Saracens thumped record four-time champions Toulouse 32-7 in the European Rugby Champions Cup on Saturday, a day when four games in France were postponed following Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Last year’s runners-up ran in three tries as they put the French Top 14 giants to the sword in a stunning first-half performance in London.
A day after the attacks in the French capital, the Pool 1 match begun with a rendition of the French national anthem, but there was precious little goodwill offered by the English Premiership leaders thereafter.
Saracens dominated from the off and strangled the life out of their overawed opponents, negating Toulouse’s power at the scrum and overwhelming them with swift attacking through the three-quarter line.
Two early penalties from England flyhalf Owen Farrell set the stage for the opening try of the game as Sarries made their superiority pay off when Mako Vunipola was shoved over by his fellow forwards, including brother Billy Vunipola, on 14 minutes.
Farrell, who had made the initial break for that score thanks to Mako Vunipola’s delightful inside pass, added the conversion and a penalty before Sarries blew a clear scoring opportunity when they failed to make a three-on-two situation count.
However, another penalty came their way and Farrell kicked them 19-0 ahead.
Worse was to follow for the visitors as Samoa prop Census Johnston, who left Sarries for France in 2009, was sent to the sinbin after cynically coming in from the side of a maul.
The hosts turned the screw as Farrell landed his fifth penalty before they stretched the Toulouse backline and sent US winger Chris Wyles over in the left corner.
The half finished with Toulouse battering the home line, but Saracens resisted and forced a turnover to make it to half-time leading 27-0.
They also struck first after the break, with Wyles getting his second try after crucial support play from Farrell, who missed his second successive conversion, pushed his teammate over the line, despite the close attentions of Sebastien Bezy.
Toulouse finally showed the pride their heavyweight status demanded and their forwards succeeded where they had failed at the end of the first period, forcing over France prop Christopher Tolofua — Bezy converted.
Former England international Toby Flood was forced off early for Toulouse with an injury, but sitting on the bench he told BT Sport that winning the second half was all that counted now for the French side.
They managed that, albeit only by 7-5, as their massive pack started to overpower that of Saracens, without threatening the scoreboard further.
“We have got to be delighted with how we played in that first half. I thought it was outstanding,” Saracens coach Mark McCall said. “Sometimes, the frustration of the last 25 or 30 minutes can make you disregard some of the really good things you did.”
Two matches scheduled to take place in France on Saturday were postponed — Oyonnax’s game with Ulster and Glasgow’s match at Racing 92 — as were yesterday’s clash between defending champions Toulon and Bath, and Bordeaux’s game with fellow French club Clermont.
Simon Zebo’s try five minutes from time ensured Munster earned the bonus point in their 32-7 Pool 4 victory over Treviso.
South Africa’s B.J. Botha and C.J. Stander crossed the whitewash as well as hooker Duncan Casey, as the Munster pack dominated the Italian minnows after the break, having led only 10-7 at half-time.
Treviso scored a try through another South Africa forward in Braam Steyn.
Flyhalf Ian Keatley kicked 12 points for the hosts, with fullback Jayden Hayward’s conversion rounding off Treviso’s points.
In Saturday’s late Pool 3 game, 2000 champions Northampton edged Scarlets 15-11, with tries from George Pisi and Alex Waller trumping a score from Wales srumhalf Gareth Davies.
Scarlets were left to rue four missed kicks at goal.
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