Saracens flex their muscles in Brussels

Saracens 30 Racing Metro 13: Pool One leaders make themselves at home in Belgium to beat Racing

the king Baudouin stadium

Home comforts are not all they are cracked up to be. Saracens' winning combination of the pragmatic and the peripatetic rolled on in Brussels with a second victory in two Heineken Cup pool matches and if their scrum had been a little more dominant in the first half and Racing Metro just a little less recalcitrant in the closing stages of a losing cause, the 'hosts' would have returned from their latest road trip with maximum points.

While Saracens await the rebuilding of their new stadium – Allianz Park in Mill Hill, north London – wherever they lay their scrumcap is their home. By the time the permanent move is made in late January they will have staged league and cup matches at Twickenham, Wembley, Brussels, Bedford, Watford and Milton Keynes. They have also made unsuccessful attempts to play Munster in New York in December and Edinburgh in Cape Town in the final Heineken Cup round the following month. Yesterday's opponents Racing, one of Paris's two top-flight clubs, are at it too. They hosted Munster – and beat them 22-17 – at Stade de France last weekend and will stage the return with Saracens in Nantes.

Sarries send their players on jollies to Miami, Munich and elsewhere and it all fits with a club not short of cash or of ideas. As they stated in the match programme here, "Saracens asks 'why not do it?' as opposed to 'why do it?'".

The Belgian Rugby Union, city council and ex-pats were enthusiastic partners to Saracens' wanderlust. The venture cost the club less, they said, than playing at Vicarage Road, where they lost last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final to Clermont Auvergne. Around 1,500 supporters followed them over (or under) the Channel, bolstering an 18,000 plus attendance at what was once the Heysel stadium.

Racing's former Bath fly-half Olly Barkley kicked the nominal visitors into the lead, and Charlie Hodgson replied in kind, before Saracens made it halfway to a bonus point with two tries in the second quarter. Schalk Brits had already been stretching Racing with his human pinball impression before he threw a lovely dummied pass and sidestepped inside to free Chris Wyles, arriving at pace on the hooker's shoulder, and the United States wing scored on his 100th appearance for Saracens. The conversion by Hodgson had Saracens 10-3 up and they doubled the lead when Steve Borthwick piled through Barkley's tackle and Hodgson converted.

Team-mates rushed from all over to congratulate Borthwick on the captain's third try in his fifth season with the club; a season that has seen one loss and one draw in eight matches. Barkley missed a penalty, Hodgson kicked one and with Racing's openside flanker Bernard Le Roux in the sin bin for flicking the ball from Neil de Kock's hands, Saracens were in a good state at the break.

Racing switched the footballing talent of Juan Martin Hernandez from full-back to fly-half in the second half, with Barkley withdrawn. Several of the Racing players probably finished with impressive figures for 'metres carried' but pretty though these runs were, Saracens' snappier, direct style was more effective.

Among the four England candidates among Sarries' outside backs, Chris Ashton was busy doing some effective sweeping, and Brad Barritt turned in his customary stint of glueing the defence together and moving Saracens forward when Hodgson chose to pass short.

Still, the third quarter passed with a third Hodgson penalty as the only score. And when, in the 62nd minute, Masi Matadigo got free on the right and Hernandez's sweet overhead pass made a try for the Argentine wing Juan Imhoff that Fabrice Estebanez converted, Saracens found themselves edging towards a frustrating finish. All the more so when Borthwick stole a Racing line-out close to the Parisians' goalline but the chance was lost in a midfield knock-on.

Hodgson reignited Saracens in the gathering dusk with a clever, crabbing run to fix Estebanez and make a gap for the flanker Will Fraser to run in Saracens' third try, that Hodgson converted with four minutes remaining. Having begun with a bonus point in a genuine away match – their five-try, 45-0 rout of Edinburgh last weekend – the lack of a fourth try here was a long way from being a worry for Saracens. They lead Pool One comfortably, although things will be a great deal clearer after they take on Munster in Limerick and Watford in December. "The players were excited to play here – it was like our first time at Wembley – and we had Racing chasing shadows at times," said Mark McCall, Saracens' director of rugby. "We are in control of the group."

Saracens A Goode; C Ashton, O Farrell (J Tomkins, 69), B Barritt, C Wyles (D Strettle, 59); C Hodgson, N de Kock (R Wigglesworth, 51); R Gill (M Vunipola, 40), S Brits (J Smit, 55), M Stevens (C Nieto, 60), S Borthwick (capt), M Botha (A Hargreaves, 53), K Brown (A Saull, 64), J Wray, W Fraser.

Racing Metro J M Hernandez; B Fall (J Jane, 60), M Bergamasco, F Estebanez, J Imhoff; O Barkley (G Germain, 40), M Machenaud; A lo Cicero (E Ben Arous, 49), D Szarzewski (B Noirot, 57), L Ducalcon (J P Orlandi, 63), K Ghezal, F van der Merwe (F Metz, 50), A Battut, J Cronje (capt), B le Roux (M Matadigo, 51).

Referee Nigel Owens.

Attendance 18,212.

Saracens

Tries: Wyles, Borthwick, Fraser

Cons: Hodgson 3

Pens: Hodgson 3

Racing Metro

Try: Imhoff

Con: Estebanez

Pens: Barkley, Germain

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried