Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 February 2018

Saracens brush Leicester aside to power into Aviva Premiership final

Saracens' Chris Ashton celebrates scoring their fifth try during the Aviva Premiership Semi Final at Allianz Park
Saracens' Chris Ashton celebrates scoring their fifth try during the Aviva Premiership Semi Final at Allianz Park

Duncan Bech

England were given a double injury scare ahead of their tour to Australia after Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell limped off early in Saracens' procession into the Aviva Premiership final.

Tuilagi, who was making his comeback from a knee problem and playing on an artificial surface for the first time, departed only 20 minutes into Leicester's 44-17 defeat at Allianz Park after damaging his right leg while attempting to tackle Chris Wyles.

Having kicked 11 points in Saracens' five-try rout of the Tigers, Farrell then trudged off after feeling the effects of two successive heavy tackles.

Eddie Jones names his England squad for next month's three-Test series against the Wallabies on Sunday and will be anxiously awaiting updates on the midfield pair, who were certainties to be included in his squad.

Farrell's exit marred an otherwise fine afternoon for double-chasing Saracens, who had amassed a 31-0 lead by half-time with Wyles crossing twice and man of the match Chris Ashton also finishing with a brace.

The newly-crowned European champions, who toppled Racing 92 in last weekend's Champions Cup final, will now defend their Premiership title against Exeter or Wasps in next Saturday's final at Twickenham.

Leicester were also routed in last year's semi-finals, losing 47-10 to Bath, and this was another dispiriting afternoon for a team that had been thrashed out of sight.

Saracens struck first in an end-to-end start after sharp play exploited the blindside, opening a gap in the Tigers' defence that was exploited with quick thinking from Schalk Brits and George Kruis sending Will Fraser crashing over.

Leicester were making inroads in their response but an ill-advised short kick from fly-half Owen Williams bounced kindly for Wyles and the American wing glided between a hole in defence to cross under the posts.

Tuilagi's departure added to the Tigers' woes and their afternoon continued to deteriorate when Saracens plundered a third try with a brilliantly-worked move from a scrum.

The set-piece was wheeled, Billy Vunipola broke and drew in two defenders before rapid passing from Richard Wigglesworth and Alex Goode created the space for Ashton to score.

With Leicester making mistake after mistake and Vunipola rampaging across Allianz Park, the semi-final was in danger of turning into a procession.

The Tigers hit the self-destruct button once more on the stroke of half-time after a lazy pass from Ben Youngs was picked off by Wyles who raced in the intercept try.

Richard Cockerill's team talk has the desired effect, because with half an hour remaining Leicester had cut the deficit to 31-17.

Telusa Veainu pounced moments into the second half, capitalising on a momentary lapse in Saracens' concentration to cross in the right corner, before a series of drives from a line-out ended with Dom Barrow burrowing over.

But the fightback was brought to a halt in the final quarter through two penalties from Charlie Hodgson, who had replaced Farrell, and a converted opportunist try from Ashton.

Press Association

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