Racing sprint past Scarlets and set up European Cup last-eight home tie

Paris (AFP) –


Racing 92 cut loose in the last 30 minutes to turn a nervy encounter with Scarlets into a noisy Parisian party and clinch top spot in Pool 4 and a home quarter-final in the European Champions Cup with a 46-33 victory on Saturday.

The hosts had not lost a home European game since moving into their La Defense Arena in October 2017 and were already sure of a place in the last eight.

However, they trailed the Welsh team after 50 minutes.

Winger Juan Imhoff and centre Henry Chavancy touched down in the first half but a try by Steff Evans and the kicking of Dan Jones meant the Scarlets ended the half one point ahead.

The points continued to flow at the start of the second half. Evans kicked behind the home defence and Johnny McNicholl raced through to score after 45 minutes.

But two tries from Ireland wing Simon Zebo bracketing touchdowns by Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Iribaren put Racing in control.

Scarlets kept fighting and were rewarded with McNicholl's late second try.

In the other game in the pool, Ulster awoke in the last 21 minutes as prop Marty Moore and winger Robert Baloucoune scored tries to overturn a 13 point deficit in Leicester.

Ulster eked out a 14-13 victory to ensure a place in the last eight as one of the three best second-place teams in the five pools.

Racing had already qualified on Friday when Edinburgh beat Montpellier 19-10, a result which also put the second Scottish side, Glasgow Warriors into the last eight.

In Saturday afternoon's early games, Saracens saw off a furious challenge from the Warriors to win 38-19 at Allianz Park and clinch first place in Pool 3 and the top seed in the quarter-finals.

- Farrell blow -

Saracens had won their first five games to ensure a last-eight spot.

In a frenzied opening 30 minutes the Warriors looked capable of matching Saracens blow for blow and topping the pool.

After Ben Spencer finished a sharp break by David Strettle in the seventh minute, Glasgow rapidly hit back twice.

In the ninth minute winger Tommy Seymour touched down in the corner. Four minutes later, scrum half Ali Price galloped through an uncharacteristically disorganised Saracens defence to put the Warriors ahead.

Vincent Koch restored the home lead after 17 minutes.

Again Glasgow quickly hit back with Ryan Wilson scoring three minutes later.

Hard-hitting Saracens back row Billy Vunipola then crashed over for the sixth try in the first 30 minutes.

After that Sarries, who led by five points, began to stifle Glasgow's free-running rugby.

In the last 11 minutes, as the Scots wearied, the home team ran in two more tries through Maro Itoje and Will Skelton to make the result secure for the winners of this trophy in 2016 and 2017.

"This game was by no means easy," Itoje told BT Sport after the final whistle.

"They challenged us physically and played a very expansive brand of rugby."

The only setback for Sararcens was the absence of England captain Owen Farrell who has suffered a thumb injury which could rule the fly-half out of his side's Six Nations opener away to Ireland in a fortnight.

In the other Pool 3 game, Cardiff Blues scored six tries as they beat visiting Lyon, 33-14. The result meant Lyon ended the pool without a point, a first for a French club.

Edinburgh's victory on Friday meant they reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2012.