Saracens sunk by plague of penalties

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The Independent Online

Cardiff 24 Saracens 14

Cardiff 24 Saracens 14

SIX DAYS after their first 15-rounder at Vicarage Road, two of the Heineken Cup's big shots went at each other again last night. It was every bit as physical as the initial contest, every bit as unforgiving, and when the dust settled, Cardiff were still lording it over their most obvious rivals for a knock-out spot.

Neil Jenkins kicked them to victory with eight magisterial penalties but it was the Welsh club's back row of Dan Baugh, Emyr Lewis and the exceptional Martyn Williams who put the outside-half in range. Between them, the breakaway trio gave Saracens a rare old runaround.

It had been a day of generous gestures from the start. Jenkins took an early-morning helicopter ride in his best bib and tucker to collect his MBE from Buckingham Palace and there was further celebration for the Welsh club as Jonathan Humphreys marked his 200th senior appearance by leading his colleagues onto the paddock.

For some unfathomable reason, Saracens felt the need to join the festivities. They handed Jenkins three shots at goal in the opening 12 minutes - needless to say, the Ginger Monster potted the lot - and the visitors underlined the extent of their largesse by missing their own kicks with unfailing regularity.

When Thomas Castaignÿde fumbled an obvious try-scoring opportunity on the opposite diagonal - Nick Walne's half-tackle dislodged the ball from the Frenchman's hands as he bore down on the corner flag - it was entirely in keeping with the balance of fortune. However, the Saracens front row, bolstered by the return of Julian White, applied enough heat at the set-piece to allow Diprose to create a fine try by Kevin Sorrell.

Antonio Lombardi, the Italian referee, spotted two more infringements by the Londoners before the interval and Jenkins was comfortably up to the task on both occasions. One side possessed a dead-eye marksman, the others did not. It was as simple as that.

Only in the fourth minute of first-half injury time did Castaignÿde put one between the sticks, and that was from 8m

In the third quarter Scott Murray and Spencer John were packed off to the cooler and there were further penalty successes for both Jenkins and Castaignÿde.

Jenkins slotted one heartbreaker of a goal from the right touch to maintain Cardiff's seven-point lead and when Jamie Robinson's thrilling rampage was unceremoniously ended by Danny Grewcock's high tackle - another sin-binning, sadly - Jenkins was the perfect man to wrap it up.

Cardiff: Penalties Jenkins 8. Saracens: Try Sorrell; Penalties Castaignÿde 3.

Cardiff: R Williams; N Walne, J Robinson, P Muller, G Thomas; N Jenkins, R Howley (capt); A Lewis, J Humphreys, S John, C Quinnell, M Voyle, D Baugh (W Fyvie 50), M Williams, E Lewis.

Saracens: T Castaignÿde; B Sparg (G Arasa 48), B Johnston, K Sorrell, D Luger; D McRae, K Bracken (capt); D Flatman (P Wallace 54), R Russell, J White, S Murray (W Davison 54), D Grewcock, K Chesney, R Hill, A Diprose.

Referee: A Lombardi (Italy).

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