Hodgson's no dummy as Sarries head to quarter-finals on a high

Saracens 40 Edinburgh 7

Vicarage Road

Chris Ashton delivered the ultimate example of predatory finishing – two touches, two tries – as Saracens secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.

But it was a superb dummy by veteran Lions and England stand-off Charlie Hodgson that released the tension as he scored the crucial fourth try on 74 minutes.

Joel Tomkins bemused the Edinburgh defence, Hodgson darted, right to left, his body-language suggesting the ball was about to be aimed wide. Instead, he sent a cluster of opponents scuttling towards the tunnel with a deft drop of the shoulder and a dart in by the posts and Owen Farrell converted.

Hodgson, clearly man of the match, ended a chunk of his club's history by chipping in for Chris Wyles to score try number five, Farrell again adding the extras. That means a tough quarter-final tie against Ulster at home in April, arguably the strongest of Ireland's provinces at the moment.

"I'll take two tries from two touches any day." Ashton said. "We knew what we had to do, keep building the pressure on Edinburgh while remaining patient. My second try was all down to Owen. It was his call and a brilliant one because it caught everyone by surprise. Making the last eight is brilliant."

Rugby director Mark McCall paid tribute to his squad. "We were in a very difficult group, so I am proud of our European campaign," he said. "We put in a huge, huge effort because Edinburgh came to defend and defended very well. But our set-piece was strong and we are very fortunate to have such quality in our play-making department."

And so ends 16 years as tenants at Vicarage Road, the beginning of which was marred by tragedy and the end partially obscured by a blizzard The first game scheduled for Saracens at the home of Watford FC was supposed to be against Richmond back in 1997, but was called off because of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

After 234 games, comprising 173 wins and four draws, Saracens move to a new permanent home, the renamed Copthall Stadium (now Allianz Park) having won both the RFU knockout Cup and the Aviva Premiership along the way.

The minimum requirement in the snow was a four-try bonus point victory in the pursuit of a home quarter-final, although Saracens are probably European rugby's least concerned team when it comes to venues, having already staged 'home' games this season at eight different grounds without loss.

When reminded before kick-off that Edinburgh had declined Saracens earlier invitation to play this game in Cape Town, visiting captain Greig Laidlaw was heard to supress a sob.

And within 15 minutes, Farrell had delivered his opening two goals to get the scoreboard moving, giving substance to the pre-match demand by rugby director Mark McCall that his players focus first on winning the game and securing the quarter-final berth, and only then worry about tries and bonus points.

The ominous signs for Edinburgh concerned the early scrums as the hosts drove their opponents backwards at will, so much so that referee Jérôme Garces wrongly awarded Edinburgh a penalty, accusing Matt Stevens of boring in, when the problem was a total lack of opposing force facing the tighthead.

Pressure continued to tell, Edinburgh continued conceding penalties and Farrell continued to nail them, his third after 22 minutes despite kicking into the driving snow.

Having kicked three, Saracens switched to touch when Edinburgh offended yet again after 27 minutes. Ernst Joubert took the lineout, Richard Wigglesworth chipped the ball behind the defence on the right and Ashton darted through unopposed to score. Farrell's run of 27 consecutive successful kicks ended when his conversion attempt rebounded of the near post.

Just when you anticipated a floodgates effect, Saracens blundered away a 32nd-minute try to the visitors. There seemed no danger when Greig Tonks kicked ahead – until Wigglesworth knocked-on, Brad Barritt got in his way and Tonks hacked on and scored, Laidlaw adding the conversion.

A piece of brilliance by Farrell five minutes into the second half stunned Edinburgh. Awarded another penalty, Saracens shaped as if opting for a kick, but didn't signal a kick. Instead, Farrell cross-kicked left to right where the predatory Ashton gathered and scored while Edinburgh stood, slack-jawed. The rest of them looked slack on 53 minutes when Steve Borthwick gathered a lineout, the maul moved fast and Matt Stevens was driven over without a pause, Farrell converting. The end was nigh for the visitors.

Saracens Tries: Ashton (2), Stevens, Hodgson, Wyles; Cons: Farrell (3); Pens: Farrell (3).

Edinburgh Try: Tonks; Con: Laidlaw.

Saracens: C Wyles, C Ashton (D Taylor, 60), O Farrell, B Barritt (J Tomkins, 72), D Strettle, C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth (N De Kock, 51), M Vunipola (R Gill, 56), S Brits (J Smit, 56), M Stevens (P Du Plessis, 65), S Borthwick, G Kruis, K Brown, E Joubert (M Botha, 60), W Fraser (N Fenton-Wells, 72).

Edinburgh: G Tonks, D Fife, B Cairns, M Scott (B Atiga, 76), T Visser (L Jones, 71), G Laidlaw (P Francis, 76) , R Rees, R Hislop (A Allen, 51), S Lawrie (A Titterell, 51), W Nel (G Cross, 70), G Gilchrist, S Cox (P Parker, 51), S McInally, N Talei.

Referee: J Garces (France).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?