Match report | Saracens Men 34 – 17 Harlequins
Saracens Men booked their place in the Gallagher Premiership Final after a thrilling 34-17 win over Harlequins.
At a raucous StoneX Stadium which created an incredible atmosphere, Sarries put their rivals to the sword with a display of relentless physicality which ensured they will feature in the showpiece at Twickenham next Saturday.
Ben Earl scored a hat-trick whilst Nick Tompkins and Aled Davies also crossed on a day that will be remembered for a long time for those in attendance in North London.
It was the visitors who made the dream start, with Alex Dombrandt scoring after just three minutes. A succession of penalties were kicked to the corner, and then the England man broke away from a rolling maul to put Quins in front. The conversion went wide, but the West Londoners had an early 5-0 advantage.
Sarries then hit back when Maro Itoje took a penalty quickly and thundered towards the line, earning his side another penalty which Owen Farrell kicked to cut the deficit to two points.
Then in what could have been a turning point. Quins had huge pressure right on the Saracens try-line and their third rolling maul in a row, but they knocked the ball on and Aled Davies could clear, to the relief of the home fans.
They took their next chance however, as Danny Care raced clear to score their second of the afternoon. Smith broke off the back of a scrum, and he had the scrum-half on his shoulder who has the pace to dive over the line. Smith’s extras gave them a 12-3 lead after the opening quarter.
That seemed to wake the hosts up, as Ben Earl made his mark just two minutes later to get his side right back in the game. An overthrown lineout was gathered by Farrell, and then the ball was spun wide to Earl who ran straight over the final defender and sparked huge celebrations behind the posts. The conversion went wide, but the gap was now just four points.
Joe Marchant then thought he had scored again for Quins, but an earlier infringement, a high shot on Farrell, meant that Jack Walker was sent to the sin-bin and the visitors were reduced to 14 men.
Sarries took advantage straight away and went in front for the first time in the match just before the break. The penalty was kicked to the corner, and then Farrell’s outrageous offload found Nick Tompkins who could dot down from just one metre out. The conversion made it 15-12 which is how it stayed until half time.
Just a minute after the restart Sarries crossed for try number three amid incredible scenes at StoneX. Dombrandt failed to gather the kick off, and then with an overlap on the right wing the ball found Earl who was in acres and he could stroll over in the corner. Farrell’s inch-perfect conversion extended the lead to 10 points.
It got even better on the 50 minute mark as the fourth try came in sensational style to put the hosts firmly in control. Vincent Koch’s dominate carry took play up to the 22, and then his inside pass found Davies who could race clear in front of the North Stand supporters. The conversion came back off the post, but the lead was now 27-12.
Elliot Daly was then sent to the bin for a high shot on Smith, before Billy Vunipola was given his marching orders for a similar offence as we headed in to the final quarter.
Quins, with a two man advantage then had a spell of pressure with an incredible amount of phases within the 22, which ended in a try for Cadan Murley. A scrum gave them the platform, and Smith’s wide pass to Murley sent him over in the corner. The conversion went wide though, meaning the lead was still double figures.
It then got even more tense when Marchant and Dombrandt combined to get within inches of the line, but just as it looked like they would score Nick Isiekwe and Alex Goode did brilliantly to hold him up over the line.
Alex Lozowski then became the third Saracen to get a yellow card for another high shot, but then some simply incredible work from Itoje at the maul got a turnover in a huge moment.
There were now only five minutes left, and the hosts sealed the deal as Earl went over for his hat trick in the final play of the game from the powerful maul. Farrell’s conversion put further gross on a sensational win at StoneX.