Saracens 51 - 25 Cardiff Blues
HT 13-18
Sun 09 December 13:00 Allianz Park Att: 8,528 Ref: Romain Poite Heineken Champions Cup

Saracens 51 Cardiff Blues 25

Sun 9 Dec 2018 14:59 Saracens 51 Cardiff Blues 25

A stunning first-half performance was not enough for Cardiff Blues as a crippling injury count proved costly against Saracens in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Wales' Capital Region went into the encounter without numerous front-line players including Kristian Dacey, Dmitri Arhip, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo and Owen Lane.

They were dealt a further blow when Nick Williams was forced to pull out due to personal reasons but put in a hugely spirited performance.

John Mulvihill's men led 18-13 at the interval thanks to impressive tries from Blaine Scully and Matthew Morgan, which will be a contender for score of the season.

But the half came at a cost as the Blues lost both Lloyd Williams and Jason Harries during the brutal opening 40 and Jarrod Evans did not last much longer as he finally succumbed to a shoulder injury.

Saracens showed no mercy as they displayed their brute strength with 38 unanswered points, before Olly Robinson struck for a late consolation score.

They face the English champions at the Arms Park on Saturday with fewer than 500 tickets remaining for the hotly anticipated encounter.

The Blues made a good start to the encounter and enjoyed all the possession in the opening two minutes.

With Anscombe and Evans at 10 and 12, they stretched the hosts with their twin pivots continually changing the point of attack but they quickly found themselves ahead on the scoreboard.

From their first attack they sliced through the Cardiff Blues defence with Barritt hitting a flat pass from Owen Farrell. He released Alex Lozowski and the outside centre put Richard Wigglesworth under the sticks.

Farrell slotted the simple conversion to give his side a 7-0 lead after three minutes but it did not take Wales' Capital Region long to hit back.

A howitzer of a touch finder from Anscombe laid the attacking platform and after they were awarded another penalty they went to the corner once more.

The maul edged forward to no avail, forcing the Blues to go wide and they displayed impressive intensity and ball retention with Olly Robinson, Josh Turnbull and Dillon Lewis carrying hard.

And the opportunity came when Anscombe moved the ball back to the right with a miss-pass to Morgan and the diminutive full-back did enough to draw the outside defence and send Blaine Scully crashing over the whitewash. Anscombe struck the post with the conversion but the Blues were now within two points.

Saracens responded with a typical physical onslaught but the Blues survived and on 20 minutes they struck with a stunning try.

It was a moment of individual brilliance as Morgan fielded a long kick and beat four defenders and handed off Wigglesworth in a scintillating 70 metre break. Anscombe added the extras to give his side a 12-7 lead.

Mulvihill's men continued to threaten in attack with another Morgan break causing chaos with Kirby Myhill maintaining momentum with an impressive charge. A handful of phases later Romain Poite awarded the Blues a penalty and Anscombe duly split the sticks.

Saracens were not without their own chances and they saw two tries ruled out by the TMO, the first for a foot in touch and then a forward pass. Farrell and Anscombe continued to exchange shots at goal as Cardiff Blues entered half-time leading 18-13.

The half came at a price with Lloyd Williams departing with a facial injury and Jason Harries not returning from the changing rooms.

Like in the first-half, it took the hosts less than five minutes to cross the whitewash. Saracens had been targeting the breakdown all afternoon and managed to catch Lewis Jones at the base.

Lozowski made significant inroads before eventually being brought down and Ben Earl was put over in the corner. Farrell was unable to add the conversion but two minutes later Earl snatched a second as he intercepted Anscombe's pass to take the lead.

Farrell added the extras and they showed no mercy against the injury-ravaged Blues, which included Harri Millard operating on virtually one leg.

They weathered the storm for some time but when Sean Maitland crossed for a quick-fire brace, Cardiff Blues were stood facing the proverbial Everest.

Ben Spencer was next to cross the whitewash and Christian Judge went over for his first try in Saracens colours.

Olly Robinson crossed for a late consolation try, giving his side hope of coming away with a try-scoring bonus point, but the hosts' defence proved too strong in the final stages.