Saints score 111 points against Timisoara to book Challenge Cup quarter-final spot

Reece Marshall scored the first of Saints' 17 tries against Timisoara Saracens (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Reece Marshall scored the first of Saints' 17 tries against Timisoara Saracens (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Saints cruised into the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup after claiming their biggest ever European win on Friday night.

Timisoara Saracens were the victims, suffering a surreal 111-3 defeat at the end of a freezing encounter at Franklin's Gardens.

It was try after try for Saints

It was try after try for Saints

Ollie Sleightholme grabbed four tries, with Alex Mitchell making his way to a hat-trick.

Reece Marshall and Mitch Eadie both doubled up, with Rory Hutchinson, Andrew Kellaway, Alex Coles, Lewis Ludlam, Nafi Tuitavake and Tom Collins also scoring in the 17-try rout.

James Grayson added 12 conversions, with Hutchinson also on the mark from the tee as Saints beat their best European points tally, which had been 68 against Parma during the 2006/07 season.

Timisoara were actually being cheered towards the Saints line by the home fans towards the end as they were afforded some sympathy by those in attendance.

Andrew Kellaway grabbed a first-half try

Andrew Kellaway grabbed a first-half try

It was a savage defeat for the Romanian side, who were left thanking the fact their home game against Saints in December had been snowed off.

For Chris Boyd's men it was a try-laden night that ensures they will go into the Challenge Cup last eight as one of the best runners-up, finishing behind Clermont Auvergne in Pool 1.

And it was the conclusion to an eventful group stage for the black, green and gold.

They had headed into the Timisoara game knowing a bonus-point win would be enough to book a quarter-final ticket.

Alex Mitchell scored a hat-trick

Alex Mitchell scored a hat-trick

And Saints were in the opposition's faces from the off with hooker Marshall picking up to dot down after Luther Burrell had gone close.

Grayson converted and it looked likely to be the first seven-pointer conceded on a long night for Timisoara.

But the Romanian minnows were not deterred, with their sheer power making up for what they lacked in precision.

And after Grayson had absorbed a couple of jackhammer hits, Timisoara won a penalty, with Luke Samoa kicking it to get his team on the board after 12 minutes.

It was carnage as Timisoara crumbled

It was carnage as Timisoara crumbled

Kellaway almost responded immediately, dummying his way towards the line and ignoring Sleightholme on the outside before being pushed into touch before he could score in the corner.

But it wasn't long before Saints had their second score as Timisoara failed to clear effectively and a lineout drive was used to send Marshall over for his second.

Grayson converted again to make it 14-3 and it was soon 21-3 after Saints continued to make a mockery of the Timisoara lineout and showed good patience before Hutchinson scooted round the outside of the away defence to score.

The extras were easily added and the bonus point came inside 24 minutes as David Ribbans carried hard and Mitchell picked up the ball, beat his man and scored.

Grayson slotted the kick again before scrum-half Mitchell made the most of a patient move to score his second.

The conversion came back off the post, but it was no reprieve for Timisoara who were being run ragged.

Hutchinson then produced some magic close to halfway, finding a path through Timisoara and offloading to the onrushing Sleightholme, who gratefully bagged his now customary try.

Grayson converted to make it 40-3 with seven minutes to go before the break.

It was turning into cruelty to rugby players as Timisoara chased shadows, and the seventh try arrived on the brink of half-time, with Kellaway the scorer.

It was to be Kellaway's final act as he was replaced at half-time by Tuitavake, who came on to make his return from a neck injury.

Saints were soon on the scoresheet in the second half thanks to a lovely slaloming finish from Sleightholme, bringing up his team's half-century.

Eadie was next to register, making the most of some tidy work from Mitchell, with Grayson again adding the extras to take the tally to 59 points with more than half an hour to go.

Mitchell managed to grab his hat-trick 16 minutes into the second half, and Sleightholme followed suit, putting the finishing touches to a flowing breakaway move.

A big moment was to come for lock Coles with 20 minutes to go as he saw acres of space in front of him and stretched his legs to score his first Saints try.

Ludlam, who was given the honour of captaincy after Alex Waller went off, was next to etch his name on the scoresheet, proving far too strong for the Timisoara defence.

Tuitavake cruised over out wide to make it 90 points for Saints and Eadie then grabbed his second of the night.

Sleightholme scored his fourth to bring up the century and the scoring wasn't finished there as Tuitavake sent replacement Collins over.

Hutchinson converted and Saints were left to reflect on a crazy end to a crazy pool stage.

Saints: Furbank; Sleightholme, Hutchinson, Burrell, Kellaway (Tuitavake 40); Grayson (Collins 67), Mitchell (Davies 58); Waller (c) (Davis 56), Marshall (Fish 63), Hill (Ford-Robinson 56); Ribbans (Coles 40), Barrow; Gibson, Ludlam (Wood 66), Eadie.

Timisoara Saracens: Simionescu (Moala 58); Zaharia, Popa, Umaga, Manumua; Samoa, Rupanu; Taupaki (Militaru 40), Radoi (c) (Capatina 40), Pungea (Halalilo 56); Lazar, Iftimiciuc; Sabau (Neculau 40), Rus, Tatarus.

Referee: Joy Neville