European round-up: George praises Saracens side after brilliant Glasgow win
Results over a brilliant weekend of European rugby have seen three teams from Gallagher Premiership Rugby advance to the semi-finals.
An electrifying Saturday saw Saracens show their offensive prowess as they put Glasgow Warriors to the sword to reach the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals four while Harlequins’ downed Worcester Warriors at the death in an all-Premiership tie in the Challenge Cup.
Friday night, meanwhile, saw a dominant win from Sale Sharks over Irish side Connacht Rugby – also in the Challenge Cup.
With a real possibility of a Gallagher Premiership Rugby side tasting European glory, here’s the best of the reaction to all the games.
Saracens 56-27 Glasgow Warriors
Jamie George urged his Saracens side to keep their performance levels up after they became the sole Gallagher Premiership Rubgy team in the Champions Cup semi-finals following a rampant performance against Glasgow Warriors.
Liam Williams and David Strettle ran in two tries apiece to add to Brad Barritt, George and Nick Tompkins’ scores as Sarries’ attacking verve proved too much for their opponents.
The @Saracens machine looked unstoppable at Allianz Park 🏟
A warning shot fired to the other #ChampionsCup sides 🚨
Favourites after the quarter-finals? pic.twitter.com/ISXE0vXV2L
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) 31 March 2019
Man-of-the-match George said: “It’s a huge win. We’ve had some great memories made in this competition we love playing in Europa and playing on the biggest stage.
“More so than ever, I’m trying to put pressure on myself to back up good performances. The more I can do that, the more I can play at the highest level.”
The win was even sweeter for Alex Goode, who was forced to step in at the last minute after Owen Farrell’s wife went into labour – but the fill-in fly-half performed admirably.
“I’m very lucky. I’ve got a great team around me,” he said.
“The boys didn’t show any nerves around me. They were outstanding on the front foot in attack.
“We’ve played Munster in a semi-final before and we know what a great side they are.
“We’ll prepare for that in a couple of weeks but for now it’s about enjoying what a great victory that was for us.”
On we march ⚫️🔴 pic.twitter.com/w3qOwAy9uF
— Brad Barritt (@bradbarritt) 31 March 2019
Glasgow showed resilience on the offensive end as Ali Price, George Horne and Matt Fagerson scored but left too many gaps in their defence.
Head coach Dave Rennie said: “We started reasonably well, but I thought we kicked poorly and didn’t really got our game going and whenever we did, we looked likely.
“We got dominated field-position wise and we were just too soft defensively. You can’t give a good side like Saracens opportunities and we gave them plenty.
“For us to be successful, we needed everyone on-song and we just made too many kicking errors.
“We put the ball out on the full three times and we missed touch a couple of times from penalties and they were able to put us under a lot of pressure with their kicking game.
“We’re a lot better side than we showed and it’s disappointing. When you get to the big occasions, you need to front and we need to perform better than we did today.”
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-Northampton Saints beaten in 13-try Challenge Cup thriller
Worcester Warriors 16-18 Harlequins
Warriors head coach Rory Duncan rued his side’s missed opportunities after they suffered a narrow 18-16 loss to Harlequins in a thriller at Sixways.
Winger Cadan Murley dotted down superbly for Quins early on before Bryce Heem latched onto a superb kick to give Warriors the lead at the break.
Marcus Smith’s penalty gave Quins the lead before Tom Howe scored and Duncan Weir extended the lead with a penalty for Worcester.
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) 30 March 2019
A try for Ben Tapuai drew the scores level before Demetri Catrakilis showed his composure by kicking the winning penalty late on.
And Duncan clearly felt his side had opportunities to close out the game after going 16-15 up with minutes to go.
“I am obviously disappointed with the result,” he said.
“I don’t think there was any lack of effort from the players. We had opportunities, more than what Quins had, and unfortunately we didn’t round them off.
“That is a valuable lesson that we can take through to the next few Premiership games.
“Quins did extremely well. From a defensive perspective, they did dig in and with the opportunities they did get they capitalised on them.
“There were good moments in the game, so there are positive that the guys will take but obviously they will be disappointed.”
Last night was a tough one to take, but I’m extremely proud to be part of the team that performed in Europe this year. We’ve been to some tough places and won, plus we made the Q/F’s for the first time in a long time. Great platform for us to build on #COYW 🔷🔶 @WorcsWarriors
— Ethan Waller (@beef324) 31 March 2019
Quins’ head coach Paul Gustard, meanwhile, was ecstatic after his side secured their progression to the semi-finals.
He praised his team’s progress since the last fixture at Worcester – a 20-13 loss – and last week’s disappointing loss at Saracens, adding: “As a club, we’re moving forward and I’m happy and proud with the effort from a lot of the guys.
“Chris Robshaw was brilliant and deserves a special mention. His effort, his leadership, his desire, his want to win was huge and he led from the front.”
Sale Sharks 20-10 Connacht Rugby
Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond was delighted with AJ MacGinty’s performance as the fly-half kicked 10 points against former side Connacht to inspire his side to the Challenge Cup semi-finals.
Jack Carty kicked the visitors into the lead early on but converted tries from Byron McGuigan and Denny Solomona gave Sharks the advantage.
Sharks become the first side to secure their spot in the #ChallengeCupRugby semi-final 🏟
Catch all the best bits here 🎞 pic.twitter.com/BYdiC5urIJ
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) 30 March 2019
MacGinty then kicked two penalties to hand his side a 17-point lead, and Connacht could only respond through Kyle Godwin’s score in the second period.
Diamond also lauded his side’s performance all over the pitch as they effectively closed out the game in the first half.
“AJ (MacGinty) played really well for his first game back,” he said.
“I thought we played really well first half and then Connacht came out in the second half with their act together and played the way we know they can play.
“It could have been like that for the whole 80 but we were a step above them in the first half.
“We aren’t too worried and we will analyse it on Monday and Tuesday but it is cup rugby and we are in the semi-final, so I am not going to dwell on it too much.
“We are a good defensive side if I am honest and I think our attack was pretty good but in the second half, more because of them than our own mistakes, we just couldn’t get it going again.
“I thought we held them out really well and they got the one try but I wasn’t really worried about anything in defence, we could probably have played field position a little bit better.”
The fixture date will be confirmed this week and the club are looking into putting on a plane for the #SharksFamily 🦈
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) 31 March 2019