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).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

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

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living