Saracens 27-24 Racing 92: 14-man Sarries win and qualify for quarter-finals
European champions go through to face Leinster after Gloucester lose at Toulouse
Last Updated: 19/01/20 7:01pm
Saracens overcame losing Billy Vunipola to injury and Will Skelton to a red card to beat Racing 92 27-24 and progress into the Champions Cup quarter-finals.
Owen Farrell was on target in the 76th minute as Saracens reacted to their automatic relegation from the Gallagher Premiership for breaching salary cap regulations by claiming the win they needed to keep alive hopes of going through.
A draw would have ended their Champions Cup defence and rendered their season meaningless, but with Gloucester losing at Toulouse later on Sunday afternoon, Sarries are into the last eight where they will travel to face Leinster.
The double winners did it the hard way against Racing after suffering the early setback of losing Billy Vunipola to a suspected broken arm incurred as he carried the ball into contact.
Eddie Jones names his England squad for the Six Nations on Monday and will be monitoring the situation carefully, knowing it would be the fourth time the number eight has fractured one of his arms.
Saracens' next wound was self-inflicted, however, as Australia lock Skelton was sent off for a high tackle on Brice Dulin moments before half-time.
Extraordinary defence from Racing kept the black shirts at bay in the closing minutes as 14 battled 14 due to visiting open Bernard Le Roux being sin-binned, but Farrell intervened successfully when given his chance.
Roared on by fired-up home fans, Saracens made a blistering start that swept them over the whitewash after 118 seconds.
Their intent was signalled when a kickable penalty was sent into touch and from the ensuing line-out fed a rampaging Mako Vunipola who was stopped just short before Maro Itoje arrived to finish.
Elliot Daly's perfectly-judged pass to Sean Maitland launched a fresh attack that ended when Mako Vunipola muscled his way over from another line-out, with Racing scrum-half Teddy Iribaren sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on for good measure.
Mako's younger brother Billy had already departed by this point and control began to slip from the champions' fingertips as Racing hit back when Virimi Vakatawa broke free down the right wing to touch down.
As news filtered through about Billy Vunipola's injury, wing Louis Dupichot picked off Farrell's pass to plunder an easy try.
Saracens continued to unravel as holes opened up in their defence with uncharacteristic frequency, inviting irrepressible outside centre Vakatawa to dance in for his second try.
Skelton was sent off on the cusp of half-time and when play resumed, Iribaren landed a long-range penalty to extend Racing's lead to 24-17.
But Saracens were not done yet as Daly - among his team's best performers - made ground for Brad Barritt to direct a chip over the midfield that was gathered by Duncan Taylor for Itoje to score.
Farrell landed the conversion to level but he was then the victim of a late tackle by Le Roux that earned the Racing openside a yellow card.
Daly was given the shot at goal but he pulled his kick horribly wide. However, Saracens looked to make amends by pounding away at the line with carry after carry.
Although held up over the line, they had won a penalty and Farrell made no mistake.