Saracens handed lifeline to reach Champions Cup quarters
Defending champions Saracens will travel to Leinster in the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup after squeezing through to the knockout stage as the third-best second-placed team.
The Premiership outfit, who have conquered Europe in each of the last two seasons, progressed after Dai Young’s Wasps beat Ulster 26-7 in soggy conditions at the Ricoh Arena.
The Allianz Park club, the only English side to reach the tournament’s last eight, did all they could on Saturday by running in seven tries and thrashing Northampton Saints 62-14 at Allianz Park.
Their qualification hopes boiled down to Wasps and their bonus-point success was secured courtesy of tries from flanker Guy Thompson, hooker Tom Cruse, full-back Willie le Roux and prop Jake Cooper-Woolley, although it was not enough to secure their own progress.
Defeat ended Ulster’s hopes of making the knockout phase for the first time since 2014. Despite winning four of their six group matches, they only collected one bonus point which proved debilitating.
Saracens’ quarter-final clash, which will take place between 29 March and 1 April, will prove an intriguing battle as the reigning tournament winners go head to head with the only side still unbeaten in this term’s competition.
As well as Leinster, La Rochelle, Clermont Auvergne, Munster and Scarlets – the first Welsh region to qualify for the quarter-finals in six years – also came top of their pools.
The remainder of the last-eight draw sees Scarlets host La Rochelle, three-time winners Toulon travel to Munster and last season’s runners-up Clermont Auvergne welcome Racing 92 at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin in an all-French tie.
La Rochelle clinched a quarter-final spot in their first season in the competition after withstanding prolonged second-half pressure to beat Harlequins 16-7. La Rochelle’s win, combined with Wasps’s triumph over Munster, ensured they won Pool One.