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Two sides returning to the Heineken Champions Cup this season go head-to-head at StoneX Stadium on Sunday as Saracens welcome Edinburgh Rugby in Pool A.
Saracens, who are three-time winners of EPCR’s elite competition, featured in the EPCR Challenge Cup last season, going out in the semi-finals, but are back in the Heineken Champions Cup this campaign after a two-year absence.
Edinburgh also competed in the EPCR Challenge Cup last season, bowing out at the quarter-final stage, with their most recent Heineken Champions Cup campaign coming in 2020/21, when they reached the Round of 16.
Saracens have been in scintillating form domestically this season, winning all nine of their Gallagher Premiership games so far as they sit top, while Edinburgh are sixth in the United Rugby Championship (URC), earning four wins from nine.
The match gets underway at 15:15 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on RTE, BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, France TV, SuperSport and FloRugby.
One of the best skills in the @ChallengeCup_ last season 😍
But how much was @NickIsiekwe paying attention?
We grilled him at the #HeinekenChampionsCup Season Launch, and all he could do was applaud @owen_faz 👏 pic.twitter.com/cUuCxD0JTc
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 6, 2022
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens forward): “There was obviously disappointment [last season]. It wasn’t the situation that we wanted to have. From that you get a rejuvenated hunger to want to do better and to improve, and you want to make sure that you don’t have those feelings again, because they’re not very pleasant feelings to have. It is definitely a motivating factor.”
Sam Skinner (Edinburgh Rugby lock): “I hope I can add [to the squad], but equally everybody understands what it takes to win games. There’s no magic dust that I can bring at all, but there’s a bit of experience, particularly when it gets to away games and the latter games.”
- Saracens’ Billy Vunipola made more carries than any other player in the 2021/22 EPCR Challenge Cup (59). He also made a competition-high 16 dominant contacts in the carry.
- Maro Itoje was the most regular target in the lineout in the EPCR Challenge Cup last season, successfully winning 33 on Saracens’ throw.
- Elliot Daly kicked two 50/22s last season, as many as any player managed in both of EPCR’s tournaments. Set featured image
- Saracens duo Alex Goode and Owen Farrell produced the most break assist passes in the EPCR Challenge Cup last season (eight and five). Farrell also threw the most miss passes in the competition (30).
- Grant Gilchrist was the leading tackler in last season’s EPCR Challenge Cup, making a total of 57. He only missed one, making his rate of tackle success 98%.
- Ben Vellacott made eight kicks which were retained last season – the highest individual total in the 2021/22 EPCR Challenge Cup.
- Edinburgh scored the most tries in the 2021/22 EPCR Challenge Cup, crossing the whitewash for 25 in total.
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Saracens marked their return to the Heineken Champions Cup with a bonus-point win as they defeated Edinburgh Rugby 30-26 in a thrilling encounter at StoneX Stadium on Sunday.
First-half tries from Elliot Daly and Ben Earl along with second-half crosses from Alex Lewington and Tom Woolstencroft were enough to give Saracens a winning start, although they also needed the boot of Owen Farrell who recovered from some early misses to score two crucial penalties.
Edinburgh fought well and were more than equal to Saracens for most of the match, but crucial mistakes ultimately saw try-scorers Luan de Bruin and Wes Goosen end up on the losing side.
It was Edinburgh who drew first blood in the sixth minute when prop De Bruin forced his way over the Saracens line after a quick break from a lineout, Emiliano Boffelli kicking the extras in what would be the first of several impressive kicks from the Argentinian full-back.
But five minutes later, Saracens were back level. Edinburgh had been on the front foot when Boffelli brilliantly took a long cross-field kick, but Saracens managed to turn the ball over and kick for touch after a penalty from a collapsed scrum, something that became a feature of the game for Edinburgh.
A cross field-kick of Saracens’ own, courtesy of Farrell, was collected by full-back Daly to dive over.
💫 @owen_faz 🎯 @elliotdaly
It's almost like they've been doing this for years 😅
All square at the StoneX#HeinekenChampionsCup | @Saracens pic.twitter.com/eJQzTerhoI
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 11, 2022
Saracens were on top, but they demonstrated a lack of discipline and when a high tackle from lock Maro Itoje was punished, Boffelli stepped up with a long-range penalty to put his side ahead. Another Saracens mistake then allowed him to put six points between the teams.
Yet seconds later, Saracens were back in the game, kicking dangerously from a penalty to put pressure on the Edinburgh defence. The resulting lineout was simple and clinical, the ball eventually planted down in the hands of flanker Earl.
But Farrell missed the chance to put Saracens in the lead with the extras, and there was time left for another Boffelli penalty to ensure Edinburgh led 16-12 at the break.
After the break, however, Saracens turned up the notches. Wing Lewington crossed in the 45th minute when Daly cleverly kicked through to the on-running wing, and Farrell found his kicking boots to score two quick-fire penalties to give the hosts a 23-19 lead with an hour played, despite another Boffelli penalty.
A poorly executed Edinburgh lineout metres from their own line then allowed prop Mawi to dot down for Saracens, with replacement hooker Woolstencroft going over for the home side’s bonus-point try shortly after.
In the same phase, Edinburgh hooker McInally received a yellow card, but despite being a man down, the visitors managed to get over again, wing Goosen to set up a thrilling finale.
But after Edinburgh prop WP Nel was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Saracens lock Callum Hunter-Hill, Saracens closed out the game against 13 men to secure their win.
Next up for Saracens is a trip to Lyon on December 17, with Edinburgh hosting Castres Olympique on the same day.
Live Match Summary
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