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Saracens through to Champions Cup final with victory over Wasps

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Wasps director of rugby Dai Young graciously acknowledged Saracens were worthy winners of Saturday’s European Champions Cup semi-final, while hailing the admirable efforts of his own side.

Saracens dominated possession and made the pressure count as flanker Michael Rhodes charged down a clearing kick by Jimmy Gopperth and pounced on the loose ball to touch down.

Wasps came to neutral Reading on a scintillating run of 12 wins in 13 matches, and had the ideal start after 73 seconds when last weekend’s six-try hero Christian Wade was set free on the wing to set up a storming try for scrum-half Dan Robson.

Ashley Johnson scored Wasps’ second try with four minutes remaining, but Saracens were not to be denied and will face Leicester Tigers or Racing 92 in Lyon next month.

But Saracens went ahead for the first time in injury time when Farrell landed his first successful kick at the fourth attempt, giving them an 8-7 advantage.

Farrell was first to trot off, scowling in disagreement and needing a bandage around a cut ear, after he had caught Robson around the head with a typically full-blooded tackle that went awry as the Wasps No. 9 stooped to retrieve a fumbled ball.

Farrell, head bandaged after his clash with Robson, then missed a long-range penalty immediately upon his return from the sin-bin.

Shortly after ten minutes the designated home side turned down a kick at the posts before winning another penalty that Farrell pulled left of the uprights. The conversion by Farrell meant the game was all but up at 24-10 with six minutes remaining.

The game was then put beyond Wasps in the 74th minute as they conceded a penalty try for collapsing a maul when Saracens were driving for the right corner, Farrell then did the honours.

That annus horribilis has driven on the squad even since and they are now into the Champions Cup final and top of the Premiership table and guaranteed a play-off place.

“No-one is hung up on the fact that it has been 14 years since we did win it. Lots of teams never win it at all”, Leicester boss Richard Cockerill said.

“Our scrum was dominant both on our put-in but also when they had the ball, and our defensive lineout was outstanding”, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said.

And Wasps captain James Haskell added: “When you play a game like that, you get the initial disappointment, but we gave it everything we had”. There are generals all over the pitch.

Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Duncan Taylor, Brad Barritt (capt), Chris Wyles; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits, Petrus du Plessis, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Michael Rhodes, Will Fraser, Billy Vunipola.

Wasps: C Piutau; C Wade, E Daly, S Piutau, F Halai; J Gopperth, D Robson (J Simpson 51); M Mullan (S McIntyre 61, sin bin 69-79), C Festuccia (A Johnson 69), L Cittadini (P Swainston 66), J Launchbury, B Davies, J Haskell (capt, T Young 61), G Smith, N Hughes (S Jones 69).

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