Saracens were beaten 13-22 in round 13 of the Aviva Premiership at Allianz Park.
Marcelo Bosch and Schalk Brits scored the hosts two tries, as London Irish held on for a famous win.
The 9,000+ crowd didn’t have to wait too long for the first points of the game after James O’Connor split the Allianz Park uprights with a well taken penalty from the halfway line just after one minute.
With a howling gale behind them, the Exiles held the advantage in terms of the conditions yet in the opening twenty minutes Brian Smith’s charges struggled to exit their own half as they continually conceded penalties in their own 22. It came as no surprise that referee Dean Richards’ patience would eventually wear thin, with Exiles centre Fergus Mulchrone incurring theMr Richards’ ire after being yellow carded after eight minutes.
Saracens were initially frustrated by some stubborn Exiles defence, but after 13 minutes, Argentine centre Marcelo Bosch crossed for the games first try, collecting Hodgson’s pass to power over. Hodgson, kicking into an extremely strong wind, missed the conversion.
Saracens were in truth enjoying the lion’s share of possession and surprisingly the territory (given the conditions), but London Irish struck back against the run of play with a well taken try. The Exiles forwards carried well and offloaded equally impressively, combining to send in loosehead prop Matt Parr to score. O’Connor added the conversion to give the visitors a 5-10 lead.
London Irish were again reduced to fourteen men, after openside Blair Cowen was yellow carded for killing the ball, one of twelve penalties conceded by the Exiles in the first half. Hodgson sent over a penalty from close range on the 34th minute mark to reduce the Exiles lead to two points.
The Irish response was as stunning as their two tries were fortuitous. Alex Lewington, a late replacement for Exiles winger Topsy Ojo, raced away to score after a Hodgson kick was charged down – O’Connor missed the conversion. Reeling from the Lewington score, Saracens poor mood was compounded when seconds after the restart the Exiles were in again – after some attempts to recover a Lewington grubber, Irish captain George Skivington hacked the ball on and regathered to score his sides third of the afternoon. O’Connor converted to give his side a 8-22 lead at half-time.
The second half was a disjointed affair, with Referee Richards’ whistle a constant theme throughout the second stanza.
Saracens, although now enjoying the wind behind their backs were frustrated by some steadfast London Irish defence, which through using the choke tackle on numerous occasions, frustrated the Saracens attack.
This frustration boiled over when replacement hooker Schalk Brits and the London Irish front-row had an altercation, after Saracens scrum was again penalised. In truth, Saracens didn’t do enough with ball in hand to really worry the London Irish defence.
They did though cross for one more try in the second half, when a fired-up Brits crossed over the try line in 74 minute.
But that was that unfortunately it for Mark McCall’s men, who lost their 100% regular season Premiership record at Allianz Park in the process.
Tries – Marcelo Bosch, Schalk Brits
Penalties – Charlie Hodgson (x1)
15. Ben Ransom; 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Chris Wyles, 11. David Strettle; 10. Charlie Hodgson, 9. Neil de Kock; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Jamie George, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. Mouritz Botha, 6. Jackson Wray, 7. Jacques Burger, 8. Ernst Joubert.
Replacements (all used) ; 16. Schalk Brits, 17. Jared Saunders, 18. James Johnston, 19. George Kruis, 20. Matt Hankin, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Joel Tomkins, 23. Jack Wilson.