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Saracens' five Lions come through hard-fought Championship clash unscathed

By PA

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Saracens’ five-strong British and Irish Lions contingent led by Owen Farrell emerged unscathed from a feisty 69-12 Greene King IPA Championship victory over Ampthill.

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A crowd of 2,000 – the first at a competitive match at StoneX Stadium since the coronavirus pandemic began – watched a 11-try rout that restores Saracens to second in the table with two games of the regular season remaining.

Jamie George and Mako Vunipola were replaced at half-time to make way for a whole new front row, while England captain Farrell came off 11 minutes later still wearing the bandage around his head that was needed to dress an early wound.

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Maro Itoje followed him into the stands shortly after, with Elliot Daly the last of the five Lions bound for South Africa next month to leave the pitch.

Alex Goode made his first appearance since completing a loan spell at NEC Green Rockets, deputising for Farrell at fly-half and celebrating his return by immediately launching a counter-attack.

Mid-table Ampthill were missing five players on loan from Saracens who were ineligible to play, but they still offered stiff resistance for long spells, particularly in a gutsy first half that witnessed several scuffles.

When Nick Tompkins danced over in the fourth minute, they appeared to be facing a long evening in north London with Saracens’ set-piece an effective early tool.

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Tries by George and Tompkins helped establish a 21-0 lead, but the underdogs were spending increasing time in home territory and their enterprise was rewarded when Syd Blackmore was driven over at a line-out that was reinforced by several backs.

A second try appeared imminent, but acrobatic rucking by Alex Humfrey saw Ampthill penalised just as they closed in on the whitewash and on their next attack Saracens crossed through Sean Maitland.

Hampered by the slippery conditions following an afternoon of storms, Saracens were pinned back yet again in a scrappy first half, with only their comfortable lead sparing their blushes.

But, while they were struggling to stamp their authority on play, they were deadly at turning breaks into points and, just as another Ampthill attack broke down, they struck through Maitland’s second try.

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Two minutes into the second-half Ali Crossdale raced over in the left corner and shortly after Elliott Obatoyinbo dummied his way across the whitewash.

Replacement hooker Tom Woolstencroft scored two similar tries in quick succession, but Ampthill produced another purple patch and touched down through Spencer Sutherland.

Saracens had the final say, however, as Crossdale finished a sublime move created by Goode’s vision in midfield before Dom Morris dashed over in injury-time.

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Saracens' five Lions come through hard-fought Championship clash unscathed

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