Saracens no longer force they were in Europe – record hammering by Bordeaux proves it

Owen Farrell (L) - Saracens no longer force they were in Europe – and record hammering by Bordeaux proves it
Owen Farrell (left) was one of many Saracens' players who struggled against the in-form French outfit - Getty Images/Romain Perrocheau

Bordeaux-Begles 55 Saracens 15

After being blown away by Bordeaux’s big-hitters, Saracens’ hopes of progressing to the last-16 of the Champions Cup are fading fast. Inside the hostile arena of the Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas, they were reduced to mere puppets playing supporting roles in a performance where Bordeaux’s stars were the headline act.

The high-flying French outfit pummelled the visitors with their pace, power and panache, condemning Saracens to their biggest-ever defeat in this competition.

The three-time winners must win with a bonus point against Lyon next weekend and better Bristol’s points difference if they are to keep their cup campaign alive, although the reality is that the Londoners are no longer the dominant force they once were in Europe.

After a disjointed domestic campaign that has seen Owen Farrell at the centre of a speculative switch to Racing 92 at the end of the season, you have to wonder whether all the outside noise is affecting Mark McCall’s men, who have now lost five of their last seven outings. A result as mortifying as this could end up defining their season.

Should Saracens’ most ardent servant end up crossing the Channel, a match-up with Matthieu Jalibert could become a regular battle. Unfortunately, the Englishman was outshone by Bordeaux’s great showman, who spent all evening unleashing his box of magic tricks.

First came his looping pass to Damian Penaud in the build-up to Louis Bielle-Biarrey’s opener, before a cute inside ball to Romain Buros that guillotined Saracens’ defence in one fell swoop. He then pulled on his dancing shoes to set up Penaud for his side’s fourth after Maxime Lamothe had scored the third. The fly-half’s goal-kicking was a bit off the boil, but he more than made up for it with a try of his own after the break. It was no less than he deserved.

Together with scrum-half Maxime Lucu, who is widely expected to step into Antoine Dupont’s very big shoes this Six Nations, Bordeaux’s troublesome twosome stamped their mark all over their side’s commanding victory. The win confirmed their place in the knockouts and how France’s probable half-back combination for the Six Nations is bubbling away nicely.

After four first-half scores, the contest had already morphed into a damage limitation exercise for Saracens, whose unforced errors repeatedly invited waves of Bordeaux pressure. Those mistakes were evident from the start of the match when Ben Earl’s butterfingers led to an early scrum that culminated in Bielle-Biarrey drawing first blood in a passage epitomising their sorry, error-strewn night.

Even with what half-chances Saracens had, this bludgeoning Bordeaux side would not be moved. Logovi’i Mulipola, whose first Saracens start at loosehead was a baptism of fire, was held up by Ben Tameifuna at the end of a lopsided first half. Tonga’s monster captain proved the hero again when he used every fibre of his 148kg frame to jackal Alex Goode off the ball as the Saracens full-back sniffed the try-line.

Apart from those two snippets, Saracens ticked along at a pedestrian rate, coughing up possession in between their static, messy phase play. An overthrown line-out led to young centre Nicolas Depoortere trundling over, before Penaud coasted over for his second.

Saracens looked powerless to stop the rot, although there were a couple of dropped stitches in Bordeaux’s near-perfect tapestry. Nick Tompkins crossed for a close-range finish before hooker Theo Dan – drafted into the starting line-up in place of the injured Jamie George – found some unlikely wheels from the restart to sprint over in the corner.

But it was only delaying the inevitable. Farrell’s charged-down kick led to Pablo Uberti sprinting the length of the field to add an eighth, before Elliot Daly’s no-look pass was gobbled up by Bielle-Biarrey, who completed the rout.

Match details

Scoring sequence: 0-3 Farrell pen, 5-3 Bielle-Biarrey try, 7-3 Jalibert con, 12-3 Buros try, 14-3 Jalibert con, 19-3 Lamothe try, 24-3 Penaud try, 29-3 Deportere try, 34-3 Jalibert try, 36-3 Lucu con, 41-3 Penaud try, 43-3 Lucu con, 43-8 Tompkins try, 43-10 Farrell con, 43-15 Dan try, 48-15 Uberti try, 50-15 con Jalibert, 55-15 Bielle-Biarrey try.
Bordeaux: R Buros (P Uberti 64); D Penaud, N Depoortere, Y Moefana, L Bielle-Biarrey; M Jalibert, M Lucu (P Abadie 59); J Poirot (U Boniface 60), M Lamothe (R Latterrade 71), B Tameifuna (C Sadie 50), G Petti (A Miquel 57), A Coleman (K Douglas 61), P Bochaton, M Gazzotti (B Taillefer 57) P Samu.
Saracens: A Goode; A Lewington, E Daly (O Hartley 73), N Tompkins, S Maitland, O Farrell (capt), I Van Zyl (G Simpson 69); L Mulipola (S Crean 44), T Dan (J Hadfield 73), C Judge (A Clarey 44), M Itoje, H Tizard (B Vunipola 54), N Isiekwe, A Christie, B Earl (Gonzalez 61).
Referee: Chris Busby

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