Defending champions Saracens lose heavily to Racing 92

Racing 92 reached the quarter-finals of 2018-19 Heineken Champions Cup
Heineken Champions Cup Pool 4: Racing 92 v Saracens
Racing 92: (18) 30
Tries: Vakatawa, Thomas, Russell, Lauret; Pens: Machenaud (2); Cons: Machenaud (2)
Saracens: (3) 10
Tries: Lozowski; Pens: Spencer; Cons: Spencer

Saracens began their defence of the Heineken Champions Cup with a heavy defeat by Racing 92 in Paris.

The French side were impressive throughout, and led 18-3 at half-time thanks to converted tries from Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Thomas.

Ben Spencer had landed a penalty before the break for Saracens, who reduced the lead when Alex Lozowski crossed.

But further tries from Finn Russell and Wenceslas Lauret gave Racing a convincing win and a bonus point.

A Maxime Machenaud penalty gave Racing an early lead, and they took a grip on the game inside 10 minutes when Vakatawa sliced through the Saracens midfield to dot down for a converted try.

Spencer’s penalty gave Saracens their first points following Machenaud’s second for Racing, who went further ahead when Thomas skilfully dived in at the corner. The winger’s toe appeared close to the touchline, but the try stood following a TMO review.

Saracens briefly had hope 11 minutes into the second half when a smart steal by Nick Tompkins put Lozowski in.

But Racing hit back almost immediately when Russell dummied at the start and end of a move that saw the Scottish fly-half stroll through Sarries’ defence for a simple try.

Racing’s bonus point and first place in pool four was secured when Lauret forced his way over from close range after a line-out, while Saracens had to play the last six minutes with 14 men after substitute Tom Whiteley was sin-binned.

McCall silent on intentions regards punishment

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall would not be drawn on whether the club would be contesting their points deduction and fine for breaching the league’s salary cap.

Reports on Sunday suggested the domestic and European champions were set to accept the punishment.

“Other people in the club are going to make that decision. As far as I know the deadline is tomorrow,” McCall told BT Sport before kick-off.

“My job is very clear and that’s to get on with the rugby and get the very best out of this group.”

Later, reflecting on a defeat in which his side were without England’s Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy and Mako Vunipola, McCall said: “It’s tough to take. A lot of things went wrong today. We couldn’t win any ball on our own line-out.

“For a lot of the second half we had nothing to hang our hats on or get our teeth into. We spent a lot of time on the back foot and defending.

“We lost some collisions in the first half for a variety of reasons but we never had the ball. But the mark of a team is when you are really up against it and the game’s going against you.

“We scrapped until the end. When Tom Whiteley got sin-binned our unwillingness to accept them scoring again with five minutes to go was magnificent.”

Racing 92: Dulin; Thomas, Vakatawa, Chavancy, Imhoff; Russell, Machenaud; Ben Arous, Chat, Gomes Sa, Ryan, Palu, Lauret, Chouzenoux, Claassen

Replacements: Baubigny, Kolingar, Oz, Bird, Mangene, Iribaren, Volavola, Zebo

Saracens: Gallagher; Maitland, Lozowski, Tompkins, Segun; Vunipola, Spencer; Carre, Singleton, Lamositele, Skelton, Hunter-Hill, Isiekwe, Earl, Wray

Replacements: Gray, Crean, Koch, Kpoku, Reffell, Whiteley, Willemse, Taylor

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