Heineken Cup round-up: Chris Ashton double tops Saracens romp


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The Independent Online

Saracens put the Heineken Cup quarter-finals in view by collecting a bonus point and top spot in Pool Three with a five-try victory away to Zebre in Pool Three. Chris Ashton scored two of them in the second half of the 39-10 triumph after Sarries led 25-0 at half-time courtesy of tries from George Kruis, Ernst Joubert and Chris Wyles.

The Italians hardly helped themselves and were made to pay when a knock-on handed Sarries an attacking scrum from which the second-row Kruis eventually went over from five metres out after 13 minutes. Hodgson converted and added his second penalty before the No 8 Joubert went over to put Saracens 18-0 ahead with little over a quarter of the match gone.

Samu Vunisa was shown a yellow card moments later then full-back Alex Goode mounted a counter-attack and Ashton's pass sent Wyles over in the corner with Hodgson converting.

It would be difficult to criticise Scarlets for their efforts; after all, their defeat at Clermont-Auvergne in the Heineken Cup Pool Four was hardly a surprise. They were the 68th successive visiting side to leave Stade Marcel-Michelin without a victory to celebrate.

They did at least score a late try through Rhodri Williams, but even that small glory was taken away by another replacement, the prop Clement Ric, who went over to claim the bonus-point moments from the end and allow Mike Delany to wrap up the 32-11 scoreline with the conversion.

It was a good effort from Scarlets, though. They trailed only 6-3 at the break after a scrappy first half and kept out Clermont until the 46th minute when the Canadian lock Jamie Cudmore, a former Scarlet, drove over to touch down.

Once the spell was broken, Clermont took wing. Napolioni Nalaga capitalised on a favourable bounce from Brock James's kick through and then went over for a second time after being released by the former All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu. James converted the first of them and Clermonth were 25-6 clear.

The two teams meet again next weekend at Parc y Scarlets before Scarlets continue their struggle to reach the quarter-finals with a trip to Racing Metro 92 in the new year.

A trip to Mogliano Veneto in the Amlin Challenge Cup was hardly a challenge for Bath, who enjoyed their visit to Italy, with the wing Richard Lane collecting three of their nine tries in a 55-8 victory.