European Champions Cup: Saracens 33-17 Ulster

By Mike HensonBBC Sport
Owen Farrell
Farrell has scored 71 points - including one try - in seven Premiership appearances this season
European Champions Cup, Pool One
Saracens (13) 33
Tries: B Vunipola, Taylor, Itoje, Brits Cons: Farrell 2 Pens: Farrell 3
Ulster (7) 17
Tries: Marshall, Humphreys Cons: Jackson 2 Pen: Jackson

Saracens made the European Champions Cup quarter-finals with a commanding victory over Ulster at Allianz Park.

Luke Marshall's neat early score had put the visitors ahead before Billy Vunipola crossed from a rolling maul to give Saracens a narrow half-time lead.

The Premiership leaders cut loose after the break though, with Duncan Taylor going over before forwards Maro Itoje and Schalk Brits got in on the act.

As Pool One winners, Saracens will be at home in the last eight.

They have made at least the semi-finals in the past three seasons, but France's top teams - and Europe's top prize - have remained tantalisingly out of reach.

However, the clinical way in which the north London side became the first team to make the last eight of this season's competition suggests they are in with a real shout to finally claim the trophy.

Pool One
PlayedWinsPts differencePoints

Despite failing to secure any bonus points in defeat, Ulster can still also make the quarter-finals.

The Irish province are second in Pool One with 13 points and a home match against Oyonnax to come next weekend. The three best runners-up across the five pools will also qualify.

Coach Les Kiss will have been pleased by the performance of Ireland's Jared Payne who, in his first start since breaking his foot at the World Cup, showed that his rugby brain was as sharp as ever, dribbling a delicious grubber kick through for Marshall to dot down for the first score.

Saracens' set-piece delivered their first try. Hooker Jamie George picked out Itoje, the hosts soaked up Ulster's counter-shove and rolled around the corner to allow Billy Vunipola to burrow over.

George Kruis and Maro Itoje
Second rows George Kruis (left) and Maro Itoje (right) are two of eight Saracens in Eddie Jones' England squad

The combination will have impressed watching new England coach Eddie Jones, who included all three in his Six Nations squad on Wednesday.

Farrell's place kicking may not have done, with the usually metronomic fly-half missing a couple of shots at goal in the first half.

However, the 24-year-old has added a new attacking edge to his excellent distribution this season and his adventure paid off shortly after the break as he dummied and darted between Paddy Jackson and Robbie Diack to break clear and put Taylor away into the corner.

Itoje then dotted down from less than a metre before replacement Schalk Brits bundled his way over after a typically bustling burst.

Replacement Ian Humphreys broke clear for a late score for Ulster, but it was too little, too late for the visitors.

Saracens: Ransom, Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Wyles, Farrell, Wigglesworth, M. Vunipola, George, du Plessis, Itoje, Kruis, Rhodes, Fraser, B. Vunipola.

Replacements: Hodgson for Ransom (61), de Kock for Wigglesworth (63), Barrington for M. Vunipola (65), Brits for George (56), Figallo for du Plessis (56), Wray for Fraser (63).

Not Used: J. Hamilton, D. Taylor.

Ulster: Payne, Trimble, L. Marshall, McCloskey, Gilroy, Jackson, Pienaar, McCall, R. Best, Herbst, O'Connor, van der Merwe, Diack, Reidy, Wilson.

Replacements: Scholes for L. Marshall (71), Humphreys for Jackson (61), P. Marshall for Pienaar (75), Black for McCall (74), Herring for R. Best (61), Stevenson for O'Connor (74), C. Ross for van der Merwe (66).

Not Used: Lutton.

Sin Bin: Gilroy (61).

Att: 9,642

Ref: Jerome Garces (France).