The teamsheet did not lie. Most of Wales took on none of England – there are no Saracens in the senior or Saxons sides – and the Welsh won comfortably. Shane Williams, almost needless to say, scored two tries and the Ospreys made it through to a reprise of last year's EDF Energy Cup final against Leicester, while giving the impression that their benched New Zealanders, Filo Tiatia and Justin Marshall, were not the only things kept in reserve.
Welsh fans from inside and outside "Ospreylia" came to relive, seven days on, the Grand Slam mayhem inside the Millennium Stadium. It never got that feverish on the pitch. The 11 Slammers starting the game were on form; Saracens, shaky recently in the Guinness Premiership, were anything but. They now have a huge psychological disadvantage to overcome before meeting the Ospreys again, in Watford a fortnight today, in the Heineken Cup. The London club's coach, Alan Gaffney, declined to blame injuries to two of their prime imports, Neil de Kock and Chris Jack. Instead he praised the Ospreys to the skies.
The match began with Gavin Henson casually wasting a three-man overlap. Williams and Jonathan Thomas then had claims for tries turned down, in Williams' case for a foot in touch. Perhaps Williams' luck had run out, after he got away with something similar here against Scotland. Perhaps not.
When it comes to luck, the player of the Six Nations makes his own. After a penalty apiece by James Hook and Glen Jackson, the latter's runaround in midfield and pass to Andy Farrell was rudely interrupted by Henson and Williams hacked the ball to the line from inside his own half. The grounding needed several looks but the Ospreys led 8-0 after 39 minutes.
Saracens' last cup semi-final ended in defeat to Bath in the European Challenge Cup in 2003; before that it was when they won their only trophy of the open era, the Tetley's Bitter Cup of 1998.
Jackson hinted at a comeback with a penalty three minutes into the second half. The packs niggled at each other in the third quarter, but Henson quashed any doubts with a try after 50 minutes. Ryan Jones flipped up at the base of a scrum on the right and Mike Phillips and Hook fed the perma-tanned one, who handed off Farrell with swaggering ease. Cue a celebratory aria from Mrs Henson in the stands; Hook made it 15-3.
Tiatia came on to score with his first touch and the word is he and Marshall may start in the European rematch. You can bet Williams will be there. He laughed his way to Ospreys' fourth try, set up by the lock Ian Evans' cheeky chip through from a ruck turnover.
Saracens have appointed Eddie Jones to succeed Gaffney as the latest in a long line of southern-hemisphere coaches. They have the quarter-final rematch to prove that the here and now will not forever pass them by.
Saracens: B Russell; R Haughton, F Leonelli (K Sorrell, 67), A Farrell, D Scarbrough; G Jackson, N de Kock (capt; M Rauluni, 40); N Lloyd (K Yates, 71), F Ongaro (A Kyriacou, 59), C Visagie, C Jack (T Ryder, 42), H Vyvyan, K Chesney (P Gustard, 59), B Skirving, D Barrell.
Ospreys: L Byrne (J Marshall, 43-49); S Williams, S Parker, G Henson (A Bishop, 71), J Vaughton; J Hook (D Biggar, 77), M Phillips (Marshall, 68); P James (D Jones, 60; James, 70), R Hibbard (H Bennett, 12-22; 60), A Jones, A-W Jones, I Evans (L Bateman, 72), J Thomas (F Tiatia, 60), R Jones (capt), M Holah.
Referee: W Barnes (England).Reuse content