Saracens 24 - 17 Wasps: Farrell’s boot makes its mark

Saracens Mako Vunipola is tackled by Wasps Jimmy Gopperth as he tries to burst through. Picture: PA
Saracens Mako Vunipola is tackled by Wasps Jimmy Gopperth as he tries to burst through. Picture: PA
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Saracens took another giant stride towards a possible domestic and European double as they booked their place in next month’s European Champions Cup final by beating Wasps 24-17 at the Madejski Stadium.

The Aviva Premiership leaders were tested physically by a resilient Wasps side, but flanker Michael Rhodes’ first-half score, which was followed by a penalty try that Owen Farrell converted as part of a 14-point haul, proved enough.

Wasps led through an early Dan Robson try and substitute hooker Ashley Johnson touched down late on, with stand-off Jimmy Gopperth kicking both conversions and a penalty – but Saracens dominated possession and territory and were worthy winners.

The reigning English champions will meet Leicester or sole French survivors Racing 92 – they clash in Nottingham today – in Lyon on 14 May.

Wasps went into battle as outsiders, but they required just 73 seconds to make an impact.

Wing Christian Wade barely needed sight of an outside gap before breaking clear and finding Robson in support, who finished superbly.

Gopperth’s conversion took Wasps seven points clear.

But Saracens continued to press and they looked to have cashed in when Chris Ashton and his Wasps opposite number Frank Halai chased a loose ball, before possession squirmed clear and Saracens and Scotland centre Duncan Taylor touched down.

But referee Romain Poite referred to television replays, with the decision that Ashton had nudged Halai illegally, and Wasps gained a penalty that Gopperth cleared to touch.

Saracens, having dominated the opening half territorially, then struck in opportunist fashion when Gopperth – final kick hero of the win against Exeter – turned villain as his attempted defensive clearance was charged down by Rhodes, who claimed the touchdown.

Farrell again drifted a kick wide, though, and Wasps entered the closing ten minutes of a fast and furious half holding on to a 7-5 advantage.

But Saracens went ahead for the first time in injury time when Farrell landed his first successful kick at the fourth attempt, giving them an 8-7 advantage.

Farrell, who had struggled for accuracy off the tee during a tense opening 40 minutes, made amends through two long-range strikes in three minutes at the start of a second period that meant his team moved seven points clear.

Wasps had shown little since their opening burst, and they suffered a 51st-minute blow when Robson was carried off following Farrell’s tackle that meant the England centre was yellow-carded, but Gopperth kicked a penalty from the restart and Saracens’ lead was cut to four points.

Farrell’s return ten minutes later coincided with an immediate penalty chance, but he sent his kick wide, and Wasps remained firmly in contention entering the final quarter.

The game remained an attritional contest, but Saracens extended their lead when Farrell landed a fourth penalty after replacement Wasps prop Simon McIntyre was sin-binned following a kick aimed at Saracens’ England lock Maro Itoje.

A penalty try then followed, which sealed the deal from Saracens’ perspective, and although Johnson crossed during the dying seconds, it made no difference to the overall picture as Saracens marched on.