Marcelo Bosch lands monster penalty with last kick as Saracens down Racing Metro

Argentina centre lands 55-metre effort after Fabrice Metz penalised on last play of the game in Paris

Racing Metro 11 Saracens 12

Sporting history is not littered with too many examples of English teams being saved from oblivion by the boot of an Argentinian. As Marcelo Bosch lined up the final kick of a remarkable quarter-final, some 47 metres away from the posts, a strong breeze also made a stunning Easter Sunday renaissance by Saracens far from probable. If ever there has been a gripping last tango in Paris this was it.

The history-books will merely record the ball flew straight and true to propel Sarries into a third successive European semi-final, the sole English side left in the last four, but such a sparse summary does scant justice to the slender margins involved. The visitors were pummelled and battered for lengthy periods and, with 10 seconds left, were on the brink of joining this weekend’s procession of Premiership losers. The fact they, rather than Racing, will now be facing Clermont in the semis says much about their character and never-say-die attitude.

As well as the mighty Bosch, who last kicked a winning goal a decade ago in his native country for his amateur side Belgrano Athletic against their fierce local rivals Alumni, they also had good reason to thank the hapless Racing replacement Fabrice Metz, who had been on less than three minutes when he stumbled off his feet at the critical final ruck and gave the referee Nigel Owens little option but to ping him.


The likes of Jonathan Sexton and his kicking coach Ronan O’Gara, both now employed by Racing, have been in a similar position plenty of times but on this occasion the boot was on someone else’s foot.

Even the Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall, thought Alex Goode would be stepping up and was somewhat startled when Bosch took the responsibility instead. He need not have worried, the 31-year-old proving to be the coolest man in the stadium. "I tried to be as relaxed as possible because we had the wind in our face and I didn't want to force it," he explained afterwards. "My kicking coach tells me to imagine I'm on the beach and that's what I did."

Given Bosch’s wife is about to present him with twins any day, it is fair to say the experienced centre keeps calm in a crisis. McCall was the first to concede his side did not play brilliantly with the wind at their backs in the first-half but he rated the second 40 minutes among the most resilient displays of his time in charge. “I’d say our second-half performance was as courageous, brave and hard-working as I’ve seen,” suggested the former Ireland centre. “We went hunting, kept knocking them down and scrapped for absolutely everything. It took until the 80th minute for that chance finally to arrive but it was a result of a lot of effort and courage before that.

“I was surprised to see it was Bosch taking the final kick because I thought it was in Alex Goode’s range. But the wind was very strong so it ended up being in Marcelo’s range. He had the nerve and balls to say he wanted it, which is half the battle.”

Racing, even so, will forever regard this as a priceless chance spurned. Beneath a sky of pale blue and fluffy white clouds to match their own "ciel et blanc" outfits, they frequently had the visiting forwards on the back foot and should have scored more than the game's solitary try, by the outstanding Maxime Machenaud, after 26 minutes. With Jim Hamilton also sin-binned, everything seemed teed up for them to reach a first European semi-final and repay at least a chunk of their millionaire owner Jacky Lorenzetti's huge investment.

They reckoned without Sarries' tenacity in adversity, with Billy Vunipola, Alex Goode and Bosch in the vanguard. Even after Machenaud had put his side ahead with two second-half penalties the hosts could never quite land the conclusive knock-out blow, not least when Dimitri Szarzewski dropped the ball over the line and a desperate tackle from Bosch – as well as a forward pass – denied the latter's Puma team-mate Juan Imhoff.

No wonder Jamie Roberts, set to confirm his future back across the Channel in the next couple of days, pronounced himself "gutted" and "devastated" for his team. It is Saracens who can now plan for a trip to St Étienne to face Clermont, the team they defeated 46-6 at Twickenham at this same stage last season.

The French giants will be favourites this time around but neutral ground at least gives Saracens a puncher’s chance. “We shouldn’t worry too much about how we won but just that we won and reached our third consecutive semi-final in this tough competition,” said McCall, who hopes to have his Test centre Brad Barritt back available. “That says a lot about the players we have.”

Racing Métro: Dulin; Imhoff (Goosen, 57), Chavancy, Roberts (Dumoulin, 52), Thomas; Sexton (Philips, 77), Machenaud; Ben Arous (Brugnaut, 53), Szarzewski (capt; Lacombe, 53); Ducalcon (Mujati, 52), Charteris; Van der Merwe (Metz, 77), Lauret, Gerondeau (Dubarry, 57), Claassen.

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Bosch, Wyles, Strettle; Hodgson, Wigglesworth (capt; De Kock, 66); M Vunipola (Gill, 55), George (Brits, 55), Du Plessis (Johnston, 53); Kruis, Hamilton (Itoje, 57); Wray (Brown, 53), Burger, B Vunipola.

Referee N Owens (Wales).

Attendance 12,113.

Guardian Service