Saracens 26-14 Harlequins, Aviva Premiership, December 5
Saracens too strong for Harlequins
December 5, 2010
Saracens winger David Strettle opened his account against his former club
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Saracens handed Harlequins their heaviest Premiership defeat of the season with a 26-14 victory in their clash at Vicarage Road.
Tries from former Quins winger David Strettle and hooker Schalk Brits and an accomplished display from fly-half Owen Farrell carried the hosts to a deserved victory that lifted them back into the play-off picture. An early try from winger George Lowe and the boot of No.10 Nick Evans kept Quins in touch but Saracens' superior forward effort ensured their rivals' year-long wait for a Premiership away win goes on.
Quins made all the early running in an open start to the contest and they were rewarded with the first try of the game after just four minutes. A strong run from Strettle had the visitors stretched but a big tackle on Brits led to a loose pass that was pounced upon by Quins No.8 Tom Guest who then flipped the ball back inside to Lowe who raced away for the try.
Saracens clawed three points back a few minutes later through the boot of Farrell after Quins had been penalised for not rolling away from the tackle and they had the lead soon after a strong run from fullback Chris Wyles had forced Quins onto the back foot in their own 22. The ball was quickly recycled and a failed interception from Guest allowed Strettle to stroll through the defensive line to claim a try that was converted by Farrell.
The hosts were soon knocking on the door again with centre Brad Barritt and then flanker Ernst Joubert going close as their confidence continued to grow. Joubert and lock Mouritz Botha were then denied following the resulting scrum with centre Michael Tagicakibau also held up just short and in the end they had to settle for another three points courtesy of Farrell's right foot.
Harlequins rallied will with Evans ghosting through the Quins line until a horrific-looking knee injury to Quins centre Ollie Smith caused a lengthy delay in proceedings which robbed the visitors of some priceless momentum. They did come away with three points thanks to an Evans penalty but Saracens' response was swift and clinical with Brits claiming a try after a powerful catch and drive from a lineout deep inside the Quins 22. Farrell's excellent day with the boot continued with a the testing conversion that underlined the 19-year-old's growing stature.
Quins stayed in touch with Evans slotting his second penalty just before the break and although Farrell narrowly missed a long-range penalty as the half drew to a close his side remained in control of the contest as the sides headed to the tunnel.
An error from Quins fullback Mike Brown at the re-start gifted Sarries a superb attacking position and although they lacked the precision to capitalise they dominated the early exchanges. Quins soon introduced England duo Nick Easter and Danny Care in an attempt to turn the tide but Saracens also bolstered their ranks with a raft of changes.
Tempers flared between Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick and Quins prop Joe Marler as the hosts looked to turn the screw and although the visitors weathered the storm they could not prevent Farrell extending his side's lead with an exceptional long-range penalty just short of the hour mark.
The outstanding industry of Quins captain Chris Robshaw helped his side earn the next penalty and Evans' boot reduced the deficit to single figures once again but an offside call against replacement prop Ceri Jones allowed Farrell to immediately cancel it out with his fourth penalty of the game.
Care looked to inject some urgency into his side's attacking endeavour and he found support in Easter who spearheaded a drive towards the Saracens line only to be thwarted by an excellent tackle from Saracens fullback Chris Wyles. Quins continued to enjoy their best spell of the game but they struggled to find the cutting edge to open up a well-drilled Saracens defence.
A late penalty gave Quins the chance to rescue something from the game but having kicked to the corner for the lineout it was an all too familiar story as their repeated attempts to hammer a hole in the Saracens' defence came to nothing.
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