Farrell yellow card helps Ospreys to see defeat as a bonus

Saracens 31 Ospreys 26: Young England hopeful wobbles and Welsh side leave London well placed

Wembley

Decisions, decisions. Walking up Olympic Way to see a sign that said "turn left for Saracens v Ospreys and right for The X Factor Final", would there be any indecisive rugby supporters joining the huge queue of hopefuls chasing ticket returns at the Wembley Arena? Those who preferred little Shane Williams to Little Mix had enough fun in England's national stadium, and the Welsh left marginally the happier.

It was almost the original see-saw encounter of hoary reporting cliché. Only once, when Owen Farrell kicked two penalties in the eight minutes leading up to half-time – one for an in-at-the-side yellow-card offence by the Ospreys' captain, Tom Smith – did a score by one team go unanswered. Alas for Smith and Ospreys' three Joneses, the 10-point deficit at half-time proved insurmountable but by getting to within seven they earned a bonus that may prove decisive when Pool Five is over. The defeat for Biarritz in Treviso yesterday opens up a route to the quarter-finals for whichever of these sides emerges better placed from their rematch in Swansea on Friday night. Mind you, the Ospreys failed to win in Treviso too, and Saracens have yet to go there.

Anyone advocating Farrell's selection for England in the Six Nations' Championship may have gulped at a couple of kicks he had charged down, and the yellow card the 20-year-old son of the new national assistant coach, Andy, received for an unsubtle body check on Dan Biggar in the 49th minute. Then again, at the outset of a four-year cycle leading to the World Cup, why wait? If Farrell or any other youngster is considered a proper prospect, give them a go now. That is how Wales have been winning fans and the Ospreys, second in the Pro12 as Saracens are in the Premiership, fielded a XV with only one non-Welsh qualified player (the Ireland wing Tommy Bowe).

Farrell senior said on the day of his England appointment: "Rugby is not about playbooks. Rugby is about people wanting to play for one another. To look at the guy at the side of you and know that and be confident that he's on the same page as you. It's not about complications, it's about simple drive, hard work, graft and determination and enjoyment along the way as well."

As part of their rightly praised team spirit Saracens, the Premiership champions, do like to celebrate earning penalties with ostentatious whooping and patting of heads, and they had plenty of opportunity in a match of 25 straight-arm offences awarded by France's Pascal Gaüzère. Fortunately both teams were adept at outflanking the other's blitz defence so it was not all stop-start stuff. Scott Johnson, the Ospreys head coach, railed against the "farcical" refereeing of the scrummage, which suited neither side in the Australian's opinion.

Johnson's Saracens counterpart, Mark McCall, said: "There's mixed emotions. For 50 minutes we were definitely the dominant side so its frustrating the last 30 went away. It turned on the [Farrell] sin-bin."

McCall's side finished with three tries to two; Farrell kicked six from nine and Biggar six from eight. What appeared to let Ospreys back into the match was Sarries' substitution of Schalk Brits – the hooker in his third match back from a ban went off shaking his head, just after his lovely inside pass sent Chris Wyles over for Saracens' third try and a 28-16 lead while Ospreys had 14 men – and Charlie Hodgson. Both had slight injuries, according to McCall.

While Farrell was off for 10 minutes, the Ospreys' young centre Ashley Beck scored his second try from a five-on-three attack on the short side. Beck's first try was a knockabout thriller: a run-in from a ricochet off Hodgson after the scorer had started the move with a grubber to set Bowe on a sprint. That was in the 13th minute, and it came in between tries for Saracens by their Welsh prop Rhys Gill and, embarrassingly for Smith, Ernst Joubert direct from a scrum with a blindside charge.

Another change from Sarries' bench brought on their loanee scrum-half Peter Stringer, and his hack upfield led to a heart-in-mouth moment when Biggar passed towards his posts, Andrew Bishop lost his footing and Jonathan Thomas had to kick dead. The Ospreys front row went down at the resulting scrum and Farrell kicked for 31-23.

But Welsh sides, from Cardiff in the FA Cup of 1927 to Wales while the Millennium Stadium was being built to Swansea in the play-offs, have done OK at Wembley. The Ospreys tapped a little of that fortune when Farrell's charged-down kick left a team-mate isolated and Biggar potted a fourth penalty with six minutes left.

Saracens: A Goode; D Strettle, O Farrell, B Barritt, C Wyles; C Hodgson (J Short, 58), B Spencer (P Stringer, 58); R Gill (D Carstens, 73; Stevens, 80), S Brits (J George, 48), M Stevens (C Nieto, 65), S Borthwick (capt), M Botha (G Kruis, 58), K Brown, E Joubert, J Burger (A Saull, 65).

Ospreys: R Fussell; T Bowe, A Bishop, A Beck, S Williams; D Biggar, R Webb; D Jones (R Bevington, 46), R Hibbard (H Bennett, 46), A Jones, R Jones, J Thomas, T Smith (capt, I Gough, 52), J Bearman (G Stowers, 56), J Tipuric.

Referee: P Gaüzère (France).

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?