Leinster Rugby Fixtures On Tv

Sunday, September 15, 2019 3:40:12 AM

Saracens Mako Vunipola is fit to start. He injured his ankle in the Six Nations win over Ireland at the start of February, before lasting 62 minutes of the semi-final win over Munster. Mark Rhodes isn't fit, meaning Will Skelton comes into the secondrow and Maro Itoje moves into the backrow. It was admirable. You can see why he is such a good player.

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The win makes them the most successful English side ever in Europe, busting open the door to that pantheon with a display of zeal and power, unbeaten across the tournament and unbowed at the final whistle. Saracens had the muscle, pounding Leinster until they cracked, a hit-job of clinical proportions.

This was a performance of rich character, of a club that has deep foundations and proper on-field values.

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Saracens had to overcome a ten-point Leinster lead and survived losing two props to injury in the first half at the same time as Maro Itoje was sent to the sin-bin.

In the fitting theme of the week, it was a comeback of epic proportions with Billy Vunipola scoring the decisive try from a scrum in the 67th minute.

It was a show of defiance from Saracens, a sign that they would never throw in the towel, that Leinster would have to deliver a knockout blow or they would keep rising from the canvas, keep punching, keep staying in the fight.

Capitulation does not feature in their lexicon. Billy Vunipola's mammoth second-half score was crucial in Saracens' victory Credit: getty images europe At its heart was yet another towering performance from Vunipola, all legitimate rage and fury, refusing to yield and carrying his teammates towards victory — the only blot being a late shoulder stinger that he will hope is not too serious.

Centre Alex Lozowski was also to the fore, making all the right moves in front of the watching Eddie Jones as he sifts through his World Cup candidates.

Saracens pride themselves on being made of the right stuff, of believing that heart and soul count for as much as muscle and bone. So it proved. They ought to have been down and out just before the interval as Leinster flexed and probed and gained due return on the scoreboard through a Tadhg Furlong converted try.

Saracens were winded, blowing hard, a man down, and that is when they showed their mettle.

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Owen Farrell knocked over a penalty goal for not releasing, Itoje skipped back from the sin-bin doghouse, Farrell kicked long for touch from a penalty, Jackson Wray rose to take the ball, Barritt led the charge, Jamie George was only just stopped but the force was with the men in red, Farrell flicking the ball on to Sean Maitland to touch down in first-half added time, Farrell converting from the touchline to send the teams down the tunnel, level at It was a telling narrative, a storyline that spoke of grace under pressure, of an ability to think clearly when mayhem is all around, encapsulating all that Saracens are about.

In essence, they are about each other. As their spirits rose, trotting down the tunnel with a skip, so Leinster looked deflated. They ought to have been clear, but they were not. They ought to have had the upper hand, but Saracens had bent proceedings back their way.

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It was a time for the leaders to come to the fore, for those who relished the fierceness of the battle and would not wilt. Liam Williams showed his fortitude when somehow stemming and turning over a Leinster attack.

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It was his take of a high ball ahead of Rob Kearney that launched Saracens again in the 55th minute, Wray busting upfield, forcing Leinster to sound the alarm bells with flanker, Scott Fardy yellow carded for interference. Farrell kicked the goal to put his team ahead for the first time.

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Saracens grew in stature, Leinster were under the cosh, unable to cope with the heft as well as the ramped-up desire of their opponents. The backs joined in and wrapped around a lineout and drove deep into Leinster territory, a red-shorted wedge of intent. The mood had shifted.

And the inevitable score came. Leinster were fortunate not to concede a penalty try from a dominant Sarries scrum but no matter, from the re-rest Billy Vunipola, powered forward through four Leinster would-be tackles and stretched his giant right mitt over the line.

Farrell converted and Saracens had a point cushion with 13 minutes remaining.

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In a contest of sparse openings, every advantage needed to be taken. Saracens had botched some moments of early opportunity, Leinster maximised theirs in the 32nd minute. Full-back Rob Kearney did the initial damage with a slicing, stepping run.

Saracens scrambled and, in their panic, infringed. Itoje was the culprit on both occasions and was sent to the sin-bin.

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At the same time as Itoje trudged to the sideline so too did both props, Mako Vunipola hamstring and Titi Lamositele ankle. Leinster took full advantage, scrumming hard against seven for Tadhg Furlong to burrow through for the try, Sexton converting.

Things looked grim from the sidelines, but Saracens had other ideas, a gathering presence as the game wore on.

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