes – Goode misses the kick, still a one-score game

73 minutes – Larmour makes a break for it from inside his own half but just when it looks as if he has successfully offloaded to Josh van der Flier, the pass goes slightly forward – still Leinster 17-22 Saracens …. the clock is not on Leinster’s side

74 minutes – another scrum penalty to Saracens. That’s six now.

Huge kick coming up here for Daly

And from a difficult angle and a fair old distance, he misses it.

Five minutes to go, five points in it, Saracens ahead

Saracens regain possession from the 22 drop-out

76 minutes – great catch from Larmour following Davies’ high ball. Leinster have the ball deep inside their own half. Trying to run it

Just over 76 minutes on the clock and Gibson Park’s attempt to free Jack Conan ends with the ball going into touch. Leinster 17-22 Saracens

Once again Saracens have won a scrum penalty. This is their seventh. Just a couple of minutes left 

Mike Rhodes has been named man of the match

79 minutes – Goode with the penalty, Leinster 17-25 Saracens

 

FULL-TIME Leinster 17-25 Saracens

They can have no complaints. Saracens were excellent, especially in that first half while the Leinster scrum creaked right through the game. How they missed Tadhg Furlong. The 25-game winning streak is over. 

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About the author:

Garry Doyle

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