sport

Saracens progress to last four

An under-strength Saracens qualified for the semi-finals of the LV= Cup with a hard-fought 22-12 victory over Worcester at Sixways.

Saracens pipped London Irish to top Pool Three and probably face an away semi-final when the competition resumes in the middle of March.

They scored an excellent early try through the outstanding Ernst Joubert, but had to rely on the goal-kicking skills of scrum-half Ben Spencer for the remainder of their points.

Worcester were disappointing as, on paper, this is a game they should have won, but they were out-battled by a determined Saracens. The defeat ensured they finished bottom of Pool Two.

The hosts were able to select an almost first-choice line-up, whereas the visitors were deprived of at least a dozen of their best players due to international call-ups.

Saracens made an excellent start, though, taking the lead after only three minutes. They produced a superb handling movement which ended with number eight Joubert selling a neat dummy and running 20 metres unopposed to score a try which Spencer converted.

Saracens continued to play some delightful rugby with clever inter-passing between the tight five forwards gaining them a platform in the opposition 22. The Warriors infringed for Spencer to kick an easy penalty.

Back came Worcester with their first attack of the match, which saw an unstoppable 20-metre drive from their forwards resulting in Blair Cowan crashing over for the try which Andy Goode converted.

Saracens suffered another blow when centre Adam Powell left the field with a shoulder injury to be replaced by Chris Wyles, but the visitors still held a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Warriors pack dominated the rest of the half but careless handling and ill-discipline prevented them from taking advantage and it was against the run of play that Saracens picked up the next score.

On the stroke of half-time, a second penalty from Spender gave Saracens a 13-7 interval cushion.

Saracens again started the half quickly, camping in the opposition territory for the opening 10 minutes, but could earn no reward.

From nowhere, Worcester relieved the pressure to enable Josh Drauniniu to make a powerful burst along the right flank. The Warriors maintained the pressure and, following a clever cross-field kick from Goode, Drauniniu collected to score the try which Goode was unable to convert.

Immediately following the try, Worcester introduced Matt Kvesic - released from the England squad - Paul Hodgson and Neil Best from the bench, but it was Saracens who extended their advantage when Spencer kicked another penalty.

The Warriors created their best movement of the match with excellent passing sending Drauniniu flying, but once again they could not capitalise and Saracens made them pay.

Spencer first hit a post with another penalty attempt but late on succeeded with two more to seal a notable win for his side.