Saracens 35 Treviso 30: Goosen comes close to shocking Saracens

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The Independent Online

It is little short of miraculous that Saracens are still in the running to reach the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup.

Treviso are no mugs, and have played more European Cup rugby than Saracens - this is the Watford-based club's third appearance in the competition and Treviso's eighth. On this evidence the Italians are improving rapidly.

The fact is that Treviso could have blown Saracens away. That they did not has nothing to do with anything the English club did or did not do. Treviso never gave up. They didn't just chivvy and harass either; they put together lengthy passages of pressure play which penned Saracens in their own half, and at times in their own 22.

Their pack was not one to be dictated to. The backs were fast and feisty and the South African Marius Goosen at fly-half directed play with assurance. His control was all the greater when the veteran Test scrum-half Alessandro Troncon joined him for the second half.

There was a sense of adventure to Saracens' approach almost from the off, which was perhaps ill-advised when it became apparent how well-organised the Italians were.

To make matters worse it seemed that whatever Saracens could do, Treviso could do better - certainly in the first half when the lead changed hands seven times within 30 minutes.

It was during that spell that Saracens ran in four tries, through Dan Scarbrough, Dan Harris, Kevin Yates and Mark Bartholomeusz. But Treviso managed a couple themselves, from Goosen and Brendan Williams, and Saracens' usual indiscipline conceded a couple of penalties. The Italians were able to keep in touch.

At least Saracens picked up a bonus point. They need to win in Biarritz in the final pool match next weekend to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

However if Saracens' handling is as inept next week as it was at Vicarage Road yesterday then they will be out of the competition in very short order. Similarly, their defence will need to be tightened up considerably if they are to keep out the streetwise French foragers.

They will at least have their powerhouse of a Fijian lock Simon Raiwalui back from injury.

Their director of rugby, Steve Diamond, has an inkling of the hard work that lies ahead. "It's a hell of a place to play," he said. His players can feel the heat already.

Saracens: Tries Scarbrough, Harris, Yates, Bartholomeusz; Conversions Jackson 3; Penalties Jackson 3. Treviso: Tries Goosen, Williams; Conversion Goosen; Penalties Goosen 5; Drop goal Legg.

Saracens: M Bartholomeusz; D Scarbrough, T Castaignède, D Harris (K Sorrell, 65), B Johnston (P Bailey, 65); G Jackson, A Dickens (M Rauluni, 53); K Yates (A Liffchak, 65), S Byrne, B Broster, K Chesney, H Vyvyan (capt), T Randell (D Seymour, 72), B Russell, B Skirving.

Treviso: B Williams; D Dallan (G Pizaro, 14), S Legg, M Barbini (A Marcato, 68), P Calanchini; M Goosen, S Picone (A Troncon, 40); F Sbaraglini, A Tejeda (F Ongaro, 40), H Mazino (A Allori, 78), A Pavanello (E Pavanello, 63), M Wentzel, D dal Maso, S Orlando, W Wium (S Palmer, 40).

Referee: M Changleng (Scotland).

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