Saracens successfully negotiated the toughest assignment of their Greene King IPA Championship season to date by crushing leaders Ealing 48-20 at StoneX Stadium.
All of the club’s England contingent, including captain Owen Farrell, were present for the five-try victory but it was South African World Cup winner Vincent Koch who took star billing by crossing in each half.
Alex Lewington, Aled Davies and Nick Tompkins also touched down against opponents who won both previous encounters in a pre-season warm-up competition, although most of Saracens’ internationals were absent for those games.
Farrell kicked 23 points, missing just one shot at goal, and the only worrying moments of a sunny afternoon in north London were injuries to Jamie George and Billy Vunipola, but both England forwards were able to carry on.
The win lifts Saracens up to third in the table, five points behind Ealing with four matches of the regular season remaining as they step up their push for an immediate return to the Gallagher Premiership.
The Championship winners are decided by a two-leg play-off and on the evidence of this encounter, Saracens will be strong favourites to rejoin the top flight, with the rivals likely to meet again in June.
It was Ealing’s first defeat of the season and the first time they had dropped any points, having amassed a maximum 30 from their six outings.
Satisfying in the sunshine.
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) April 25, 2021
Early Saracens scrum infringements went unpunished when Craig Willis failed with a routine penalty, but there was no mistake from Farrell shortly after as the hosts drew first blood.
A break by Elliot Daly that was continued by Jackson Wray sent Ealing skittling backwards and with space created on the right by sharp hands, Lewington was able to run in the first try.
With Farrell adding the conversion and a penalty, a commanding lead had opened up, with Saracens’ backs especially threatening as offload after offload kept moves alive.
The pack took charge in the 25th minute when a series of drives originating from a line-out ended with Koch forcing his way over.
When Ealing tried the same forward-led approach over a sustained period they were met with a wall of black shirts and eventually resorted to slinging wild passes that were closed down with ease.
But Saracens continued to be pinned back in their half and eventually cracked, a line-out drive brought down over the line, prompting Craig Maxwell-Keys to award a penalty try and show Wray a yellow card.
Now Ealing trailed only 20-13 but three penalties in succession from Farrell dramatically swung the game towards the hosts.
George took a heavy blow, giving the British and Irish Lions a scare, but the England hooker climbed to his feet and took part in a renewed Saracens attack, although he continued to clutch at his ribs.
His presence helped Koch over for his second try as Ealing cracked before a line-out drive and it began to look ominous for the underdogs as Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Davies took part in a powerful raid that ended in a turnover on the opposition line.
Davies then dived over for the bonus-point try after finishing a break begun by Wray and taken on by Sean Maitland, who supplied the scoring pass.
Guy Thompson powered over in the closing stages to improve Ealing’s score but Tompkins had the final say with a try under the posts for Saracens.
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