CONNACHT WERE OBLITERATED by the powerful, ruthless Saracens at Allianz Park, as Mark McCall’s side ran in 11 unanswered tries to secure their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
That prop Nathan White was spared a red card when his boot came into reckless contact with Brad Barritt’s face just before half time meant Pat Lam’s men did not have to face the Premiership side’s onslaught with 14 men for any longer than a 10-minute spell.
Saracens’ utter dominance of the momentum of the game – achieved through their aggressive tackling and explosive ball carrying – saw Connacht acting as mere bystanders, particularly in the second half.
Lam’s side were unable to get any stranglehold on possession or territory as Sarries’ halfbacks Charlie Hodgson and Richard Wigglesworth enjoyed an armchair ride behind the grunt of the Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy.
Left wing David Strettle crossed for a hat-trick, while Chris Ashton opened and finished the try-scoring with his brace, the latter of which saw his swan dive on display. Schalk Brits, Alex Goode, George Kruis, Chris Wyles, Jackson Wray and powerful replacement prop James Johnston were the other try-scorers.
Hodgson was remarkably poor from the tee, with his eight missed conversions and one off-target penalty seeing Connacht avoid another 19 points against them. The former England out-half did knock over three conversions and one penalty when he was not hitting the posts or firing wide.
Finding positives in the Connacht performance is not an easy task; their defence was incredibly pourous and there was a lack of any aggressive edge in the forwards. They will be devastated by their display, particularly in front of a band of loyal travelling fans.
Dejection for the Connacht players at the final whistle. ©INPHO/James Crombie.
Many of the home side’s tries came on the counter-attack with loose kicking from the western province being willingly punished by Saracens’ incisive back three. The pick of the bunch was the individual effort from Goode, who slalomed in untouched from 50 metres out.
Two first-half penalties from the boot of Dan Parks had left Connacht 18-6 behind at the break, and the hope had been to see a second half lift. That never came though, and Saracens were allowed free reign of their Allianz Park home.
Tries: Strettle (3), Ashton (2), Brits, Goode, Kruis, Wyles, Wray, Johnston.
Conversions: Hodgson (3).
Penalties: Parks (2)
Saracens: A Goode; C Ashton, D Taylor (Wyles), B Barritt, D Strettle; C Hodgson (O Farrell), R Wigglesworth (N de Kock); M Vunipola (R Barrington), S Brits (J George), M Stevens (J Johnston); S Borthwick (c), G Kruis (A Hargreaves); B Vunipola, K Brown (J Wray), E Joubert.
Connacht: G Duffy; F Carr (P O’Donohoe), R Henshaw (D Leader), E Griffin, M Healy; D Parks (J Carty), K Marmion; B Wilkinson (D Buckley), S Henry (J Harris-Wright), N White (R Ah You); M Swift (M Kearney), C Clarke; A Browne, J Heenan (G Naoupu).