Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola made try-scoring returns for Saracens in a 54-13 victory over Bedford at StoneX Stadium that unmasked shortcomings despite the lop-sided scoreline.
The England forwards marked their Green King IPA Championship debuts by crossing twice each in the first half of their maiden outings since finishing fifth in the Six Nations.
Prop Mako Vunipola and centre Elliot Daly were also reintegrated into the starting XV, although their contributions were less influential as Saracens emerged convincing winners despite an error-strewn afternoon.
Owen Farrell had been earmarked to lead the team but the England captain was ruled out by a minor strain having recovered from the concussion sustained in the climax to the Six Nations against Ireland.
Alex Davis, Janco Venter and Andy Christie also crossed for Saracens, who benefited from a late penalty try but never found anything approaching top gear against one of the division’s weaker teams.
Tougher assignments against top-two sides Ealing and Doncaster await over the next fortnight as Saracens look to secure an immediate return to the Gallagher Premiership having been relegated as punishment for repeated salary cap breaches.
From the moment Saracens crashed over for their first try through an Itoje pick and go, a third victory of their Championship campaign looked assured.
It was an ominous start for Bedford, who had won only one of their four games prior to their visit to Barnet and were sent hurtling backwards by a series of big carries.
A short period of Blues pressure followed with Tommy Mathews landing a penalty, but Daly’s footwork in midfield then released Billy Vunipola who flattened full-back Rich Lane and rolled over the whitewash.
It was far from vintage Saracens with their play lacking precision, but when Itoje charged down Connor Tupai’s kick and scored, the afternoon began to look bleak for the underdogs.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 11, 2021
Bedford’s cheers at winning a turnover close to their line turned to despair when they were shoved backwards at the ensuing scrum, allowing Billy Vunipola to grab his second try.
Full-back Elliott Obatoyinbo launched an intelligent run that was continued by Sean Maitland and Itoje until scrum-half Davies arrived to cross in the corner.
But Saracens were far too passive in defence as blindside Ollie Newman broke through the midfield as the prelude to Bedford scoring their only try through wing Pat Tapley.
The Blues had their tails up as they stormed back into enemy territory only for the sin-binning of Joe Atkinson to invite pressure and when Saracens won a short-range line-out, Venter went over.
Andy Christie and a penalty try completed an afternoon that left plenty of scope for improvement.
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