Saracens mount stunning fightback against Ulster for second European win
Champions Cup gradually returns to action following horrific terrorist attacks in Paris
Saracens fought back from 9-0 down to defeat Ulster 27-9 at a rain-swept Belfast on Friday to make it two wins from two in their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign.
Saracens beat four-time champions Toulouse 32-7 in their Pool 1 opener last week and were just as fluent in Northern Ireland in testing conditions.
Paddy Jackson kicked three first-half penalties for Ulster whose scheduled opening game last week against French team Oyonnax was called off in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.
But a try from Chris Wyles kept the English side in touch at the interval before Alex Goode, Duncan Taylor and Billy Vunipola added second-half tries to lead their team to a convincing win.
The scores from Goode and Taylor came when the English Premiership leaders were down to 14 men.
Indeed, Saracens shipped two yellow cards, coming in either half, with Michael Rhodes and Vunipola being sent to the bin.
On a windy, difficult night for kicking, England fly-half Owen Farrell managed just one penalty and a conversion.
“Saracens are the best side we have played this season,” said Ulster head coach Neil Doak.
“They managed the conditions better than us and I’ve no complaints about the result.
“We now have to try and pick up a couple of away wins to progress from the pool.”
Toulon’s clash with Bath at their Stade Mayol home ground was called off last weekend as all sport in France was suspended following the deadly attacks in the capital.
South African Smith said it was a difficult experience for his team but now they’re just eager to get on with playing away to Wasps on Sunday.
“What happened in Paris isn’t a typical week for everyone in France,” said the 34-year-old former Springbok.
"It didn't do us any favours not to play the game against Bath. There is a bit of pressure on us going into this game but we're up for the challenge so we're looking forward to it.
The back-row forward, who has been capped 70 times by his country, said that no matter how shocking the events in Paris were, he and his team-mates simply have to get on with their livelihood.
"How can you react? It was a big tragedy what happened in Paris, but we put it behind us and we need to look at the next game against Wasps.
"We still don't know what the outcome will be of that game [against Bath] – are we going to play it in mid-week or just share the points?
"So we're still waiting for that but it was a shock for everyone at Mayol, getting ready for the captain's run when we got the very upsetting new [about the attacks] but it's a professional era and we need to put that behind us and look forward to the next game."Many may have been surprised by Wasps’ dominant 33-6 victory at three-time champions Leinster last weekend but Smith says he wasn't one of them.
"They’re a quality side," he said. "They played really well on the day, going over to Leinster and winning.
"That's put more pressure on us, going away, to get our first win on the road."
Almost all French sport, professional and amateur, is starting up again this weekend but one notable exception is the Champions Cup clash between Stade Français and Munster, which was due to take place in Paris on Sunday.
A decision was taken on Tuesday to postpone the match so as not to tie up important police resources in the French capital.
“Following the recent tragic events, Stade Français Paris does not wish to weigh down or complicate the job of the government and police by organising a sporting event attended by 15,000 people," the Top 14 club said in a statement.
European Rugby Champions Cup 2015-16 scores so far:
- 13/11/15 Leicester Tigers 33-20 Stade Français
- 14/11/15 Munster 32-7 Treviso
- 14/11/15 Saracens 32-7 Toulouse
- 14/11/15 Northampton Saints 15-11 Scarlets
- 15/11/15 Leinster 6-33 Wasps
- 15/11/15 Ospreys 25-13 Exeter Chiefs
- 20/11/15 Ulster 9-27 Saracens