Saracens draw with Ospreys to leave European reign hanging by a thread amid fresh Billy Vunipola injury fear

European Champions Cup-holders Saracens lost England star Billy Vunipola to a fresh injury here in Swansea tonight, and they can only qualify for the quarter-finals in the defence of their trophy as a runner-up after this tight and tense round-five pool match.

Ospreys’ Wales and Lions scrum-half Rhys Webb booted the ball dead in added time to show his side were happy to take the draw and see what transpires in the concluding pool matches next Saturday, when Saracens, on 13 points, host Northampton while Ospreys (15) travel to leaders Clermont Auvergne (18).

Vunipola, in his second match back after a three-month lay-off, took a sharp bang on the right wrist attempting a tackle on Rob McCusker in the 38th minute, and immediately halted and winced in obvious pain.

Both the England No 8, who has been ravaged by three operations and a succession of injuries in the last 18 months, and his fellow Saracens forward Michael Rhodes were substituted at half-time – Rhodes with a hamstring problem.

First indications from Saracens were that Vunipola could not feel his wrist, and he would need a scan with the club’s staff initially hoping it was nothing worse than bruising of the bone. Forwards coach Alex Sanderson told a TV interviewer during the match: “It’s another injury and we’re absolutely devastated but we’ll wait and see for the scans.”

Billy Vunipola was forced off with an arm injury (Getty)

Saracens have been playing catch-up in Pool two since they were thrashed by Clermont in the snow-delayed thrashing at home to Clermont in December.

They will still fancy themselves to beat Northampton Saints next week and avoid following Leinster in 2013 as the last reigning champions to fail to make it through the following season’s pool stage.

As for Ospreys, they may be well off the pace set by Glasgow and Munster in their domestic Pro14 conference but there are some talented forwards here, and they gave Saracens the hurry-up in the scrum…

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