Match Report: Saracens Men 28 - 21 Harlequins
Saracens Men opened their Premiership Rugby Cup campaign in impressive style with a deserved 28-21 victory over Harlequins at StoneX Stadium.
The Men in Black scored four tries on their way to a bonus-point win, as Richard Barrington and Dom Morris both crossed as well as Theo McFarland who scored twice on his first start for the club.
Both sides looked rusty in the opening stages with chances hard to come by, the best one coming courtesy of Ruben de Haas who looked to make a snipe from the back of a lineout bus his inside ball went to ground.
Just as an uneventful opening quarter drew to a close Sarries took the lead as Richard Barrington opened the scoring. Theo McFarland’s acrobatic offload found Duncan Taylor in space and the Scottish centre went right up to the line before the prop drove over from the following phase. Manu Vunipola’s conversion put the hosts 7-0 ahead with 17 minutes on the clock.
Quins then had a spell of possession and they thought a try had been scored but we came back for an earlier knock on, before a maul powered towards the line for them however Cameron Boon had other ideas and his brilliant defensive work ensured Saracens survived.
Huw Jones then danced through the defence for the visitors as they looked to get level, but his offload to Stephan Lewies allowed Elliott Obatoyinbo to scramble back and drag him in to touch.
The Men in Black then went in search of another score before half time, and it looked likely to arrive when Obatoyinbo stepped to the last man and released Ben Harris, but just as he dived for the line the defence managed to get in the way.
The score did arrive on 32 minutes, and it was worth the wait as Dom Morris flew over for a brilliant score. A set move off the top of the lineout saw Rotimi Segun carry and then release the centre who used his searing pace to race away from 35 metres to score. Vunipola’s touchline conversion put the hosts 14-0 ahead.
That lead was cut in half just two minutes later though, as a penalty from the restart was kicked to the corner and then Matas Jurevicius went over from the maul to score Quins’ first of the day. Jamie Benson added the extras, meaning Sarries had a 14-7 advantage as we headed towards half time.
Crucially Sarries got their noses further ahead just before the break in the final play of the first half. Phase after phase of powerful carries took them up to the line, and then the impressive McFarland hammered over from close range to extend the lead. Vunipola’s third conversion ensured his side ran down the tunnel with a 21-7 lead.
It was Quins who started the second half on the front foot, and they scored just seven minutes after the restart to get back in to the match. They had a lineout deep in the 22, and it was spun straight to Archie White who scored in the corner. The conversion then made it a seven-point game with 30 minutes left.
Sarries hit back straight away to get the bonus point score immediately. Taylor’s grubber saw them enter the 22, and then they waited patiently before releasing McFarland who crossed in the corner for his second of the afternoon. Vunipola, who was kicking brilliantly reinstated the 14 point lead from the tee.
The second half then became slightly disjointed with both sides making a whole host of replacements, and it came alive in the final 10 minutes.
Nick David scored a long range effort as Quins broke the defence out wide to allow the full-back a clear run from 30 metres, and the conversion cut the lead to just seven points with five minutes left.
It then looked certain that the West Londoners would get back level as Benson dummied right up to the line, but then in admirable fashion the Sarries defence held them up over the line to get a much needed goal line drop out.
That was how the score would remain to secure a 28-21 win, as Sarries made an ideal start to the Cup and now they prepare to head to London Irish for Round Two on Friday night.