Match Centre: Saracens 18-21 Edinburgh

Alex Goode's try went in vain for Saracens
Alex Goode's try went in vain for Saracens

Saracens 18-21 Edinburgh, StoneX Stadium

WP Nel's try in the 66th minute proved to be the difference as Saracens edged out Edinburgh Rugby 21-18 in the opening game of the European Challenge Cup at StoneX Stadium.

This was first game in the European competition for Saracens since they were relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2019/20 season and their comeback was further complicated with injuries to Billy Vunipola and Kapeli Pifeleti at the start of the second quarter.

Emiliano Boffelli got Edinburgh off the mark in the third minute with a penalty goal in the third minute but Saracens responded back with Kapeli Pifeleti at the right wing and then the ball was moved all the way to the opposite wing to Max Malins but he could not the collect the ball cleanly.

Nevertheless, their first points came in the 13th minute when Ben Earl's perfectly judged pass allowed Alex Goode to dot down in the 13th minute but Manu Vunipola's conversion went wide.

A second long range penalty kick from Boffelli in the 17th minute helped Edinburgh take a 5-6 lead at the end of the opening quarter following which Mark McCall's men suffered double injury blows in Vunipola and Pifeleti.

The Scottish regional club extended their advantage in the 22nd minute with Charlie Savala's crossfield kick allowed Ramiro Moyano to score and Boffelli kicked the conversion to make it 5-13 before Saracens kicked a penalty to the corner and Andy Christie went over from the resulting maul to dot down and Manu Vunipola's conversion helped the home side bring down the gap to just one point.

Goode’s audacious 50:22 attempt gave Sarries an opportunity to take lead but Edinburgh held firm as they finished the opening half with a 12-13 scoreline.

Mark McCall's men were the quickest to get off the block in the second half with a three-pointer in the 41st minute to make it 15-13 but his effort was negated with Boffelli kicking a penalty goal from halfway to make it 15-16.

The game was a contest of kicking between the two sides as Vunipola once again provided Saracens advantage with a penalty kick in the 57th minute and to the relief of the home supporters Boffelli missed a chance to put Edinburgh into the lead once again with his kick sailing wide in the 60th minute.

Repeated infringements saw Saracens reduced to 14 players temporarily with Mawi sin-binned and the resulting penalty was kicked to the corner at the back of which WP Nel powered his way over. Boffelli missed out on the conversion but it did not prove costly as Edinburgh completed a three-point victory.

Team line up:

Saracens: Goode; Lewington, Daly, Lozowski, Malins; Manu Vunipola, Van Zyl; Mako Vunipola, Pifeleti, Clarey, Isiekwe, Hunter-Hill, Christie, Earl, B Vunipola.

Reserves: Lewis, Mawi, Beaton, Swinson, Wray, Davies, Tompkins, Obatoyinbo.

Edinburgh: Boffelli; Blain, Bennett, Lang, Moyano; Savala, Vellacott; Schoeman, McInally, Nel, Sykes, Gilchrist, Crosbie, Watson, Haining.

Reserves: Cherry, Venter, Atalifo, Hodgson, Bradbury, Pyrgos, Van der Walt, Hutchison.