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No old pals act at Twickenham

Tuesday 2nd April 2013

12:00 am (GMT)

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Last weekend Ulster Rugby lowered the colours of the top team in the RaboDirect PRO12

Last weekend Ulster Rugby lowered the colours of the top team in the RaboDirect PRO12

Last weekend Ulster Rugby lowered the colours of the top team in the RaboDirect PRO12, arch-rivals Leinster Rugby, and this weekend they will have to do the same to the top dogs in the Aviva Premiership if they are to keep alive their dreams of playing a second Heineken Cup Final in Dublin.

Ulster’s 22-18 triumph at the RDS was their first win over Leinster in Dublin since 1999 – the year they were so famously crowned champions of Europe with an epic victory over Colomiers at a jam packed Lansdowne Road.

Captain of the Ulstermen that day was David Humphreys, the club’s current director of rugby, although he only got the job when Mark McCall, his current Saracens equivalent, was injured earlier in the season. In the end, the two men went up to receive the trophy.

Fourteen years on, the two former comrades in arms will be plotting each other’s downfall at Twickenham Stadium, the venue of Ulster’s heavy defeat by Leinster in last year’s Heineken Cup final. It is the perfect stage for what promises to be a fire-cracker of a game.

There will be glorious battles all over the field with the clash of the two young outside halves, England’s Owen Farrell in Saracens colours and Ireland’s Paddy Jackson in the white of Ulster, will be high up the pecking order, as will Chris Ashton’s wing battle with Andrew Trimble.

But the game is likely to turn on whether or not Johan Muller’s visiting pack can surpress the Saracens’ eight. Former All Blacks tight head prop John Afoa is due back in the country before the weekend after returning to New Zealand for the birth of his third child and his front row battle with Mako Vunipola could be crucial.

Ulster have a strong front five when everyone is fit and. This game will determine exactly how strong. Home advantage will give Saracens an edge, but they will have to be wary of the all round game and kicking skills of Ruan Pienaar at the base of the Ulster scrum.

The Springbok ace should be well enough known to many of the Saracens players with South African roots. They’ll all know that denying him the opportunity to show off his goalkicking ability will be key to their cause.

Match Facts

  • Saracens have been the most efficient at the lineout this season, securing ball from 94% of their throws so far. Ulster’s lineout success rate (74%) on the other hand is the lowest of all sides in the tournament.
  • Ulster’s Chris Henry is the top tackler in the Heineken Cup this season with the back row completing 74 of 75 attempts so far.
  • Owen Farrell has overtaken Glen Jackson as the club’s top points scorer in this tournament notching up 202 to surpass Jackson’s previous record of 193.
  • Saracens have recorded four wins and suffered seven losses against opponents from Ireland in the Heineken Cup.
  • Against English opposition in the tournament, Ulster have been victorious on 13 occasions but have lost 19, most recently they have won seven of their last 10 against clubs from England.

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Saracens heading back to Twickenham

Saturday 6th April 2013

12:00 am (GMT)

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Les Londoniens des Saracens se qualifient pour la deuxième demi-finale de H Cup de leur histoire après leur succès logique sur l'Ulster (27-16)

Les Londoniens des Saracens se qualifient pour la deuxième demi-finale de H Cup de leur histoire après leur succès logique sur l'Ulster (27-16)

Saracens will return to Twickenham Stadium at the end of the month for the Heineken Cup semi-finals after beating Ulster at the home of English rugby.

Tries from man of the match Will Fraser and England wing Chris Ashton guided the English Premiership leaders into the last four of the Heineken Cup for the second time in their history as Ulster slumped to their second successive defeat at Twickenham.

Last season they were left disappointed after losing to Leinster in the Heineken Cup final. This time they came up short in a game which was largely dominated by a very disciplined Saracens side.

England outside half Owen Farrell landed five penalties and a conversion to pick up 17 points on the night, while Ulster scrum half Ruan Pienaar could only managed three penalties in return and a late conversion of flanker Iain Henderson’s consolation try.

Farrell gave Saracens the lead with his first penalty in the second minute, while Springbok ace Pienaar missed two chances in the space of three minutes. Ulster eventually drew level before the lively Fraser powered over for a try that Farrell improved.

The English club were 10 points clear soon after when Farrell fired over another penalty and eight minutes into the second half the lead stretched to 13 points with his fourth success. The two goalkickers exchanged further penalties before Ashton scampered the length of the Ulster 22 after good work on the ground by Rhys Gill to turn over possession.

Ashton’s try, sealed with a trademark swallow dive, made the game safe for Saracens and when Henderson crossed on the stroke of time for a try which Pienaar converted it merely made the scoreboard look a little more respectable for Ulster.

The prize for Saracens is a return to Twickenham Stadium for the semi-finals, when they will play the winners of the game between Toulon and Leicester Tigers.

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