Champions Cup: Holders Saracens humbled by Racing 92, Northampton beat Lyon

Press Association Sport 23:25 17/11/2019
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Holders Saracens suffered defeat in the opening match of their Heineken Champions Cup title defence after going down 30-10 to Racing 92 at the Paris La Defense Arena.

The reigning Premiership and European champions, who are set to drop their planned appeal against a £5.4million fine and a 35-point penalty for a breach of the salary cap, were comfortably beaten as Racing claimed a bonus-point victory.

The hosts ran in four tries through Virimi Vakatawa, Teddy Thomas, Finn Russell and Wenceslas Lauret, with Maxime Machenaud kicking 10 points.

Alex Lozowski scored the only try for a Saracens side missing a host of star names, with scrum-half Ben Spencer contributing five points with the boot.

Racing, who were beaten by Saracens in the 2016 Champions Cup final, started the game on the front foot with Machenaud nudging them ahead with a successful penalty after a period of early pressure.

The French outfit then claimed the first of their tries in the 10th minute as Camille Chat carried over the gainline deep in the Saracens’ 22 before Machenaud’s pass put Vakatawa over for the score.

Sarries’ only real attack in the first half came when full-back Matt Gallagher showed terrific pace to get into the Racing 22. The Saracens forwards tried desperately to force their way over the try line but the ball was eventually turned over by Chat.

A half break from Scotland international Russell opening things up for the hosts with Thomas eventually crossing at the far right-hand corner despite the best efforts of Lozowski.

Racing were back on the attack at the start of the second half but Saracens were given hope with Nick Tompkins stealing the ball from Russell on halfway. Tompkins raced forward into the Racing 22 before drawing his man to put Lozowski over for a try, which Spencer converted to make it 18-10.

However, any hopes of a comeback were short-lived as Russell exploited a massive hole in the Saracens defence before gliding his way over with Machenaud adding the extras.

Racing now had the bit between their teeth and they claimed the try bonus point with France international Lauret crashing over from short range off the back of a powerful driving lineout.

French Top 14 leaders Lyon came crashing down to earth at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday as they slipped to a 25-14 defeat in their opening European Champions Cup Pool 1 match against Northampton.

French spirits took a double dip as Montpellier were squeezed 23-20 by Connacht in their Pool 5 encounter in Galway.

Northampton, winners in 2000, opened up a 19-0 lead at half-time thanks to a converted Rory Hutchinson try and four penalties from Dan Biggar.

But in a fractious second half which saw the game interrupted on several occasions by outbreaks of fighting, Lyon began to show their worth with replacement centre Thibaut Regard crashing over twice.

Lyon were denied a defensive bonus point, however, by two further penalties from Biggar who finished with a personal haul of 20 points.

Montpellier took the early initiative against Connacht with former All Black Aaron Cruden going over for a try in the first minute.

The home side hit back with a penalty from Jack Carty and two tries just before half-time from flanker Paul Boyle and hooker Tom McCartney.

Trailing 13-10 at the break, Montpellier levelled through a Benoit Paillaugue penalty but Connacht soon pounced for their third try as scrum-half Caolin Blade darted through a gap close to the French line.

With 15 minutes remaining, Montpellier drew level again at 20-20, Anthony Bouthier getting the better of McCartney to sprint through, Paillaugue adding the extras.

Four minutes later replacement fly-half Conor Fitzgerald converted another penalty and Connacht clung on for the win.

The result means all four Irish provinces won on the opening weekend of the Champions Cup.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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