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Unbeaten Leinster Rugby take on defending champions Saracens at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday in what is surely the match of the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals as the two sides do battle for the third time in as many seasons in Europe.
Saracens were victorious in last season’s final, defeating the Irish province 20-10 but when the two sides previously met in the quarter-final stage in 2018, it was Leinster who ran out 30-19 victors in Dublin.
You can watch Saturday’s crunch clash at 15:00 (UK and Irish time), live on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.
Leinster Rugby: 1st, Pool 1, 28 points.
Saracens: 2nd, Pool 4, 18 points.
Leinster wins: 3
Saracens wins: 1
2019/20 point scorers
Leinster: Ross Byrne (40), Garry Ringrose (30), Johnny Sexton (23)
Saracens: Manu Vunipola (26), Owen Farrell (17), Alex Lewington, Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Rotimi Segun (all 10)
Top seeds ☝️
Domestic champions 🏆
Unbeaten this season 🚫
Here are all their tastiest top tries ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/TEgLex9k2k
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) September 15, 2020
- James Ryan (Leinster): “They are the defending champions for a reason, so we know this week we have to bring the best version of ourselves and I don’t think anything less will be enough to get a result. They have had some blows in the past and you have seen it has brought them closer. I think if anything, it could galvanise them as a group. And they have targeted this game, I would imagine, from a long way back and because of the relegation, they have had months to fine-tune and plan for this game.”
- Sean Maitland (Saracens): “In the back of the mind, we’ve always had this Leinster game. It’s the only game that really means anything to us, but in saying that, it’s been so good for our young lads to get experience. For the older boys like me, we’ve been building up to this game as the one with real significance. We’ve got nothing to lose and it’s going to be special. It would be amazing to beat Leinster given how the season has gone and the adversity we’ve had to put up with. That would be pretty special, but we know it’s going to be a big game and it’s going to be tough as well.
- Leinster and Saracens have met on four previous occasions in Europe with the Irish province winning three times. This will be the third knockout stage game between the clubs, Leinster winning the quarter-final clash in 2018 while Saracens claimed victory in last season’s final.
- Leinster have reached the knockout stage of the Heineken Champions Cup for the 16th time, and only Munster and Toulouse have achieved that feat more often (18 each).
- Leinster have won eight of their last nine quarter-final fixtures (L1), including their last four in a row. Five of Leinster’s eight victories in that run were against Gallagher Premiership opposition.
- Saracens have won seven of their nine quarter-final fixtures in the Heineken Champions Cup, and their 78% win rate is the joint best of any club to reach the last eight on at least three occasions (Munster also 78%).
- Leinster have scored eight tries in the opening 20 minutes this season, more than any other side and five more than Saracens (3) who have scored the fewest of any quarter-finalist in that period.
- Leinster have used just 31 players in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, fewer than any other side and nine fewer than Saracens (40) who have used the most of any of the quarter-finalists.
- Saracens allowed their opponents just 28 offloads during the pool stage, the fewest of any club.
- Leinster’s Josh van der Flier has made 98 tackles this season, more than any other player, while he’s one of six to have won a joint-high seven turnovers in the competition.
- Of the hookers to attempt 25+ lineout throws so far this season, Leinster’s James Tracy boasts the best success rate with 28 out of 29 successful throws (97%).
- Jackson Wray, who will make his 250th appearance for the club on Saturday if selected, was the only player to feature in each of Saracens’ six pool matches this season. In contrast, Leinster had 15 players to feature in every game, more than any other club.
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A blistering first half display from Saracens was enough to secure a 25-17 win over Leinster Rugby in a gripping Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final in Dublin.
The defending champions had to hold off a Leinster Rugby onslaught in the second half with tries from Andrew Porter and Jordan Larmour closing the gap but the English side held on for a famous success and a spot in next weekend’s semi-finals.
Stand-in fly-half Alex Goode was the hero for Saracens, scoring 16 points and he opened up a quick lead with a simple penalty kick but Johnny Sexton soon hit back after Porter won a turnover at the breakdown.
The rest of the opening period was dominated by Saracens who were on top at the scrum, allowing Goode to keep the scoreboard ticking over with a pair of three-pointers.
Alex Goode and Duncan Taylor combine for a sensational @Saracens try! 🙌
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 19, 2020
That dominance continued but it would be Elliot Daly this time who slotted over a further brace of penalties from long-range with the wind in his back, putting Saracens 15-3 ahead 27 minutes.
Saracens then went further clear with a stunner from European Player of the Year Alex Goode who found Duncan Taylor and collected the one-two before selling a dummy and diving towards the try line for the opening five-pointer.
He then stepped up and slammed over the conversion to make it 22-3 at the break.
Leinster would not lie down and started to edge possession and territory, piling on the pressure and it would pay off as Andrew Porter went over at the posts, with the try awarded once the TMO had a look at the grounding.
Jordan Larmour for @leinsterrugby! 👊
His first try for almost two years is a beauty!
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 19, 2020
Sexton converted and it would get better for the Irish province on the hour mark.
From a stable driving maul, Leinster worked it round the corner and Sexton was able to find Jordan Larmour who blitzed the Saracens line, sprinting clear of Duncan Taylor before dotting down.
That made it a five-point game with another straight-forward conversion but that was as good as it got for the hosts.
Despite two late misses from the kicking tee from Daly and Goode, the latter would get a second chance and stepped up in nerveless fashion to slam over a penalty with 10 seconds left on the clock to ensure Saracens’ defence of their European crown would go on.
They will face either ASM Clermont Auvergne or Racing 92 in next weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals.