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Luxembourg 1 Scotland 2: Red hot Jordan Rhodes

Luxembourg 1 Scotland 2: Red-hot Rhodes at the double as minnows nearly upset Tartan Army

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UPDATED:

21:49 GMT, 14 November 2012

Jordan Rhodes hit a first-half double as an attack-minded Scotland side began life after Craig Levein with a narrow friendly victory in Luxembourg.

Rhodes, who scored a hat-trick for Scotland Under-21s on his previous trip to the Stade Josy Barthel, headed home from close range on 10 minutes and then slotted a simple second.

However, Scotland failed to build on their lead and survived some nervous moments after Lars Gerson's well-placed free-kick brought Luxembourg back into the game 90 seconds after the break.

Doubling up: Jordan Rhodes struck twice to earn Scotland a narrow win

Doubling up: Jordan Rhodes struck twice to earn Scotland a narrow win

Both Scotland goals were followed by
cries of 'Are you watching Craig Levein' from the visiting support, who
vastly outnumbered the home fans in the attendance of 2,521.

Their mood was no doubt lifted by
caretaker manager Billy Stark's 4-4-2 formation with Kenny Miller
partnering Rhodes up front and Steven Naismith and debutant Andrew
Shinnie playing in advanced wide positions.

Levein, who paid the price for taking
two points from Scotland's first four World Cup qualifiers, had last
played two strikers from the start in a 2-1 win against Liechtenstein at
Hampden in September 2010.

Inverness midfielder Shinnie was the
only debutant in the starting line-up but there were rare starts for
Matt Gilks and Grant Hanley, while Charlie Mulgrew lined up in central
midfield.

Tucked home: Rhodes knocks in the second goal

Tucked home: Rhodes knocks in the second goal

Match Facts

Luxembourg: Joubert, Mutsch, Bukvic, Deville, Schnell, Janisch, Blaise, Gerson, Payal, Bettmer, Leweck.

Subs: Oberweis, Malget, Hoffmann, Peters, Da Mota Alves, Bensi, Laterza, Philipps, Jans, Turpel.

Goal: Gerson 47

Scotland: Gilks, Whittaker, Dixon, Berra, Hanley, Mulgrew, Fletcher, Shinnie, Naismith, Rhodes, Miller.

Subs: Samson, Webster, Barr, Davidson, Kelly, Griffiths, Bell.

Goals: Rhodes 11, 23

Referee: Cyrill Zimmermann (Switzerland)

The Celtic player saw a lot of the
ball in the opening stages as Scotland dominated possession on a pitch
that was already cutting up.

Rhodes had his first chance when
Luxembourg defender Guy Blaise missed his kick after Naismith had helped
the ball up the left, but the Blackburn striker was well wide as he
steered the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper.

However, Rhodes only had two minutes to wait for the opener after more poor defending.

Scotland worked the ball to Paul Dixon
on the left wing and he sent over an inviting cross which Ante Bukvic
turned against his own post. Rhodes was on hand to head the ball over
the line from close range.

Gilks made his first save in the 16th
minute after Naismith had lost right-back Tom Schnell at a short
free-kick. The defender sent over a deep cross that was met by Mario
Mutsch but the Blackpool goalkeeper got down to hold the header.

Mutsch soon fired wide from 22 yards after Scotland again found themselves a man short down their left.

Miller curled over after a Rhodes
lay-off before the Blackburn forward hit his second in the 23rd minute.
Shinnie collected Whittaker's cross from the right and hit the byline
before driving the ball towards goal.

His effort was blocked but fell for kindly for Rhodes who slipped the ball home with his left foot from six yards.

Rhodes to glory: The youngster is congratulated by his compatriots

Rhodes to glory: The youngster is congratulated by his compatriots

Miller was soon through on goal after a
series of short, sharp passes with Naismith but the flag was raised as
the striker shot straight at Jonathan Joubert.

Scotland continued to control
possession but they were almost caught out before the break when Mutsch
broke down the left and sent over a low cross to right-winger Charles
Leweck, whose drive was held by Gilks.

Kilmarnock midfielder Liam Kelly
replaced Mulgrew at half-time to make his debut but he soon gave away a
foul that allowed the hosts back into the game. The execution was superb
as Gerson curled his 25-yard free-kick into the top corner to leave
Gilks with no chance.

Scotland continued to dominate
possession but were making little headway with Naismith growing
frustrated at the number of fouls committed by the home defenders.

Scraped: Scotland only won by one goal against the minnow opposition

Scraped: Scotland only won by one goal against the minnow opposition

Leigh Griffiths became the third new cap in the 70th minute when he replaced Shinnie with Miller moving wide right.

Scotland soon had a let-off after a move broke down on the right with Whittaker out of position.

Hanley backed off after David Turpel
collected the ball and the Luxembourg forward turned and sent the ball
inside him and out to Mutsch.

The home captain's cross found Stefano
Bensi in a great position but Gilks did enough to unconvincingly palm
the header wide for a corner.

Battle: Charles Leweck (left) tries to keep up with Scotland's Paul Dixon.

Battle: Charles Leweck (left) tries to keep up with Scotland's Paul Dixon.

Before the match, Stark had signalled
his intention of making six substitutions but the game was in the
balance and Scotland's formation, now looking more like a 4-2-4, was
giving the hosts space to attack.

Rhodes thought he had his hat-trick as
he headed home Kelly's cross but the flag was immediately raised and
Bensi tested Gilks again with a 20-yard drive that the goalkeeper got
down well to hold.

Gilks then saved Turpel's header
before Murray Davidson won his first cap as the midfielder came on for
Rhodes to see help see out the match in injury-time.

Harlequins 16 Saracens 18: Owen Farrell on fire

Harlequins 16 Saracens 18: Farrell on fire for Sarries to break unbeaten Quins run

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UPDATED:

16:54 GMT, 30 September 2012

England fly-half Owen Farrell kicked the winning penalty six minutes from time as Saracens consigned Harlequins to their first defeat in five Aviva Premiership matches this season.

Farrell scored all 18 points for the visitors, with six penalties, in a hard-fought encounter at the Twickenham Stoop.

Harlequins, knocked off the top of the table when Northampton beat Wasps on Friday night, replied with an opportunist try from scrum-half Danny Care and 11 points from the boot of fly-half Nick Evans.

On form: Owen Farrell scored all of Sarries points

On form: Owen Farrell scored all of Sarries points

Breakout: Brad Barritt is tackled by Harlequins' Nick Easter

Breakout: Brad Barritt is tackled by Harlequins' Nick Easter

Match facts

Harlequins: Brown, Stegman, Hopper, Turner-Hall, Monye, Evans, Care, Marler, Gray, Johnston, Kohn, Robson, Guest, Robshaw, Easter.

Replacements: Buchanan for Gray (28), Matthews for Kohn (54), Fa'asavalu for Guest (54).

Not Used: Lambert, Collier, Dickson, Clegg, Lindsay-Hague.

Sin Bin: Kohn (33).

Tries: Care. Cons: Evans. Pens: Evans 3.

Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Tomkins, Barritt, Wyles, Farrell, Wigglesworth, Gill, Brits, Du Plessis, Borthwick, Hargreaves, Brown, Fraser, Joubert.

Replacements: Strettle for Tomkins (53), Hodgson for Wyles (69), Spencer for Wigglesworth (74), Vunipola for Gill (49), Smit for Brits (63), Stevens for Du Plessis (45), Kruis for Hargreaves (54), Saull for Fraser (72).

Sin Bin: Kruis (66).

Pens: Farrell 6.

Att: 14,224

Ref: Andrew Small (RFU).

But the usually dependable former All
Black missed three kickable second-half penalties, any one of which
would have been enough to preserve Quins' 100 per cent record this
season.

Evans kicked Harlequins into a
second-minute lead but six minutes later he saw a second attempt rebound
off the post after Sarries flanker Will Fraser pulled down a rolling
maul.

Saracens drew level in the 12th minute with Farrell's simple opening penalty after Harlequins strayed offside.

Two minutes later Evans restored his side's lead with his second successful kick.

Farrell equalised again in the 21st
minute after former England number eight Nick Easter was penalised for
not rolling away from a ruck.

The first try-scoring opportunity was
wasted by Quins. Evans found Easter but, with full-back Mike Brown
outside him, the back-row man's final pass went straight into the arms
of Saracens' England wing Chris Ashton.

A quick break out of defence put
Sarries on the front foot when Farrell and hooker Schalk Brits combined
to release Ashton down the right touchline but he was superbly tackled
into touch by Brown.

Harlequins hit trouble when they lost
hooker Joe Gray to injury, had lock Ollie Kohn sin-binned and fell
behind to Farrell's third penalty.

Over the line: Danny Care dives over to score a try

Over the line: Danny Care dives over to score a try

Gray's game ended in the 28th minute
when he was replaced for the second time by Rob Buchanan, only four
minutes after returning to the pitch following a 14-minute blood-injury
absence.

Five minutes later referee Andrew
Small showed Kohn the yellow card for killing the ball near his own line
and Farrell landed the resulting penalty.

On the move: Care breaks through

On the move: Care breaks through

But 14-man Quins put the misfortunes
behind them when Care, looking far more lively than England scrum-half
rival and opposite number Richard Wigglesworth, scored a real sniper's
try.

Exploiting a rare gap in the
Premiership's meanest defence, he dashed clear to touch down near the
posts, leaving Evans a simple conversion.

Charge: Harlequins' Mike Brown breaks through a tackle from Saracens' Will Fraser (left) and Steve Borthwick

Charge: Harlequins' Mike Brown breaks through a tackle from Saracens' Will Fraser (left) and Steve Borthwick

Farrell reduced Quins' lead to a single point with a 45-metre penalty four minutes into the second half.

Then hooker Brits produced a touch of
magic worthy of a half-back when he found space and directed an
inch-perfect kick into the corner for the chasing Ashton but he was once
again thwarted by Brown's first-class covering.

Evans missed a 52nd-minute penalty
kick for Harlequins and, three minutes later, Farrell kicked the
visitors ahead after Quins were penalised at the breakdown.

Pure gold: Mo Farah does the Mobot with the Harlequins mascots and daughter Rihanna

Pure gold: Mo Farah does the Mobot with the Harlequins mascots and daughter Rihanna

Evans was off-target again in the 62nd
minute after Sarries' replacement prop Mako Vunipola was penalised for
entering a ruck from the side.

But Evans made no mistake from in
front of the posts in the 66th minute after Saracens' replacement lock
George Kruis, who had only been on the pitch for 12 minutes, was
yellow-carded for hands in the ruck.

Evans then missed another penalty shot before Farrell kicked the winner in the 74th minute.

Saracens 9 Leicester 9: Toby Flood outshines Owen Farrell

Saracens 9 Leicester 9: Flood outshines Farrell as title contenders share spoils at Wembley

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UPDATED:

17:09 GMT, 15 September 2012

Former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson went from hero to villain as the battle of the Red Rose No 10s past and present ended in stalemate at Wembley.

After replacing the woefully off-colour Owen Farrell early in the second half Hodgson's kicking – both from the tee and in open play – dragged Saracens back into the game.

However, after kicking two penalties in quick succession to level proceedings, the 31-year-old was off target with a last-gasp drop goal in front of the posts.

Close call: Flood (above) and Hodgson (below) both missed late drop goal attempts

Close call: Flood (above) and Hodgson (below) both missed late drop goal attempts

Close call: Flood (above) and Hodgson (below) both missed late drop goal attempts
MATCH FACTS

Saracens: Pens: Farrell, Hodgson 2.

Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Tomkins, Barritt, Short, Farrell, de Kock, Vunipola, Brits, Nieto, Borthwick, Botha, Brown, Wray, Joubert.

Replacements: Wyles for Short (60), Hodgson for Farrell (52), Wigglesworth for de Kock (52), Gill for Vunipola (66), Smit for Brits (66), Du Plessis for Nieto (48), Hargreaves for Botha (65), Fraser for Wray (71).

Leicester: Pens: Flood 3.

Leicester: Murphy, Hamilton, Tuilagi, Allen, Goneva, Flood, Harrison, Mulipola, T Youngs, Cole, Kitchener, Parling, Mafi, Salvi, Waldrom.

Replacements: Smith for Murphy (15), Stankovich for Mulipola (64), Chuter for T. Youngs (71), Castrogiovanni for Cole (50), Crane for Waldrom (62).

Not Used: Andrew, Phibbs, Ford.

Another England fly-half, Toby Flood,
kicked the three penalties that had seemingly put Leicester on course
for victory but the Tigers pivot was also off-target with a drop-goal
attempt with the last kick of the game as the points were shared.

The place-kicking battle started early, with Flood successful with two penalties inside the first six minutes.

Sarries barely got out of their own half early on but slowly came into
the match and could have reduced the deficit on 10 minutes.

But in a sign of what was to follow in a dismal first half for Farrell,
making his first start of the season, the 20-year-old dragged his effort
wide – the first of four misses from five attempts.

Leicester skipper Geordan Murphy was forced off through injury after 14
minutes, replaced by Matt Smith, before Farrell failed to take advantage
with his next penalty attempt – dragging his effort off target from 40
metres.

The Tigers slowly took a grip on the game and enjoyed an impressive
spell of possession, Vereniki Goneva and Scott Hamilton nearly linking
up to produce the first try but for the timely intervention of Alex
Goode on the left wing.

Bad day at the office: Farrell (right) is consoled by captain Steve Bortwick after missing another penalty

Bad day at the office: Farrell (right) is consoled by captain Steve Bortwick after missing another penalty

Despite sustained pressure they had to settle for a penalty, Flood
extending the lead to nine with his third success on the half-hour mark.

Farrell finally got himself off the mark with his fourth penalty attempt
on 34 minutes but he was wayward again with the last kick of the first
half to leave the margin at 9-3.

Sarries kept the faith with their misfiring fly-half in the early stages
of the second half but Hodgson joined the fray in the 51st minute and
seconds later succeeded where Farrell had failed.

Powerhouse: Manu Tuilagi bursts through for Leicester

Powerhouse: Manu Tuilagi bursts through for Leicester

The former Sale No 10 – who retired from international duty in the
summer – kicked Sarries to victory against his old club last week and he
found his range immediately after Tigers were penalised for coming in
at the side.

The scores were level before the hour mark when Hodgson made it two from
two. Julian Salvi did not roll away quickly enough and the 31-year-old
duly slotted the penalty to set up a grandstand finish.

Leicester had the next chance to restore their lead on 68 minutes but
Flood pulled his kickable penalty attempt wide for his first miss of the
day at a most inopportune moment.

Title contenders: The two sides met in last season's play-off semi-final

Title contenders: The two sides met in last season's play-off semi-final

Title contenders: The two sides met in last season's play-off semi-final

Sarries wasted a chance on the counter-attack after some quick thinking
by Goode, Richard Wigglesworth knocking on with a gap looking to have
opened up.

A Saracens turnover and a kick ahead from Hodgson forced Leicester to
concede a line-out within metres of their line heading into the last
five minutes.

Safe line-out ball allowed Sarries to set-up the replacement fly-half
with a drop-goal attempt in front of the posts but Hodgson sliced it
wide.

Leicester got themselves down the other end of the field to give Flood
his chance to be the hero but his effort was just wide as the points
were shared.

Centre of attention: Brad Barritt takes on Scott Hamilton

Centre of attention: Brad Barritt takes on Scott Hamilton

England 57 Barbarians 26: Ashton returns to form with Twickenham treble

England 57 Barbarians 26: Ashton returns to form with Twickenham treble

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UPDATED:

15:51 GMT, 27 May 2012

Chris Ashton rediscovered his scoring touch with a Twickenham hat-trick as England warmed up for their tour of South Africa with a comfortable victory over the Barbarians.

Ashton, the joint-leading try-scorer at the World Cup, had drawn a blank in each of his last six Test matches but he roamed menacingly and touched down twice before the interval and once after.

Although this was not a capped international, a third hat-trick in England colours was a timely confidence boost for Ashton before next month's three-Test series against the Springboks.

Hat-trick hero: Chris Ashton of England evades Paul Sackey to score a try

Hat-trick hero: Chris Ashton of England evades Paul Sackey to score a try

MATCH FACTS

England: Tries: Ashton 3, Hartley, Wade, Wigglesworth,
Joseph 2. Cons: Farrell 7. Pens: Farrell.

England: Foden, Ashton, Barritt, Farrell, Wade, Hodgson,
Dickson, Stevens, Hartley, Doran-Jones, Botha, Palmer, Johnson,
Fearns, Dowson.

Replacements: Goode for Foden (50), Joseph for Hodgson (50),
Wigglesworth for Dickson (61), Mullan for Stevens (41),
Launchbury for Botha (56), Gibson for Fearns (56),
Mears for Dowson (60).

Barbarians: Tries: Muliaina 2, Tindall, Taele.

Cons: Donald 2, Contepomi.

Barbarians: Muliaina, Sackey, Laulala, Tindall, Balshaw,
Donald, Lawson, Tialata, Smit, Afoa, Chisholm, A. van Zyl,
Joubert, Qera, Beattie.

Replacements: Tagicakibau for Sackey (44), Contepomi for Tindall (68), Fillol for Lawson (57), Jones for Tialata (60), August for Smit (60), Lakafia for Qera (60), Taele for Beattie (68).

Att: 42,269

Ref: John Lacey (Ireland).

The tries were taken soberly too. There was no sign of the elaborate and controversial 'Ash Splash' dive he pledged to shelve as 'the end of an era'.

England hooker Dylan Hartley accepted his own opportunity to make a fresh start with both hands, scoring a try and organising England's forward effort effectively on his return from an eight-week biting ban.

Christian Wade capped a busy afternoon on his senior debut with a try just before the hour and England's win was rounded off by a try from Richard Wigglesworth and two from Jonathan Joseph.

Of those who caught the eye without making the scoresheet, Mouritz Botha produced a barnstorming second row performance and Tom Johnson delivered a strong display on the blindside flank.

England coach Stuart Lancaster still has issues to resolve before the Test series, not least over who should start at fly-half after a rusty performance from Owen Farrell.

England will also be disappointed to have conceded four tries to the Barbarians, one of which was scored by former red rose centre Mike Tindall.

Mils Muliaina scored the Barbarians' first two tries and Biarritz's Pelu Taele added the other late on.

The England touring squad will be boosted by the 18-strong Harlequins and Leicester contingent, who were unavailable after Saturday's sensational Aviva Premiership final.

Phil Dowson captained England in the absence of Chris Robshaw but there will be question marks over his fitness after he left the game on a stretcher.

Farrell, who started at inside centre before switching to fly-half, kicked England into an early lead before scuffing his next penalty shot.

Muted: Ashton is congratulated by Owen Farrell (left) and Charlie Hodgson

Muted: Ashton is congratulated by Owen Farrell (left) and Charlie Hodgson

England made a pragmatic start but soon came close to engineering the opening try when Farrell's grubber kick skipped into touch just ahead of Wade.

Lee Dickson then made two sniping runs, perhaps a response to Danny Care's performance on Saturday, before creating the opening try with an inside ball for Ashton to score.

England missed an opportunity when Farrell passed too early to Botha and Brad Barritt then knocked on the offload.

It was a frustrating inaccuracy from England and it cost them as the Barbarians moved up-field and Iain Balshaw's kick fell for Muliaina to touch down.

England responded immediately. Dowson instructed Farrell to kick a penalty for touch so England could exploit their dominant lineout drive, and they executed it to perfection with Hartley touching down.

Familiar face: Mike Tindall (centre) scored a try for the Barbarians

Familiar face: Mike Tindall (centre) scored a try for the Barbarians

Farrell scuffed another kick but then supplied the pass for Ashton to score a second try, after a break from Hartley, as England took control.

The complexion of the game changed in the six minutes before half-time and England were back in the try-scoring routine after the interval.
Ashton had already made one break, which was halted expertly by Muliaini, when he hacked on a loose ball to complete his hat-trick.

The Barbarians responded with Muliaina's second try after a moment of attacking quality from Casey Laulala, who drew two defenders and supplied the one-handed scoring pass.

Tom Palmer knocked on with a try at his mercy after good approach play from Botha but England kept the pressure on and worked an overlap for Wade to score.

Plucked: Barbarians' full back MilsMuliaina jumps for the ball at Twickenham

Plucked: Barbarians' full back Mils Muliaina jumps for the ball at Twickenham

England began to ring the changes and worked a delightful try for new scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, who finished off an Ashton break after a delightful pass from Tom Johnston.

Tindall marked his Twickenham return with a try for the Barbarians after taking a quick tap penalty and England will have been disappointed to concede again, to Pelu Taele.

But Jonathan Joseph came off the bench to wrap up the victory with two tries of his own.

Ben Foden calls for focus from England

Foden calls for focus as England prepare for first tour since World Cup farce

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 23 May 2012

Rallying call: Foden is set to feature against the Barbarians on Sunday

Rallying call: Foden is set to feature against the Barbarians on Sunday

England full back Ben Foden has urged team-mates to behave themselves on the forthcoming tour of South Africa.

Foden, who is set to play in the non-cap game against the Barbarians on Sunday at Twickenham, issued his warning after photographs of his own stag party emerged on social media.

He said: ‘You have to be very careful, especially now with the internet and the new mobile phones which can take photos and videos without you even noticing.

‘A picture speaks a thousand words and some things can be taken massively out of context.

‘You have to be careful in what you are doing, especially on tour. As we saw in New Zealand, things can get out of control very quickly.’

England will face a Barbarians team including Mike Tindall, the Gloucester centre in the middle of the controversy at the World Cup last year. Tindall’s contract has finished at Gloucester and he has yet to decide if he will play elsewhere next season.

‘It will be a good way to say goodbye to Tinds and, hopefully, we will stuff them,’ Foden added.

BARBARIANS (v England, Sunday, 2.30pm):

Muliaina (NZ); Sackey (England), Laulala (NZ), Tindall (England), Balshaw (England); Donald (NZ), R Lawson (Scotland); Tialata (NZ), Smit (SA, capt), Afoa (NZ); Chisholm (Australia), Van Zyl (SA); Joubert (SA), Beattie (Scotland), Qera (Fiji).

Leicester take Toby Flood risk

Leicester take Flood risk for semi-final against Saracens

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UPDATED:

21:19 GMT, 11 May 2012

Leicester have included England fly-half Toby Flood in the squad to face Saracens in Saturday’s Aviva Premiership semi-final — despite concerns over an ankle injury he picked up last week against Bath.

Flood has not trained fully this week, prompting talk about the possibility of a call-up for teenager George Ford — one of England’s most promising players.

But Leicester have decided to name Flood for the game at Welford Road. They have also named versatile back Billy Twelvetrees on the bench.

Risk: Leicester's Toby Flood was injured against Bath

Risk: Leicester's Toby Flood was injured against Bath

LEICESTER: Murphy (capt); Agulla, M Tuilagi, Allen, A Tuilagi; Flood, B Youngs; Ayerza, Chuter, Cole; Skivington, Parling; Mafi, Salvi, Waldrom. Substitutes: T Youngs, Mulipola, Castrogiovanni, Kitchener, Newby, Harrison, Twelvetrees, Hamilton.

