Nov 05, 2017
Sarries pipped at the death by Harlequins in Anglo-Welsh opener
A young Saracens side suffered heartbreak in the opening round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup as Harlequins snatched a 29-30 win at the death in front of a crowd of over 9,000 at Allianz Park.
Saracens started today’s round one match with a sense of intent. Bruising carries from captain Ben Earl and the forward pack plus quick hands across the Sarries back line ensured the men in black maintained possession and territory in the opening minutes.
Saracens’ pressure paid off and it was Max Malins who opened the scoring, kicking for goal after Harlequins were penalised inside their own half. Despite the home side’s early energy it was to be Harlequins who crossed the try line first in the game, Henry Sloan stretching over the whitewash to score. The conversion rebounded off the post and when Quins were penalised again at the breakdown sooner after, Malins kicked his second penalty of the game to restore Saracens’ lead.
A third penalty extended Saracens lead to 9-5 but despite heavy pressure on the Quins try line the men in black remained frustrated until right at the close of the half when back rower Jack Nay showed off his power to muscle his way to the line for his first score for the club. Malins made it four from four from the tee to give Saracens a 16-5 lead going in to the break.
It didn’t take long for Saracens to add to their tally after the break; Nathan Earle showing his speed to finish off a lovely move and score in the corner. It was a third score in two games for the young winger.
There was a better rhythm to Saracens game now as the home side combined alertness in attack with organisation in defence to keep the visitors in check. Tom Whiteley added a third score just after the fifty minute mark when Ben Earl broke away to set up the scrum half.
Harlequins were still in it though and the south London side hit back on the hour mark with a score from Alofa Alofa who displayed some nifty footwork to open up the Saracens defence. The score seemed to swing the momentum of the game and it was Harlequins who took control of possession as the game approached the final fifteen. Despite brave defence from the young Saracens side Quins’ pressure turned to points when Elia Elia crossed the whitewash and while Lang’s conversion missed the target Quins were now very much within touching distance, trailing by just 17 points to 26.
It seemed that the visitors had struck again only moments later but a TMO reply showed a try saving tackle from Tom Whiteley, who’s effort dislodged the ball from Tim Visser’s grasp as the Harlequins fullback crossed the line. A huge effort from the youngster, who had impressed in defence throughout the contest.
Both Saracens and Quins exchanged penalty kicks in the last ten minutes and when Matt Gallagher side stepped his defender to break away with three minute to play Saracens looked to have set up an opportunity for fourth try but Whiteley’s pass couldn’t find quite find Malins out on the far side.
In a nervy final few minutes Saracens showed great character in defence as Quins refused to give up, pushing at the Saracens line well after the clock had gone red. With a vocal crowd behind them Saracens gave it their all as Quins edged slowly closed to the line but the pressure eventually told when replacement prop Josh Ibuanokpe muscled over. The TMO was called in to confirm the score and Quins now trailed by just a single point. Lang stepped up to kick for the win, hitting the target to snatch victory by 30 points to 29.
Saracens: 15 Nathan Earle; 14 Ali Crossdale (Segun (52'), 13 Matt Gallagher (Segun 10'-12'), 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Mike Ellery; 10 Max Malins, 9 Tom Whiteley; 1 Richard Barrington (Thompson-Stringer 59'), 2 Christopher Tolofua (Spurling 59'), 3 Kieran Longbottom (Walker 69'), 4 Will Skelton, 5 Danny Cutmore; 6 Jack Nay, 7 Joel Conlon, 8 Ben Earl (c)
Replacements : 16 Tadgh McElroy, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Billy Walker, 19 Scott Spurling, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Al Gliksten, 22 Rueben Bird-Tulloch, 23 Rotimi Segun
Tries: Nay (36'); Earle (47'); Whiteley (53')
Cons: Malins 1/3
Penalties: Malins 4/4
Harlequins: 15 Tim Visser (Walters 72'); 14 Gabriel Ibitoye, 13 Harry Sloan, 12 James Lang, 11 Alofa Alofa; 10 Tim Swiel (Cheeseman 48), 9 Charlie Mulchrone (c) (Lewis 33'); 1 Lewis Boyce (Lambert 62). 2 Elia Elia (Piper 69'), 3 Josh McNulty (Ibuanokpe 59'); 4 George Merrick, 5 Charlie Matthews; 6 Ben Glynn, 7 Archie White, 8 Dino Lamb (Luamanu 52')
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 John Okafor, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Henry Cheeseman, 23 Calum Waters
Tries: Sloan (8'); Alofa (57'); Elia (65'); Ibuanokpe (80'+3')
Cons: Swiel 0/1; Lang 2/3
Penalties: Lang 2/2
Scoring Sequence 3-0 Malins pen; 3-5 Sloan try; 6-5 Malins pen; 9-5 Malins pen;14-5 Nay try;
16-5 Malins con; 21-5 Earle try; 26-5 Whiteley try; 26-10 Alofa try; 26-12 Lang con; Elia try 26-17;
26-20 Lang pen; 29-20 Malins pen; 29-23 Lang pen; 29-28 Ibuanokpe try; 29-30 Lang con:
Man of the Match: Tom Whiteley