Saracens came away with the spoils in what proved to be quite the feisty affair at The Stoop this afternoon, winning 12 – 22 to move four points clear at the summit of the Aviva Premiership.
17 points from Owen Farrell in an almost faultless kicking display and a try from Chris Ashton mid way into the second half was enough to see off a pumped up Harlequins side who have now lost to both Top four contenders Northampton Saints and Saracens at the Stoop.
Following on from two consecutive bonus point victories at Allianz Park, Sarries went into the game with only one change to the starting line-up, as Scotland Captain Kelly Brown came into the back row in the place of Ernst Joubert, and the inspirational loose-forward was to feature heavily in the first half action going agonisingly close to scoring the games first try.
The game started with Harlequins looking to stamp their authority on the game, with the ‘Quins playing their renowned style of high-tempo rugby from the off and after Nick Evans scored the games first points a wide pass found Ugo Moyne, who in turn chipped Saracens fullback Alex Goode who was adjudged to have impeded the Harlequins flyer and was incidentally yellow carder for his transgression – Evans kicked the resulting penalty.
Down to 14 men, Saracens seemed undeterred and oblivious to their numerical disadvantage as the likes of Steve Borthwick (making his 250th Premiership appearance), Billy Vunipola and in particular Jacques Burger throwing themselves into the breakdown in both attack and defence.
After Farrell had reduced Saracens arrears with a well struck penalty of his own the game burst into life as the returning Kelly Brown scythed through the Quins rearguard like the proverbial hot-knife through butter only to be upended by Quins winger Tom Williams. In the resulting rush of players from both teams to congratulate both their players efforts a melee ensued, with ‘Quins ex-St Helens Rugby League back rower Maurie Fa’asavalu sin-binned for “pulling the hair” of Jacques Burger.
Into the second half Saracens looked the stronger of the two sides and after his only miss of the afternoon from the kicking tee, it was Owen Farrell who led the Sarries charge; with a brilliant break to release his fellow England teammate Chris Ashton to score the games only try – Farrell converted.
As the game continued at it’s furious pace, Harlequins prop Joe Marler was the third player to see a yellow as the game threatened to see more cards than a Boxing Day windowsill, as the ‘Quins loose-head pulled down another impressive Saracens maul – Farrell added the three points.
As the game wore on, Saracens had to defend the majority of the closing minutes as Jacques Burger, Billy and in particular his brother Mako producing some stunning contributions to protect the Men in Grey & Blue’s line. In the final minutes, Farrell added the last of his penalty kicks as Saracens saw the game out to maintain their 100% start to the 2013/14 season.
Next up for Saracens is another London derby, as London Wasps visit Allianz Park on Saturday – click here for tickets
Harlequins (12) 12
Pens: Evans 4
Saracens (6) 22
Pens: Farrell 5
Harlequins: 15. Brown; 14. Williams, 13. Lowe, 12. Casson, 11. Monye; 10. Evans, 9. Care; 1. Marler, 2. Buchanan, 3. Collier; 4. Easter, 5. Robson; 6. Fa’asavalu, 7. Robshaw, 8. Guest.
Replacements: 16. Ward, 17. Lambert, 18. Sinckler, 19. Merrick, 20. Wallace, 21. Dickson, 22. Botica, 23. Hopper.
Sin Bin: Fa’asavalu (36), Marler (55).
Saracens: 15. Goode; 14. Ashton, 13. Wyles, 12. Taylor, 11. Strettle; 10. Farrell, 9. Wigglesworth; 1. M. Vunipola, 2. Brits, 3. Stevens; 4. Borthwick, 5. Kruis; 6. Brown, 7. Burger, 8. B. Vunipola.
Replacements: 16. George, 17. Auterac, 18. Johnston, 19. Hargreaves, 20. Wray, 21. de Kock, 22. Tagicakibau, 23. Wilson.
51mins Neil De Kock ran on for Richard Wigglesworth and Ali Hargreaves came on for George Kruis.
56 mins James Johnston for Matt Stevens.
73 mins Jamie George gave Schalk Brits a well earned rest and Jackson Wray replaced Kelly Brown.
77 mins Jack Wilson replaced Owen Farrell and Nick Auterac came on for Mako Vunipola.
Sin Bin: Goode (12).
Referee: Martin Fox (RFU)