European Rugby Champions Cup: Saracens 10-3 Toulon

Maro Itoje impressed in the Saracens pack
England lock Maro Itoje impressed in Saracens' forward effort
European Champions Cup Pool Three
Saracens 10 (3)
Tries: Ashton Penalty: Farrell Conversion: Farrell
Toulon 3 (0)
Penalty: Halfpenny

Saracens secured a home quarter-final in the European Champions Cup with a 10-3 win over French side Toulon in a bruising encounter at Allianz Park.

The defending European champions ensured their last-eight tie will be in north London with a second-half try from wing Chris Ashton.

Fly-half Owen Farrell converted the try and kicked a penalty.

Toulon's bonus point for a narrow defeat means they also qualify for the knockout stage.

Despite the relative lack of points, the home fans enjoyed an enthralling contest and, crucially, the right result.

Toulon applied all the pressure in the first 10 minutes but had two tries ruled out by video evidence.

The first was deemed a double movement by winger Bryan Habana, the other cancelled out after fellow winger Josua Tuisova inexplicably kicked the ball out of his own hand in trying to dab down in the corner.

The two sides earned parity in the tackle count and possession in the first period and the rhythm of play was broken only by infringements at the ruck and maul that were tightly - and correctly - policed by referee Nigel Owens.

After a scoreless half-hour, it was a moment of ill-discipline that handed Saracens the lead.

Toulon captain Dwayne Vermeulen was shown yellow by Owens for a high tackle on Nick Tomkins as the inside centre stepped inside and home skipper Farrell kicked the resultant penalty.

Sarries' forwards pushed Toulon back in the second half, with back-rowers Jackson Wray and Schalk Burger and lock Maro Itoje to the fore.

After good work in midfield by Nick Tompkins just after the hour, scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth swung the ball left and Ashton - who will join Toulon in the summer - broke between defenders Matt Giteau and Ma'a Nonu for a clinical finish.

A thumping 47-yard penalty from Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny cut the deficit to bonus-point range, but a late assault from the French side was repelled, notably by a try-saving tackle on Giteau from flanker Mike Rhodes.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall: "What we like to judge ourselves on are simple things, most of all effort.

"Everyone knows who we are missing through injury and the disruption that has caused, but for us to go toe-to-toe against an almost a full-strength side and show that effort, especially defensively, was extraordinary."

Saracens: A Lozowski; C Ashton, M Bosch, N Tompkins, S Maitland; O Farrell (capt), R Wigglesworth; R Barrington, J George, P Du Plessis, M Itoje, J Hamilton, M Rhodes, S Burger, J Wray.

Replacements: S Brits, T Lamositele, J Figallo, W Skelton, K Brown, B Spencer, T Streather, N Earle.

Toulon: L Halfpenny; J Tuisova, M Bastareaud, M Nonu, B Habana; M Giteau, S Tillous-Borde; L Delboulbes, G Guirado, L Chilachava, M Gorgodze, R Taofifenua, J Smith, JF Lobbe, D Vermeulen.

Replacements: J Orioli, X Chiocci, M Van Der Merwe, L Gill, J Suta, P Bernard, J Pelissie, S Manoa.

For the latest rugby union news follow @bbcrugbyunion on Twitter.

Top Stories