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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 5 April, 2020

Big Bosch penalty inflicts a first ever European knock-out defeat on Johnny Sexton

Racing Metro lost the arm wrestle with Mark McCall’s side.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Racing Metro 11

Saracens 12

WITH THE CLOCK gone red, Argentine centre Marcelo Bosch launched a last-gasp 45 metre kick into the Paris wind.

It went too high for the TV cameras to track all the way, but the guttural roars of the visiting fans told you that the flags were about to be raised.

The penalty, Saracens’ fourth of the day, was enough to send Mark McCall into a third consecutive European Cup semi-final and gives Racing Metro and Ireland out-half Johnny Sexton his first ever taste of defeat in the knock-out stage.

The homeward bound number 10 struggled to stamp his authority on a game which rarely threatened to become an open contest.

The Ireland out-half missed a difficult first-half conversion before the kicking tee was passed to Machenaud in the second period with the St Mary’s man taking an apparent knock on one of the numerous times he was asked to add his weight to the defence.

Charlie Hodgson bookended the scoring in the first half as the self-anointed ‘Wolf Pack’ had the best of the early exchanges. However, once the hosts managed to set a platform in opposition territory it was the Ciel Et Blue who looked the most threatening.

On 15 minutes Hooker Dimitri Szarzewski spilled the ball forward after a powerful maul scythed through the Premiership defence. The writing appeared to be on the wall for Sarries 10 minutes later when Racing again restricted their attack to the pack and with the chance halting to a standstill on the try-line, lock Jim Hamilton was send to the sin-bin by referee Nigel Owens.

Ronan O'Gara Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Racing profited off the very next play, Maxime Machenaud taking possession while his pack was still in forward motion and jinking out of contact to dive over the line.

The dominant back row of Jackson Wray, Jacques Burger and Billy Vunipola could have helped Sarries into a greater lead, but Hodgson watched two successive penalty attempts slip right and wide of the uprights before he converted his fourth chance to give Saracens a 5 – 6 advantage on the stroke of half time.

Mark McCall Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Both sides found new goal kickers for their first attempts in a tense and tight second half.  Fullback Alex Goode edged Saracens four points ahead before Machenaud drilled his side back to within a point on the hour.

The scrum-half slotted another with 10 minutes on the clock to put Racing in the driver’s seat for a semi-final clash with Clermont in Saint-Etienne.

Instead, though, Racing Metro shrunk into their shell with Sexton withdrawn and were punished for sealing off a ruck while they had one eye on the clock that read 79 minutes. That late mistake cost them dear and after Goode sized up the distance, he called in Bosch for the extra power that kept The Wolf Pack in the hunt for a European title that has, so far, proved painfully elusive.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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