European Rugby Champions Cup: Scarlets 22-22 Saracens

Chris Ashton
Chris Ashton's dramatic late score knocked out the Scarlets
European Champions Cup
Scarlets (9) 22
Tries: S Williams Cons: Jones Pens: Jones 5
Saracens (5) 22
Tries: Earle, Ashton 2 Cons: Farrell 2 Pens: Farrell

Champions Cup holders Saracens snatched a dramatic late draw against Scarlets to end the hosts' quarter-final hopes.

Scarlets led 9-5 after an absorbing first half as three Dan Jones penalties cancelled out Nathan Earle's try.

Chris Ashton crossed to bring the visitors level before Scott Williams picked a yawning gap in the Saracens defence to restore the hosts' lead.

Scarlets were denied a famous win as Ashton scored with the final play of the game to seal Saracens' progress.

Saracens are still on course for a home quarter-final but the draw denies them a record 14th straight Champions Cup win.

They remain top of Pool Three ahead of their home match against Toulon next weekend, while Scarlets are still in third place and out of contention ahead of Sunday's late kick-off between Toulon and Sale.

Read Sunday's other Champions Cup reports
Ospreys 47-7 LyonExeter 31-19 Ulster
Toulon 27-12 Sale

Whereas the seemingly unstoppable Saracens juggernaut hurtled towards a sixth successive quarter-final in Europe's top-tier competition, Scarlets were clinging to only the slimmest hope of reaching the knockout stages.

The hosts had shown their capacity to confound the odds with victory over former champions Toulon earlier this season, and they started at a furious pace against the current holders.

Scott Williams
Scarlets celebrate Scott Williams' score

A sequence of punchy carries and slick handling brought Scarlets to within inches of the Saracens try line but captain Ken Owens' knock-on meant they had to settle for a penalty.

The visitors were not so wasteful, scoring from their first attack. After some patient phase play, the ball was spread wide and a marvellous flicked pass from Alex Lozowski allowed Earle to touch down in the corner.

That did little to deter Scarlets, who continued to pressurise their illustrious opponents and were rewarded with another two Jones penalties.

By contrast, his opposite number, England's Owen Farrell, was uncharacteristically wayward with his kicking as Saracens struggled to keep pace with the Welsh region.

The visitors seemed to regain their poise with a second-half try against the run of play, with Lozowski running an excellent angle and setting up Ashton to canter over the line.

However, Saracens were level for less than three minutes as Aled Davies' perfectly timed pass sent Williams plunging through a huge gap to prompt roars of delight from the home crowd.

With a memorable win in their sights, the Scarlets became a little hesitant and a missed Jones drop-goal together with a Farrell penalty for Saracens exacerbated the tension at Parc y Scarlets.

A fifth Jones penalty and a late yellow card for Saracens replacement Will Skelton for a slap on James Davies eased Scarlets' nerves as they seemed set for a momentous victory.

But there was a final sting in the tail as Ashton accelerated towards the line and, despite the desperate attempts of scrambling Scarlets tacklers, the England international wing touched down to break Welsh hearts.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BBC Wales Sport: "From a performance point of view, there were a lot of things we didn't do well today. We made more mistakes than we wanted.

"But we find a way to be resilient, hang in there and give ourselves a chance.

"To find a way to get two points out of it is a good achievement."

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac told BBC Wales Sport: "It was a disappointing result so the dressing room is a very sombre one. It's one that got away.

"We're very disappointed because we put in a really good effort and did enough to win the game. In the 80th minute we were 22-15 up but it's until the final whistle goes.

"We're certainly proud of the performance because it was a massive effort and the players deserve credit for the way they played."

Scarlets: Liam Williams; Johnny McNicholl, Hadleigh Parkes, Scott Williams, Steff Evans; Dan Jones, Aled Davies; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Tadhg Beirne, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, John Barclay.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, Tom Price, Will Boyde, Jonathan Evans, Aled Thomas, Jonathan Davies.

Saracens: Alex Lozowski; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Nick Tompkins, Nathan Earle; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Richard Barrington, Schalk Brits, Juan Figallo, Maro Itoje, Jim Hamilton, Michael Rhodes, Schalk Burger, Jackson Wray.

Replacements: Jamie George, Titi Lamositele, Vincent Koch, Will Skelton, Kelly Brown, Ben Spencer, Tim Streather, Matt Gallagher.

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz

Assistant referees: Adrien Descottes, Thomas Dejean

TMO: Eric Gauzins (all FFR)

Top Stories