Saracens will drop into the Championship with London bragging rights after withstanding a late Harlequins fightback in a 38-24 Gallagher Premiership victory that saw Owen Farrell make a successful comeback.
A match originally scheduled to take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in March until Covid-19 intervened saw England’s fallen champions take apart their capital rivals through tries by Sean Maitland, Maro Itoje, Aled Davies and Alex Lewington.
Saracens have been relegated for repeated salary cap breaches but their looming top-flight demise failed to dent their enthusiasm as they surged 22-3 ahead at half-time before repelling a final-quarter resurgence from Quins, inspired by replacement centre Paul Lasike.
Farrell made his first appearance since England’s Six Nations victory over Wales on March 7 after a tight quad prevented him from playing in last weekend’s Premiership restart following the five-month interlude.
The national skipper, who was making his 200th appearance for Saracens, accumulated an 18-point haul through four penalties and three conversions but was eclipsed by the energy of his half-back partner Davies who was involved right from the start.
Disclaimer issued after podcast appearance https://t.co/bxBzW8SkZl
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A fourth-minute lineout saw Saracens race into the lead as Billy Vunipola broke left after a classy catch by Itoje before feeding Maitland who sprinted over unopposed from short range. Quins’ blindside frailty was exposed once more as Michael Rhodes escaped the ruck defence to dart down the right touchline and the shortcoming became a recurring theme of the opening half-hour.
Wales scrum-half Davies was the visitors’ main tormentor and the summer signing from the Ospreys enjoyed a lively home debut, aided by a pack that won the majority of the collisions. Quins built some momentum and rolled the dice close to the whitewash when a kickable penalty was quickly taken by Martin Landajo and fed to Alex Dombrandt but the pass was poor and the No8 knocked on.
A far more ruthless streak was evident as Saracens ran in their second approaching half-time, Jamie George, Rhodes, Lewington and Vunipola on the rampage until Itoje touched down under the posts. There was still time before the interval for another home try as a Brad Barritt’s carry scattered Quins before Davies picked up and darted over.
Saracens continued to pound away in a one-sided third quarter but it was the visitors who drew blood as an attacking scrum provided the platform for replacement centre Lasike to muscle his way through heavy traffic.
Lasike’s power was evident as Quins resumed their offensive and the USA international created the opening for fellow substitute Scott Steele to escalate the fightback. And the deficit was then slashed to a converted try when the unstoppable Lasike bulldozed over for his second as a backs move from a scrum offered sight of the line with his strength doing the rest.
But a hammer blow arrived shortly before full-time when a deflected clearance fell kindly for Itoje who gathered, advanced and sent Lewington over for an easy try.
Premiership is finally back in England this weekend but the wait has been longer for some, such as Nathan Earle of @Harlequins – a well-rounded young man judging by reflections on lockdown, long-term injury, BLM, Covid and a load more topics #rugby https://t.co/QT6hovsJZX
— liam heagney (@heagneyl) August 14, 2020
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