Ashton, Strettle lead Saracens over Clermont
PARIS - Wings Chris Ashton and David Strettle scored two tries apiece as Saracens stunned 2013 runners-up Clermont 30-23 in the European Rugby Champions Cup on Saturday.
The English side took a crucial attacking bonus point as well in a tough Pool 1 which includes two-time winners Munster, who edged Sale 27-26.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall suggested both his wings deserved England recalls.
"The two of them have been in outstanding form for quite some time now, not just this season but the last 18 months as well," he said.
"It all depends on what England want to do -- do they want to go with youth or experience?
"But either way, it would be hard to find two better finishes than David Strettle's against Clermont. They were high, high class."
Later Saturday, Racing Metro scored a last-gasp try to beat Northampton 20-11 in Pool 5.
World Cup winning New Zealander Zac Guildford scored a brace for Clermont but they had to content themselves with a losing bonus from their trip to London.
On four minutes, Saracens swept the ball out to the left with Strettle breaking down the wing before passing inside to Ashton to score.
Soon afterwards Fijian Nakataici made a break that had the hosts back-peddling before quick hands helped Guildford dive over in the corner, with Camile Lopez landing a tricky conversion, before adding a penalty a few minutes later.
Saracens went in at half-time level, though, as Strettle scored in the corner after a quickly-taken penalty by scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, whose long pass gave the wing just enough space to to get the ball down before being bundled into touch.
Charlie Hodgson missed the conversion but got his name on the scoreboard with a penalty at the start of the second period, only for Lopez to reply with a stunning long-range drop goal.
Guildford out-jumped Sarries full-back Andy Goode to collect a high ball, giving him a clear run to score his second try.
Lopez converted but Saracens were quick to respond as Strettle side-stepped giant lock Sebastien Vahaamahina and again dived full-length to touch down in the corner.
Hodgson converted and then traded penalties with Lopez before Vahaamahina had a try disallowed for a block by Damien Chouly.
Clermont were made to pay almost immediately as Guildford spilled a high ball and Ashton picked up to run over from 20 yards out for the winning score, converted by Hodgson.
Ian Keatley scored a last gasp drop-goal after the final buzzer to give Munster a vital success at Sale.
With Danny Cipriani pulling the strings from outside half, the hosts went in at half-time leading 23-7, but Munster came roaring back with second half tries from Andrew Conway and scrum-half Conor Murray before Keatley's drop-goal, leaving Sale with just a defensive bonus point.
Racing took the lead against Saints with a push-over try from centre Alexandre Dumoulin after just four minutes, with Johnny Sexton converting.
Sexton and opposite number Stephen Myler traded two penalties apiece but things seemed to turn Saints' way with Racing suffering two second half sin-bins as props Julien Brugnaut and Eddy Ben Arous both saw yellow.
Saints centre George Pisi blew a certain try after intercepting Racing scrum-half Maxime Machenaud when he dropped the ball about 15 yards from the line, exasperating matters by pulling his hamstring.
Northampton finally used their numerical advantage to send Phil Dowson over the whitewash five minutes from time, although Myler missed the conversion.
But as Saints pushed for a winning score, wing Marc Andreu blocked a Ben Foden chip and ran it back for a Racing try, with Johannes Goosen's conversion denying Saints the losing bonus point.
Glasgow ran in five tries for a bonus point 37-10 win over Bath in Pool 4.
On Friday night, 2012 English champions Harlequins started their Pool 2 campaign with a confident 25-9 win over 2013 French champions Castres.