Ashton double helps Saracens into European Cup semi-finals; Clermont down Toulon

Julian GUYER
Clermont's flanker Damien Chouly (C) tries to escape with the ball the ball during a rugby union match against Toulon on April 2, 2017 at the Michelin stadium in Clermont-Ferrand, central France

Chris Ashton scored two tries as holders Saracens booked their place in the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup with a 38-13 victory over Glasgow at London's Allianz Park on Sunday.

Victory saw Saracens set up an enticing semi-final away to Munster in Dublin later this month after the Irish giants beat Toulouse on Saturday.

Sunday's other quarter-final saw Clermont down French rivals Toulon 29-9. They will now face Leinster in Lyon.

Ashton's double put him level with former France star Vincent Clerc's tournament record of 36 tries and was a fitting way for the ex-England wing to mark his final European appearance at Saracens' ground before he joins Toulon after the end of the season.

Saracens, also the English Premiership champions and bidding for a "double double", outscored Glasgow four tries to two, with centres Marcelo Bosch and Brad Barritt also crossing and the rest of their points kicked by England's Owen Farrell.

Saracens, whose side featured several members of England's Six Nations title-winning squad, were up against a Glasgow team who created the major shock of the pool stage with a 43-0 win away to English giants Leicester.

"I thought we came out of the blocks really good, the only issue at half-time being the dominance and good play we had was not really reflected on the scoreboard," said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall, whose side were 14-3 up at the break.

"But we did really well in the second half to keep on doing what we did...Eventually we put the game away."

- 'Outstanding' -

Glasgow boss Gregor Townsend, who takes charge of Scotland at the end of the season, added: "Saracens were outstanding today.

"To click so well straight after the Six Nations is a credit to their coaches and their players.

"When you see them like that today they’re very difficult to beat."

Farrell and Glasgow's Finn Russell exchanged early penalties before the visitors suffered a setback when skipper and Scotland lock Jonny Gray was forced off permanently in the 11th minute for a head injury assessment.

Two more Farrell penalties made it 9-3 before the try Saracens had threatened arrived in the 31st minute.

Bosch and Barritt made ground before the ball was spun right to Ashton, who stepped inside Alex Dunbar.

Farrell missed the conversion but Saracens still led 14-3.

Ashton almost had another try on the stroke of half-time but another fine cover tackle effort from Scotland fullback Hogg forced him into touch.

Glasgow got the score they needed when Jones regathered Scotland fly-half Russell's cross-kick and beat fullback Alex Goode and Ashton for a 48th-minute try.

Russell's conversion hit the post though and Saracens were still two scores ahead at 14-8.

Just before the hour, Saracens made the game safe with their second try.

A box kick from Glasgow's Ali Price was held on the 22 by Ashton. Mako Vunipola and Richard Wigglesworth took the ball up before Argentina's Bosch was sent in.

Farrell converted to make it 21-8 and then added a penalty before skipper Barritt went over for a 73rd-minute try after good work by his pack.

Ashton and Glasgow's Ryan Wilson exchanged late tries but the game had already been decided.

In France, Clermont, still searching for their first European crown after twice losing in the final to Toulon, ran away with the match in the second half after the opening 40 minutes ended all square at 6-6.

Noa Nakaitaci, on the hour mark and Damian Penaud, right at the finish, scored the only tries of the match for Clermont.

France's Morgan Parra converted both scores and kicked four penalties, with Camille Lopez landing a drop-goal.

All Toulon had to show for their efforts were Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny's three penalties.

Clermont's semi-final rivals Leinster beat English Premiership leaders Wasps 32-17 in Dublin on Saturday.

All four quarter-finals this weekend were won by the home team.

This latest round of results means there have only been two away victories from the last 16 Champions Cup quarter-finals, with Saracens alone bucking the trend.