European Rugby Champions Cup: Saracens 51-25 Cardiff Blues

Ben Spencer
Scrum-half Ben Spencer scored 10 minutes after coming on as a replacement for Richard Wigglesworth
Saracens (13) 51
Tries: Wigglesworth, Earl (2), Maitland (2), Spencer, Judge Cons: Farrell (5) Pens: Farrell (2)
Cardiff (18) 25
Tries: Scully, M Morgan, Robinson Cons: Anscombe (2) Pens: Anscombe (2)

Saracens made it three wins from three in the Champions Cup and moved top of Pool Three with a bonus-point comeback victory over Cardiff Blues.

The Welsh side led 18-13 at half-time at Allianz Park thanks to tries from Blaine Scully and Matthew Morgan.

But replacement back row Ben Earl crossed twice early in the second half to put the hosts back in front.

Two tries from Sean Maitland, and one each from Ben Spencer and Christian Judge, sealed a comfortable victory.

It looked as though the Blues were in for a long afternoon when Richard Wigglesworth crossed for the opening try inside the first five minutes.

But Morgan first set up a try for Scully, then crossed himself after a moment of individual brilliance - the full-back claiming a high kick from Owen Farrell, covering 60 metres and skipping through several tackles to put the visitors in front.

Saracens had two tries disallowed in the first half, because Michael Rhodes stepped into touch and a Maitland pass went forward.

There was no denying Earl, though, as he first went over in the corner, then intercepted an offload from Gareth Anscombe for his second try.

The 20-year-old almost scored a hat-trick, but the try was disallowed after Earl was deemed to have gone into touch.

Champions Cup Pool Three
1. Saracens33014
2. Glasgow32010
3. Cardiff3104
4. Lyon3000

The change in momentum was cemented when Cardiff's Olly Robinson was sent to the sin-bin.

Maitland was the main beneficiary of Sarries' numerical advantage, crossing twice in Robinson's absence.

England prop Mako Vunipola, returning from a calf injury, showed no sign of fatigue and caused trouble for Cardiff's defence.

Spencer proved himself a worthy replacement for Wigglesworth, scoring 10 minutes after coming on, and Farrell's conversion after Judge's score brought up the half-century of points.

Robinson crossed for a late try, but it was not enough to secure a bonus point for Cardiff, who remain third in the pool.

The two sides will meet again on Saturday at Cardiff Arms Park (13:00 GMT).

What they said

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BBC Radio 5 live:

"We are pleased with how it finished, but we are dissatisfied overall.

"We know there are a number of things we can do a lot better, and we will need to next week.

"We are where we want to be in terms of the tables, but we aren't where we want to be in terms of our performance. We have had glimpses, but we have a lot of work to do still."

Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill told BBC Radio Wales: "We'll learn from that. We competed and were in front at half-time.

"The boys were really positive at half time, but we didn't control a few little areas of our game and we'll review that this week and get better at it next.

"When they put their foot down, they go, and we had a few one-on-one defensive lapses that led to tries, but you can't fault our energy and effort because they left it all out there."

Saracens: Goode; Maitland, Lozowski, Barritt (c), Lewington; Farrell, Wigglesworth; Vunipola, George, Koch, Isiekwe, Skelton, Rhodes, Burger, Wray.

Replacements: Earl for Wray (42), Barrington for Vunipola (59), Day for Skelton (59), Spencer for Wigglesworth (59), Clark for Burger (62), Judge for Koch (67), Woolstencroft for George (68), Tompkins for Barritt (68)

Cardiff Blues: Morgan; Scully, Millard, Evans, Harries; Anscombe, Williams (c); Gill, Myhill, D Lewis, Earle, Davies, Turnbull, Robinson, Manoa

Replacements: Jones for Williams (21), Smith for Harries (41), Shingler for Evans (46), Thyer for Gill (55), Andrews for D Lewis (55), Thornton for Earle (62), Cook for Manoa (67), E Lewis for Myhill (70).

Sin-bin: Olly Robinson (57)

Ref: Romain Poite (France)

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