Saracens left to fly flag for England after scare

Benetton Treviso 20 Saracens 26

Stadio Comunale Di Monigo

Needing just a point to safeguard their passage to the knockout stages, the English champions laboured and had to erase a 17-13 half-time deficit before pulling clear in the second half. Mouritz Botha and David Strettle both touched down for Saracens and Owen Farrell kicked 16 points to set up a home quarter-final against Clermont.

Mark McCall's men are now the only English side left in contention in Europe's top tournament, but they will know that they will have to raise their game several notches when the knockout stages start in early April. They came into the match hoping for a bonus-point win to seal a home quarter-final but Treviso, unbeaten in their previous two pool games at home, were in no mood to lie down.

"I thought we were miles off where we normally are, and especially in the first half," McCall said. "The intensity wasn't there, and neither were the standards we normally expect. I was pretty disappointed at half-time. But then in the second half we dug in, and I have nothing but admiration for the way we got the job done."

Farrell struck first blood with a penalty after 10 minutes but they were rocked on their heels when Robert Barbieri dotted down for the opening try moments later, which was converted by Kris Burton. Sarries hit back with a try of their own, Botha barging over from close range after the Saracens forwards had pummelled the home pack. Farrell made no mistake with the conversion but again the visitors were found wanting in defence, and they conceded a second try more or less off the restart.

Barbieri was once again instrumental, punching a massive hole in the Saracens midfield before the ball was spun wide to Tommaso Iannone, who touched down in the corner. Burton added the conversion and then an opportunistic drop-goal to leave Treviso with a 17-10 lead 25 minutes in.

With their pool rivals Biarritz by this stage 17-0 up against the Ospreys, the wheels were in serious danger of coming off. Farrell reduced the deficit to four points just before the break, but at half-time Saracens' prospects were still looking touch and go.

Thirty seconds into the second half, however, the game took a seismic swing when Strettle blocked an attempted clearance and strolled his way over the line for a gift-wrapped try. Farrell converted and then traded penalties with Burton to keep his side just ahead, at 23-20. The Treviso scrum-half, Tobias Botes, then looked to have scored a perfectly good try, but it was mysteriously overruled by the stand-in referee, John Carvill, who had replaced the injured Alain Rolland in the first half.

Saracens, at this stage, were hanging on by their fingernails, but the accuracy of Farrell allowed them to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Any hopes they may have had of gaining the bonus point they needed were ended in the final quarter by Treviso's attempt to find a way back into the game.

Scorers: Benetton Treviso: Tries: Barbieri, Iannone; Conversions: Burton 2; Penalty Burton; Drop goals Burton. Saracens: Tries: Botha, Strettle; Conversions: Farrell 2; Penalties: Farrell 4.

Benetton Treviso: L Nitoglia; T Iannone (A Di Bernardo, 75), T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, B Williams; K Burton, T Botes (F Semenzato, 58); M Rizzo, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini, A Pavanello (G Padro, 36), C van Zyl, B Vermaak, A Zanni (capt), R Barbieri (M Filipucci, 58).

Saracens: A Goode; D Strettle, O Farrell, B Barritt, J Short (C Wyles, 51); C Hodgson, P Stringer (B Spencer, 72); M Stevens, J Smit (J George, 60), C Nieto (R Gill, 45), S Borthwick (capt; H Smith, 32), M Botha, K Brown (J Melck, 32), A Saull, J Wray.

Referee: A Rolland (Ireland) (J Carvill, Ireland, h-t).

Suggested Topics
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
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

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own