Saracens get over the line

 

Rugby: Saracenswere made to sweat before eventually overcoming Treviso26-20 to secure their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals. Needing just a point to safeguard their passage through to the knockout stages, the English heavyweights laboured against the Italian outfit and had to erase a 17-13 half-time deficit before pulling clear in the second half.

Mouritz Botha and David Strettle both touched down for Sarries and Owen Farrell added 16 points with the boot to set up a home quarter-final tie. Mark McCall’s men are now the only English side left in contention in Europe’s top tournament, but will know that they will have up their game several notches when the knockout stages commence in early April.

Elsewhere, Takudzwa Ngwenya scored a blistering hat-trick of tries as Biarritzdumped Ospreysout of the Heineken Cup with a dominant 36-5 win at Parc des

Sports Aguilera. Zimbabwe-born United States international Ngwenya, regarded as one of the fastest men in world rugby, was in superb form during a one-sided rout against opponents unable to deal with his pace.

It was easy work for twice-European finalists Biarritz and they profited against a flimsy Ospreys defence to wrap up their Pool Five campaign with a bonus point triumph.

Left-wing Benoit Baby and impressive former England fullback Iain Balshaw got their other touchdowns with scrum-half master tactician Dimitri Yachvili racking up 11 points through four conversions and a penalty.

The Ospreys, who started the match in second spot in Pool Five but level on 13 points with their third-placed opponents, had the dominant scrum but little else with their only score coming when replacement hooker Richard Hibbard pounced on a Biarritz line-out blunder for a try.

Cardiff Bluesbooked their Heineken Cup quarter-final place— albeit away against holders Leinster — with a nervy 36-30 win over Racing Metro.The points were secured thanks to wing Alex Cuthbert’s try double , a Lloyd Williams touchdown and 21 points from fullback Leigh Halfpenny, including five penalties.

Edinburgh’s bonus point win against London Irish at Murrayfield, though, means the Blues qualify as best runners-up and not Pool Two top dogs, travelling to Dublin rather than hosting Clermont Auvergne. Racing pushed them all the way, scoring tries through their former Exeter full-back Josh Matavesi and wing Sireli Bobo, with fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski kicking three penalties, centre Francois Steyn two and scrum-half Sebastien Descons a conversion and penalty.

Neither side went more than six points ahead at any time in the contest — a statistic that did little to calm nerves among an 8,000 crowd — and Cardiff ultimately failed to keep group challengers Edinburgh at bay, although both teams secured last-eight spots.