MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 45-24 London Irish
Saracens Men kept their European hopes alive with a well deserved 45-24 win over London Irish at StoneX Stadium.
Tries from Sean Maitland, Elliot Daly, Vincent Koch, Harvey Beaton, Eroni Mawi and a double from Alex Lewington ensured that Sarries recorded a bonus point win to give themselves a chance of qualifying for the next round.
The hosts dominated the early proceedings and were camped in the Irish 22 for the opening 10 minutes, however it was Irish who struck first out of nowhere.
Dom Morris had space out wide and offloaded to Sean Maitland who looked certain to score in the corner, but James Stokes intercepted and ran 90 metres despite the chasing defence to cross for the first score of the match. Rory Jennings’ conversion put the Exiles 7-0 ahead.
The response however was immediate as Sarries got their first of the day. Elliot Daly’s 50:22 took them in to the 22, and some neat hands from Nick Tompkins found Sean Maitland who dived over in the corner.
In a topsy-turvy opening Irish then scored again as they began to control the territory. After sustained pressure in the 22, they spun the ball wide and Cillian Redmond was there to step the final defender and score. Van Rensburg added the extras as their lead grew to nine points.
Sarries then started to grow in to the game and hit back with their second try to get themselves right back in the match. Maro Itoje’s impressive sidestep saw him carry right up to the line, and then it found Alex Lewington who had the pace to squeeze over. Manu Vunipola’s brilliant touchline conversion cut the deficit to just two points.
That deficit turned in to a lead on the 30 minute mark with a sensational score from the home side as they went ahead for the first time in the match. Andy Christie, fresh from his Scotland call-up broke through the defence and despite being brought down a smart offload on the floor then allowed play to stay alive, and again the ball found Lewington on the wing who could glide over for his second. Vunipola was again on the money from the tee to put his side 19-14 ahead.
It got even better for the Men in Black just two minutes later as Daly scored the try of the game so far to secure the bonus point. Daly spotted some space in the outside channel and performed a one-two with Maitland, the final part of it was a perfect grubber which bounced up for the full-back to score in brilliant style.
Irish then had a golden chance to score before the break as van Rensburg had the try-line at his mercy but the ball bounced out of his hands and Sarries escaped, before heading down the tunnel with a 24-14 lead at half-time.
Irish were quicker out of the blocks in the second half and scored just four minutes after the restart to bring themselves back in to the game. Juan Martin Gonzalez used his immense power to run straight over Morris and then race away from just outside the 22, meaning the Saracens lead was now down to five points.
As had been the case for much of the game, when it was really needed Sarries turned it up a gear and they did once again with 53 minutes gone as Vincent Koch went over for try number five. Daly again found touch from a penalty, and then despite the maul being pulled down they stayed patient and Koch was there to bundle over from close range. Vunipola added the extras and now the lead had grown to 31-19.
Sarries then had a golden chance to put the game to bed as a maul was hammering towards the line, but just as Jamie George broke away to dot it down the Irish forwards responded and the hosts were held up.
Tempers threatened to boil over on multiple occasions between the two local rivals as the match drew towards a close and chances at a premium.
Alex Lozowski was put in to space by Nick Tompkins with just over five minutes to go and he dummied to try and step past Ollie Hassell-Collins, but the winger was alert to it and the chance passed by.
Harvey Beaton then put the result beyond doubt as he broke away from a breakdown and showed an impressive turn of pace to dive over from just outside the 22, giving the North Stand a real treat at the end of the game. Vunipola’s conversion meant the hosts led by 19 with just four minutes to go.
Irish did have time to get their try bonus point as Henry Arundell danced over from long range, but Eroni Mawi then had the last laugh as he crashed over in the final play of the match to secure a highly impressive 45-24 win for the hosts.