|European Champions Cup Pool 2|
|Saracens (17) 36|
|Tries: Wyles, Brits, Pen, Williams, Tompkins Cons: Farrell 3 Pen: Farrell|
|Ospreys (17) 34|
|Tries: Evans 2, Watkin, Cross Cons: Biggar 4 Pen: Biggar 2|
Saracens edged out a stubborn Ospreys side to maintain their 100% start to their Champions Cup defence.
Chris Wyles crossed early for the hosts, but Ospreys full-back Dan Evans scored a pair of opportunistic tries and the scores were level at the break.
Saracens turned the screw and scores from Liam Williams and Nick Tompkins were augmented by a penalty try.
But Ospreys hounded the champions to the end ,and scores from Owen Watkin and Sam Cross secured a try bonus.
Ospreys make light of high-profile absentees
The visitors’ preparations were hampered in the hour before kick-off when Wales flankers Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate both withdrew from the line-up with back injuries.
Already without injured scrum-half Rhys Webb, the pair’s loss further lengthened the odds on Steve Tandy’s side – bottom of Pro14 with one win from six – pulling off a shock.
But Guy Mercer and Sam Cross were ushered into the starting XV and both played their part in disrupting the hosts’ well-oiled machine.
|Champions Cup – Pool 2 (after two matches)|
Ospreys kicked in behind Saracens to earn valuable territory, put in some shuddering hits in defence and, in Evans, had the first-half’s outstanding player.
The full-back, who scored two tries in his team’s defeat by Clermont last weekend, burst onto a Cory Allen off-load to make it 7-7 before picking a clever line to waltz under the posts seven minutes later.
However Evans’ second-half showing did not match his earlier good work.
A fumble with the line beckoning and his side 20-17 up was followed by a deliberate knock-on at the other end that cost his side a penalty try and himself 10 minutes in the sin bin.
It proved costly, because by the time he returned to the pitch, Saracens were nine points clear.
Sam Davies then set up scores for Watkin and Cross as the Ospreys claimed a double bonus point and satisfaction from having scored more points against the defending champions than any other team this season.
Saracens find a way
Saracens, who were immaculate in their 57-13 win over Northampton last weekend, were uncharacteristically scrappy as Ospreys’ gang-tackling frustrated their offloading game in the first half.
There was little sign of those difficulties when Wyles strolled in out wide inside 10 minutes, but the hosts needed a neat combination between front-row colleagues Mako Vunipola and Schalk Brits to get to the break level.
England Saxon Tompkins – introduced for the injured Duncan Taylor – was instrumental in hauling his side to victory in the second half with a deft offload sending Williams into the corner before he barged over himself.
The win extends Saracens’ unbeaten run in the competition to 20 matches, but it won’t be one that they look back on fondly.
Former Saracens back row Will Fraser speaking on BBC Radio 5 live:
“They have lost by two points and they won’t feel like it now, but I think Ospreys will be able to take great heart from that performance. Some people were not giving them much chance in this one, but it was the opposite at Saracens this weekend. We knew they have some really talented performers and the tactics Steve Tandy came up with stifled the home attack for long periods.”
‘I’m immensely proud’ – coach quotes
Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy told BBC Sport Wales:
“I feel a massive sense of pride in the performance, we got so close but we coughed up one or two scores where we could have helped ourselves.
“It would be easy to pick the bones out of the little bits and pieces we could have done better, but all in all, huge pride but disappointment we haven’t done something special but it’s an unbelievable effort from the guys.
“I think the penalty try is a bit harsh, because we felt something further up the field had been missed but I’m not going to talk about that because I want to talk about the positive moments.
“Perceived better teams have come here and got swamped, Saracens put an unbelievable shift in at Northampton. It is a results business but it is special for me as a coach to be able to look back on a game where the way the group fought was sensational.”
Saracens: Goode; Williams, Taylor, Barritt (c), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; Vunipola, Brits, Figallo; Isiekwe, Kruis; Itoje, Clark, Wray
Replacements: George, Barrington, Koch, Skelton, Burger, Spencer, Lozowski, Tompkins
Ospreys: Evans, Hassler, Fonotia, Watkin, Allen, Biggar, Habberfield; Smith, Parry, Arhip; Beard, Jones (c); Mercer, Cross, King
Replacements: Baldwin, James, Fia, Ashley, Leonard, Davies, Hook