Apr 29, 2018
Saracens secure home semi-final with bonus-point win at Irish
Saracens secured an Aviva Premiership home semi-final with a 51-14 bonus-point victory over already-relegated London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
Owen Farrell’s boot got the scoreboard ticking before Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor crossed.
Irish responded through Joe Cokanasiga and Johnny Williams scores but Michael Rhodes and Marcelo Bosch put the game beyond doubt early in the second period.
Richard Barrington and Schalk Brits came off the bench to bundle over either side of Alex Goode's solo try.
Mark McCall made seven changes to the side that hit Bath for 40 a fortnight ago.
Prop Vincent Koch featured for the first time since injuring his ankle in February and made an impact straight away with a bruising hit in the midfield.
The game took a while to warm up with Sarries thwarted on several occasions by a strong maul defence from the home side before Josh McInally went on a charge into the visitors 22 only for Farrell to superbly strip him of possession and clear his lines.
McInally was sent to the sin bin soon after for sacking a fast-moving maul but Irish managed to stand firm and get rid of danger without conceding.
Farrell kicked a penalty to open the scoring and Goode started to get in the groove, spotting a couple of gaps. The full-back almost put Liam Williams in for the match’s first try but future Wolfpack member Alex Lewington denied the Welshman with an interception.
Saracens finally made the breakthrough midway through the first period. The ever-impressive Taylor fed Liam Williams down the right and as he attempted to claim the wing’s return inside, the ball popped in the air and Barritt pounced to slide over.
A second five-pointer followed moments later. Inches away from dotting at the foot of the post, Ben Spencer recycled to Farrell who stepped off his right to fool Irish’s backline and sent a perfect looping pass into Taylor’s bread basket for the Scotland international to trot in unopposed.
Then came the Exiles response. Against the run of play, the hosts retrieved possession after a Saracens mistake and quick hands released Cokanasiga on a sprint to the line despite Farrell’s best efforts to tap his ankles.
Liam Williams was denied a score due to a forward pass and Farrell’s boot edged the Men in Black further ahead before Irish ended the half in strong fashion.
Maro Itoje saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on and from the next phase, Johnny Williams crashed over – the conversion from Greig Tonks making it 14-16 in Sarries’ favour at the break.
Much improved after the interval, the visitors won penalty after penalty before eventually driving over, Rhodes at the bottom of a large pile.
The all-important bonus-point try was secured just prior to the hour mark in similar circumstance; this time Bosch flopping over after good work from the forwards.
Barrington came off the bench to power his way to the line for a fifth try before Goode glided past several green shirts to dot down and Brits added extra gloss to the scoreline on a successful afternoon for McCall's men.
15 Greig Tonks, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Piet van Zyl ( Steele 62'); 1 Ben Franks, 2 David Paice (Porecki 56'), 3 Ollie Hoskins (Du Plessis 56'), 4 Josh McNally, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 6 Jake Schatz, 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (Basham 77')
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Josh Basham, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Luke McLean, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Tries: Cokanasiga 31', J. Williams 40'
Conversions: Tonks 2/2
Yellow cards: McNally (12'), Cowan (72')
15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams (Wyles 72'), 13 Duncan Taylor (Bosch 35'), 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer (Wigglesworth 55'); 1 Mako Vunipola (Barrington 58'), 2 Jamie George (Brits 58'), 3 Vincent Koch (Figallo 58'), 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 6 Michael Rhodes (Isiekwe 51'), 7 Schalk Burger (B.Vunipola 60'), 8 Jackson Wray
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Chris Wyles, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Tries: Barritt 22', Taylor 27', Rhodes 51', Bosch 57', Barrington 72', Goode 79', Brits 80'
Conversions: Farrell 6/8
Penalties: Farrell 2/2
Yellow card: Itoje (40')