sport

Sarries see off Blues in cup

The artificial pitch at Saracens' new 24million Allianz Park home passed its first test in a 19-11 LV= Cup win for the hosts against Cardiff.

Alex Goode, making his first appearance in five weeks, played 56 minutes and emerged unscathed after being dropped on his problematic left shoulder by a tackle from Owen Williams.

England open their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday with Goode competing against Mike Brown and Ben Foden for the number 15 jersey.

A low-key Anglo-Welsh encounter in Barnet was also significant as the first professional rugby union match to be played on an artificial pitch designed for the sport.

On this occasion - a designated 'test event' attended by 3,500 invited Saracens fans - the bold decision to abandon grass could only be viewed as a success.

The 500,000 surface, which costs only 18,000 per year to maintain, was in immaculate condition and appeared quick, justifying the club's promise that it would lead to a "faster, safer and more entertaining game".

Scrums have been identified as a potential area of concern but these passed without incident and while there were a number of injuries, these seemed in keeping with rugby's usual rate of attrition.

Chief executive Edward Griffiths had declared earlier in the week that the rugby world from South Africa to Murrayfield was awaiting developments at Allianz Park to assess the viability of an artificial surface, and Saracens will have been pleased by an encouraging debut.

The Aviva Premiership clash with Exeter on February 16 will be the first match to be played before a 10,000-capacity crowd and supporters will be hoping for more fireworks than were on display today.

The first try arrived in the 36th minute when number eight Robin Copeland pinched the ball at a Saracens lineout 15 metres out and headed for the line, riding a couple of tackles as he crashed over.

The preceding half an hour had been uneventful with Nils Mordt and Ceri Sweeney swapping penalties and also missing one apiece, ensuring the Blues led 8-6 at the interval.

Killing the ball at a ruck earned prop Sam Hobbs time in the sin-bin and Mordt punished the infringement with his third penalty.

Substitute Gareth Davies kicked the Blues to within a point with 10 minutes to go, but his fellow replacement Thomas Young was yellow carded in a lively finish.

Saracens landed the killer blow in the closing moments when rampaging centre Duncan Taylor squirted a pass out to wing James Short who crossed, with Mordt converting.