Racing 92 and Saracens book Champions Cup final spots

Racing 92 and Saracens will meet in the Champions Cup final in Lyon following semi-final victories over Leicester and Wasps respectively

Racing 92 and Saracens book Champions Cup final spots
Juan Imhoff spots a gap in the Leicester defence (image via: independent.ie)

Saracens will meet Racing 92 in the Champions Cup final on the 14th May in Lyon, after both sides overcame difficult semi-finals this past weekend. 

On Saturday, Saracens overcame an early deficit to see off Wasps at the Madejski Stadium thanks to a Michael Rhodes five-pointer and a late penalty try. 

The following day, the only remaining French side in the competition, Racing 92 saw off the Leicester Tigers at the City Ground in Nottingham, with Dan Carter at his mercurial best, knocking over 11 points from the kicking tee for the Parisians

Sarries repel Wasps firepower to progress to final 

Coming into the game, the match was being billed as the best defence in the competition, which belonged to Saracens, versus the best attack in the competition of Wasps.

In the opening minutes of the match kicking-off, the best attack made their mark on the encounter with an electric break down the right-wing. The ball came to Christian Wade, who was coming off the back of a six-try effort against Worcester the week before, and the diminutive winger saw off two defenders on a searing run, before passing the ball to Dan Robson who outpaced Alex Goode to cross for the games opening try. 

Just as Wasps were starting to frustrate the reigning English champions, Jimmy Gopperth had a clearance kick from his own 22 charged down by Rhodes, who picked up the ball cleanly before driving over the line. 

Wasps indisicpline cost them dearly early in the second-half, and Owen Farrell made them pay with four penalty goals, turning around his kicking woes from the first half which cost his side a number of points. 

The game was then all-but over when a Saracens driving-maul was collapsed close to the Wasps line, with Roman Poite awarding Sarries a penalty try, to extend the lead to 14. 

After the miraculous late salvo to win their quarter-final against the Exeter Chiefs, you would rule Wasps out at your peril, and they brought the game back alive with less than five minutes on the clock when Ashley Johnson rumbled over. 

There was to be no more late drama though, and Saracens held on to win 24-17, booking their second Champions Cup final in three seasons. 

Saracens celebrate following their win over Wasps at the Madejski. | Photo source: Telegraph.
Saracens celebrate following their win over Wasps at the Madejski. | Photo source: Telegraph.

Parisians reach maiden final after Leicester fluff their lines

The second semi-final saw Racing 92 head to Nottingham, to face a Leicester Tigers team who had dismantled another French outfit, Stade Francais, to reach this stage of the competition. 

The French side were the strongest side in pool play, before knocking out three-time winners Toulon in the quarter-finals, and they kept their good run in the competition going by seeing off the Tigers 19-16. 

Just like Wasps, Racing started the game on fire, breaking the deadlock in the opening minutes when some excellent ball retention finally led to Maxime Machenaud burrowing his way over the line. 

The remainder of the first-half saw Racing dominate for long periods but fail to put away their opponents, and two penalties apiece saw the first-half end with the Tigers facing just a 13-6 deficit despite being comfortably second-best. 

Unforutnaltey for the home crowd, it was much of the same after the break, with Leicester's handling the worst they have produced all season. Almost every player was at fault at one point or another for a knock-on, and that coupled with the fantastic Racing defence led by Chris Masoe made it extremely difficult to see a way back into the game for the Tigers. 

Referee Nigel Owens played a big role in the final ten minutes, disallowing two Racing tries which would have ended the contest. The first, finished off by Johannes Goosen, was pulled back for a forward pass earlier in the build-up, whilst the second saw Owens blow his whistle for an apparent knock-on by Juan Imhoff, only for replays to show that the Argentinian winger had not touched the ball and his breakaway five-pointer was not to be. 

The French side added three points from the boot of Goosen, which meant that Telusa Veainu's try for the Tigers was nothing more than a consolation in the dying moments as Racing prevailed by three points. 

The final between Saracens and Racing which takes place in Lyon in a months time at the Grand Stade de Lyon, will be preceded the evening before by the Challenge Cup final between Harlequins and Montpellier, who saw off Grenoble and the Newport-Gwent Dragons in their semi-finals.