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Saracens strike back to end Leinster’s reign in Europe

Saracens secured the European Champions Cup for a third time in four seasons after they rallied from a first-half deficit to defeat Leinster 20-10 at St James’ Park on Saturday.

Leinster appeared on course to retain the trophy they lifted in Bilbao last year when they took a 10-0 lead, Tadhg Furlong’s close-range try putting them in control of a pulsating contest.

However, their bid for a record-breaking fifth title was ruined by an impressive Saracens comeback, the Premiership club scoring 20 points without reply to finally beat Leinster in the Champions Cup at the fourth attempt.

Sean Maitland helped bring his side level when he cruised over the line late in the first half, but it was Billy Vunipola who grabbed the game’s crucial try after the break, forcing his way over with 13 minutes remaining.

Owen Farrell added both conversions to go alongside a pair of penalties as Saracens demonstrated their fighting spirit to make it nine wins on the spin in the competition this season.

The two European heavyweights did not disappoint in Newcastle, though Saracens struggled to land a blow for much of a first half that saw them lose Maro Itoje to the sin bin and starting props Titi Lamositele and Mako Vunipola to injury.

Itoje was shown a yellow card by referee Jerome Garces after Cian Healy was denied a try by the TMO, though Leinster’s other prop Furlong made sure there was no doubt when he burrowed over.

At that stage Sarries were wobbling against the ropes, yet they countered to draw level by the break.

Farrell landed a 39th-minute penalty to finally open his side’s account and it was his brilliant tapped pass under pressure that allowed Maitland an easy finish, with the successful conversion making it 10-10 in rapid fashion.

Saracens moved in front for the first time courtesy of a second Farrell penalty, though only after the TMO deemed that replacement prop Richard Barrington failed to make contact with the padding on the post.

Still, as with the incident involving Itoje, the defending team were guilty of an infringement in the build-up, leading to Scott Fardy seeing yellow.

The extra man advantage proved telling this time, as Saracens’ decision to opt for a scrum rather than going for goal from a penalty allowed Billy Vunipola to force his way over.

The England international reached out to ground the ball between the posts and land the knockout blow on Leinster, who were unable to respond as they suffered just a second loss in their last 18 European games.

KEO.co.za News wire is powered by opta

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