Saracens top Pool One after win over Clermont
Ireland outhalf Jonathan Sexton stars in Racing Metro win over Northampton Saints
Saracens’ David Strettle dives over for a try during the European Rugby Champions Cup match against Clermont at Allianz Park, London. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Ashton and Strettle ran in two tries each as last season’s Heineken Cup runners-up opened Pool One with a precious win against the French club they famously demolished 46-6 at Twickenham in April.
The result moved Saracens marginally ahead of Munster who produced a remarkable comeback against Sale Sharks earlier this afternoon, to win 27-26.
If Strettle is overlooked by England when they name their squad for the autumn’s QBE Series on Wednesday, then he could have done little more than produce his two brilliant finishes.
Andy Farrell, England’s backs coach, watched from the stands as Strettle showed his predatory instincts when there was no margin for error.
While he enhanced his slim prospects of selection by Stuart Lancaster, Ashton justified the misgivings over his inclusion with a typically erratic afternoon. His tries were trademark Ashton, but so too were the moments of poor judgement that can prove so costly to his team.
A third wing in Clermont’s former All Black Zac Guildford also plundered a brace, although it was his error that enabled Ashton to grab the try that decided a tight contest.
The Top 14 leaders will take comfort from the bonus point salvaged at Allianz Park that could prove crucial in deciding a pool shared by Sale and Munster.
Glasgow 37 Bath 10
In Pool Four, Glasgow made a stunning start to their campaign with a bonus-point 37-10 success against Bath at the Scotstoun Stadium.
Both sides came into the game in decent domestic form, with Bath having won four of their opening six Aviva Premiership matches and Glasgow unbeaten in the Guinness PRO12 until last weekend.
Mark Bennett opened and closed the tryscoring for the Warriors, who twice fought back from behind to open up with a win.
Warriors outhalf Duncan Weir kicked the remainder of his side’s points, while, in reply, Bath could only muster an opportunist try from Jonathan Joseph and five points from the boot of George Ford.
Racing Metro 20 Northampton Saints 11
In Pool Five, Northampton Saints were left empty-handed in Paris after a roller-coaster final two minutes saw Racing Metro clinch a 20-11 victory.
Saints looked to have snatched a draw just four minutes from time when Phil Dowson touched down in the corner. But Stephen Myler sliced his conversion from close to the touchline before Ben Foden’s kick was blocked by Marc Andreau who ran it back for a dramatic try just 40 seconds from time.
Johannes Goosen then added the conversion with the final kick of the game to even deny Saints the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Jim Mallinder’s frustration will have been deepened by the fact Saints failed to capitalise on two yellow cards for Racing during the second half, particularly when George Pisi fumbled the ball five yards from the try line.
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton kicked two penalties, a conversion and had a hand in Racing’s opening try to get their European campaign off to a perfect start.