SARACENS: Goode; Strettle, Farrell, Barritt, Wyles; Hodgson, l de Kock; Gill, Brits, Stevens; Borthwick (capt), Botha; Wray, Fraser, Joubert. Substitutes: George, Smit, Nieto, Vyvyan, Kruis, Wigglesworth, Powell, Short.

TV: LIVE on ESPN from 4.45pm (Kick-off 5.30pm).

Saracens 20 Biarritz 16: Farrell fires Sarries to brink of Heineken Cup quarter-finals

Saracens 20 Biarritz 16: Farrell fires Sarries to brink of Heineken Cup quarter-finals

England's new-boy Owen Farrell kept his nerve to kick Saracens to victory over Biarritz and to the brink of a place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Farrell showed just the kind of composure that has seen him earmarked for Test honours since the age of 14 to land his fifth penalty three minutes from time to seal the win.

Saracens had led 14-6 at the interval courtesy of a try from scrum-half Ben Spencer and Farrell's first three penalties before Biarritz came back at them in the second half.

Kicker: Owen Farrell was successful with five penalties

Kicker: Owen Farrell was successful with five penalties

Dimitri Yachvili scored all of the points for Biarritz, including a charge-down try, as the French visitors pushed Saracens to the wire and earn a losing bonus point.

But Saracens now need only gain a single point against Treviso next weekend to confirm their place in the last eight.

Saracens had wanted to break new ground by taking this fixture to South Africa but a local row over which Cape Town stadium was to be used eventually scuppered the idea.

Vicarage Road is certainly no Newlands. The three-sided stadium is in the shadow not of Table Mountain but of Watford General Hospital.

But Saracens certainly looked as if they had benefited from their week's warm-weather training in Cape Town as they hit Biarritz with a ferocious forwards performance and some dazzling back play.

Close: Mouritz Botha makes a tackle as his side moved close to the next round

Close: Mouritz Botha makes a tackle as his side moved close to the next round

Crunch: Farrell and Andy Saull tackle Iain Balshaw of Biarritz

Crunch: Farrell and Andy Saull tackle Iain Balshaw of Biarritz

The French visitors twice took the lead with penalties from Yachvili, either side of a strike from Farrell, before Saracens capitalised on a mistake to score the opening try.

Yachvili tried to force a pass in midfield but the ball went to ground and Saracens counter-attacked through David Strettle, Ernst Joubert and Chris Wyles.

The American wing was halted but Spencer darted from the base of the ruck, deftly evading three tackles before diving over to push Saracens into the lead.

Farrell missed with the touchline conversion but Saracens, with their pack on top and their potential England midfield of Charlie Hodgson, Brad Barritt and Farrell to the fore, kept Biarritz under pressure.

Alex Goode threatened from full-back with one break before lock Mouritz Botha, another member of England's Six Nations plans, picked off an interception and charged downfield.

Strettle cut in off his wing and almost broke clear but Biarritz were penalised for being offside at the ruck and Farrell extended Saracens' lead.

The Saracens pack, with John Smit at hooker and Carlos Nieto preferred on the tight-head, were on top and won a penalty on half-way that Farrell converted to secure a 14-6 lead at the interval.

The temperature rose in the early exchanges of the second half as Biarritz threatened, working a platform for Marcelo Bosch to attempt a drop-goal which drifted just wide.

Caught: Charles Gimenez is tackled by Chris Wyles

Caught: Charles Gimenez is tackled by Chris Wyles

Saracens' quick line speed was making life difficult for Biarritz but on the back of an improving kicking game they worked their way back downfield.

Goode collected a high ball outside his 22 but he was quickly swallowed up and Peter Stringer, who had been sent on for Spencer, saw his box kick charged down by Yachvili.

The Biarritz scrum-half followed up and muscled his way ahead of Goode to touch down and then convert to bring his side back to within a single point.

Farrell eased Saracens' nerves with his fourth penalty but only briefly, with Yachvili responding in kind after Smit's high tackle on Biarritz hooker Arnaud Hegny.

But with three minutes remaining the Saracens centre, called into England's Six Nations squad this week, drilled his fifth penalty to seal a tight victory.