Saracens beat Edinburgh in Europe return thanks to Woolstencroft’s try

Saracens returned to Europe’s top table after a two-year absence with a bonus-point victory, but this was anything but routine.

For much of the contest they were stifled by a more dynamic Edinburgh side who won the breakdown battle. It was not a classic but the three-times champions will care little about the optics. This was the statement win they were after.

“Edinburgh are a great side,” Owen Farrell said. “They really challenged us, especially round the breakdown. I know we’re just coming back together and we don’t want to take a bonus‑point victory for granted, definitely not, but we’ve got a long way to go after that performance.”

Farrell also spoke of his disappointment at Eddie Jones’s England exit. “It’s obviously disappointing,” said Jones’s former captain. “Eddie’s been a big part of our career and a big part of my career and I’m disappointed it’s finished like it has. He’s always been a brilliant coach for me. For that I’m massively thankful.”

A fifth-minute try from the prop Luan de Bruin, who bulldozed past Farrell from close range, gave Edinburgh the lead. Elliot Daly replied shortly after when he shrugged off a weak tackle from Duhan van der Merwe. Ben Earl also scored from a well-structured maul but 11 points from Emiliano Boffelli’s boot, as well as two missed kicks from Farrell, meant Saracens were 12-16 behind at the break.

Edinburgh came to spoil the home crowd’s welcome-back party. Their loose forwards – marshalled by the Scotland captain, Jamie Ritchie – isolated Saracens’ ball-carriers and routinely stole the ball on the ground. The men in black opted for a strategy that kept bodies available around the fringe but whenever the support was slow to arrive those in orange swarmed.

Saracens have not played a competitive game in more than a month – a consequence of the economic pitfalls at Wasps and Worcester – and it showed. Apart from the scrum, which won four penalties, the trademark efficiency was not quite there.

Saracens started the second period with newfound vigour. Five minutes after the restart Daly collected a flat pass and poked a grubber behind the rush defence. Alex Lewington collected and scored though Farrell missed the conversion, his third unsuccessful shot at goal which meant seven points were coughed up by the captain.

Boffelli had no such problems and slotted another penalty to nudge his team back in front. The status quo lasted just six minutes as Farrell finally found his range and registered a penalty which meant the lead had changed hands four times before the hour.

It would not shift again, though it should have done when Damien Hoyland found a way not to score after plucking an intercept from a Farrell skip pass. It was a costly error. Tom Woolstencroft burrowed under a tackle to notch the bonus point with 11 minutes left.

Two yellow cards hamstrung Edinburgh’s fightback but they threatened to upset the narrative when Wes Goosen found space on the left to score. But Saracens held on. Their 10th win from as many games this season is proof that some habits die hard.