Sport Champions Cup

Saturday 18 November 2017

Bradley forced to eat humble pie

Edinburgh 0
Saracens 45

Edinburgh head coach Michael Bradley had said before the match that Saracens were too one-dimensional to win the Heineken Cup, a percentage side that did not take chances.

It takes more than one match to disprove a theory, but last season's semi-finalists not only conceded a bonus point to a side that had scored just one try in its previous four matches but suffered their heaviest home defeat in the Heineken Cup and were booed off.

It may not have been Bradley's words that motivated Saracens, but anyway Edinburgh impaled themselves. They found themselves beached not only by the force of Saracens' tackling, but also some unexpected subtlety from the occupants of one dimension.

Saracens moved the ball and showed a flair they are not renowned for, taking the lead with a try on 13 minutes, the first time in nearly six hours that anyone other than an outhalf had scored a point for the Premiership side.

Brad Barritt was at its heart, as Edinburgh paid for launching attacks from deep and making basic errors. The centre looked through himself before Richie Rees's ankle-tap stopped him, and he then rode the challenge of the flanker David Denton with no more inconvenience that if he had charged through net curtains before he flicked a pass out of the back of his hand to free his midfield colleague Joel Tomkins.

Edinburgh's flicks tended to go into touch, Tim Visser wasting one well-worked opening, and while the intent to create an attack was there, there were no skills to match. If it would be hard on Edinburgh to describer them as inept, they were far from being ept. They were hard done by at the scrum, where Mako Vunipola seemed to get away with slipping his binding and acting like a cork, but they were largely outclassed.

It was to Edinburgh's credit that it took Saracens until the 60th minute to score their second try. Chris Ashton, who became increasingly involved, had looked certain to score after materialising on the left wing but opted to pass to Charlie Hodgson, who was hauled down short of the line. Ashton's next pass was to Owen Farrell, whose first contribution after being on the field for 17 seconds was to outstrip the defence and touch the ball down.

Saracens' previous four scores had been Hodgson penalties, the outhalf mastering the swirling wind to give his side a 16-0 lead at the interval. Edinburgh should have scored two minutes after the restart when Rees picked up a stray pass just outside his own 22. He looked up, saw he lacked support and knew he had to go it alone. The more he ran, the further away the line seemed and he was eventually overhauled by two forwards, Brits and Will Fraser.

Brits was sent to the sin-bin for preventing Edinburgh playing the ball five metres from his line, but what happened next summed up the surprise side of last season's tournament: they failed to get a nudge on in the scrum despite Saracens being a forward light, and when they used the ball, it was dropped.

It became a training run for Saracens as Ashton scored their third try and Alex Goode secured the bonus point with 12 minutes to go when textbook passing from a scrum, coupled with Ashton's appearance in the centre, left Edinburgh with too much to think about. Hodgson completed the scoring from a chargedown and he finished with 25 points. Never mind one dimension, Edinburgh did not have that many.

Scorers -- Saracens: Tomkins, Farrell, Ashton, Goode, Hodgson try each; Hodgson 4 pens, 4 cons.

Edinburgh: Brown; Jones, De Luca, Scott, Visser (Fife h-t); Laidlaw (capt) (Leonard h-t), Rees (Leck 68); Yapp (Hislop 68), Ford (Titterrell 60), Nel (Cross 60), Gilchrist, Cox (McAlpine 76), Denton, Rennie (Talei 60), McInally.

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Tomkins (Farrell 59), Barritt, Strettle (Wyles 66); Hodgson, Wigglesworth (De Kock 50); Vunipola (Gill 58), Brits (Smit 66), Stevens (Du Plessis 66), Borthwick (capt), Botha (Kruis 58), Brown, Fraser (Saull 50), Wray.

Referee: JLacey (Ire)

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