Bonus in defeat is a Goode thing for Saracens
Biarritz 15 Saracens 10
Parc des Sports Aguilera
Sunday 20 November 2011
Saracens salvaged a bonus point at the end of a ferocious Heineken Cup match. An attritional first half had ended scoreless, after Owen Farrell and Marcelo Bosch missed several shots at goal, before the Basque club scored tries in the second half through the France back-rower Imanol Harinordoquy and the US Eagles wing Takudzwa Ngwenya.
To the delight of the Saracens coaching staff, Alex Goode squeezed into the corner with the last play of the match, securing a bonus point that could well prove vital in Pool Five, which also includes the Ospreys and Benetton Treviso.
Saracens were dealt a blow in the build-up when the hooker Schalk Brits was given a three-week ban for a dangerous tackle in the win over Treviso in the first round of matches, but such is their strength in depth that they could call up another Springbok to take his place. Brits has three caps; his replacement, the 2007 World Cup winning captain, John Smit, has 111. He was making his first start for Saracens.
The Premiership champions were also without two international scrum-halves, Neil de Kock of South Africa and Richard Wigglesworth of England; the 19-year-old Ben Spencer wore the No 9 shirt. Biarritz were without an influential scrum-half of their own, France's Dimitri Yachvili.
Biarritz had the first chance to put points on the board but Bosch's penalty was wide. Farrell was off target with the boot 10 minutes later.
Biarritz's former England winger, Iain Balshaw, launched a counter-attack shortly before the half-hour to begin a frantic five minutes. Saracens responded with a James Short break down the left wing but after spreading the ball right, Chris Wyles squandered the overlap.
Biarritz had a sustained period of pressure in the closing stages of the half but they were unable to break Saracens' defence.
Saracens' fly-half, Charlie Hodgson, was unable to continue in the second half, due to a leg injury suffered in the first, but his team took the lead without him, on 51 minutes and through a Farrell penalty. That brought the home team to life and they responded with a brilliant try.
Balshaw launched a counter from his own line and following good interplay from the Biarritz pack down the left flank, the full-back, Dane Haylett-Petty, put a perfectly weighted kick to the corner for Harinordoquy, who was eventually named man of the match, to score.
Biarritz extended their lead with a Julien Peyrelongue penalty and they went a step closer to victory by scoring a second scintillating try, after 65 minutes. From another counter attack, Ngwenya sliced through the Saracens defence to score under the posts. Peyrelongue kicked the conversion for a 15-3 lead but Saracens came fighting back.
Short appeared to have given them a glimmer of hope with a try after 68 minutes but the television match official, Peter Ferguson, adjudged the ball to have been held up. After battling away for the remaining 10 minutes, Saracens got their reward when quick hands across the field released Goode to score the try in the corner and secure the bonus point. For good measure, Farrell converted.
Biarritz D Haylett-Petty; T Ngwenya, B Baby (J Peyrelongue, 52), D Traille, I Balshaw; M Bosch (I Bolakoro, 73), L Roussarie (Y Lesgourges, 60); F Barcella (F Gomez Kodela, 72), B August (capt; Heguy, 71), S Marconnet (Y Watremez, 71), J Thion, E Lund, B Guyot, R Lakafia (F Fauré, 73), I Harinordoquy (P Taele-Pavihi, 76).
Saracens C Wyles; D Strettle (A Powell, 72), O Farrell, B Barritt, J Short; C Hodgson (A Goode, 40), B Spencer; R Gill (D Carstens, 69), J Smit (J George, 61), M Stevens (C Nieto, 61), S Borthwick (capt), H Smith (M Botha, 48), K Brown, E Joubert, J Burger (A Saull, 6-13; 68).
Referee N Owens (Wales).
Tries: Harinordoquy, Ngwenya
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