London Irish snap Saracens' unbeaten run in feisty encounter
Newly appointed England coach Steve Borthwick watched on as Gallagher Premiership leaders Saracens lost their unbeaten record in a feisty 29-20 defeat at London Irish.
It was Saracens’ first defeat in 10 league matches as a poor start and ill-discipline cost them dear.
Both teams had a player sent off in the first half and each side ended up scoring two tries, with Paddy Jackson’s five penalties proving the difference as the struggling Irish recorded a third league win of the season.
London Irish captain Adam Coleman was first to be dismissed in the 16th minute as he thundered into the head off Saracens hooker Tom Woolstencroft, who appeared to be knocked out before receiving lengthy treatment and being carried off on a stretcher.
Saracens flanker Ben Earl was shown the first red card of his career 15 minutes later for a high tackle on Tom Pearson.
Ollie Hassell-Collins and Chandler Cunningham-South scored tries for Irish with Jackson converting both.
Irish began strongly to secure a line-out platform in the opposition 22. From there, they secured possession to test Saracens’ defence to the full before Benhard van Rensburg’s pass gave Hassell-Collins the chance to brush past Farrell’s tackle to score.
Jackson converted but his side suffered an injury blow when centre Will Joseph hobbled from the field.
The hosts then received two setbacks in quick succession. First Farrell’s penalty put Saracens on the scoreboard to reward a period of sustained pressure before Coleman was sent off, leaving the home side seemingly with a mountain to climb.
However they still picked up the next points when Jackson kicked two penalties in quick succession as decisions by referee Matt Carley were continually questioned by Farrell.
The Saracens skipper also queried the red card shown to Earl in the 31st minute with Jackson again on target with the resulting penalty.
But an out-of-sorts Saracens remained in contention when replacement hooker Pifeleti forced his way over.
Farrell converted but with the last kick of the half Jackson slotted over his fourth penalty, this time from the half-way line, to give Irish a deserved 19-10 interval lead.
Five minutes after the restart, Saracens scored their second try. A speculative chip through from Elliot Daly bounced awkwardly for Irish wing Lucio Cinti, with Maitland on hand to pick up the pieces.
The visitors looked set to take control but Jackson succeeded with his fifth penalty to temporarily keep them at bay, before Rory Jennings was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card for a high challenge on Billy Vunipola with 20 minutes remaining.
Worse was to follow for Irish when they went down to 12 players, with Rob Simmons sin-binned for collapsing a maul, but remarkably a ragged Saracens could not score in their absence.
On their return, Farrell kicked a penalty but Irish secured a thrilling victory when Cunningham-South finished off a flowing move to send Irish’s biggest crowd of the season home happy.
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