MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 45-21 London Irish
Saracens Men ensured they will finish in top spot in the Gallagher Premiership with a brilliant 45-21 victory over London Irish at a raucous StoneX Stadium.
The Men in Black once again came from behind after slipping 10-0 down early on, but responded in outstanding fashion with tries from Alex Goode, Sean Maitland, Theo Dan and two from Eroni Mawi to register a bonus point win.
That win gives them plenty of confidence with the home semi-final on Saturday 13th May now looming large after they finish the regular season away at Bath in a fortnight.
In drizzly conditions it was Irish who went in front early on with just five minutes on the clock. A scrum penalty gave Paddy Jackson the chance to open his account for the day, and he did exactly that from 30 metres out to put the visitors 3-0 up.
It got better for the Exiles with 15 minutes gone as they crossed for their first try of the day. Rory Jennings’ brilliant 50:22 gave them a lineout just 10 metres from the line, and then the ball was shifted to skipper Matt Rogerson who managed to ground the ball despite Marco Riccioni’s excellent effort to hold him up. Jackson’s conversion made it 10-0 and meant Sarries would once again need to come from behind.
Sarries then began to get some much needed possession and a couple of glimpses got the fans off their seats. Ben Loader’s knock on spat out to Alex Lozowski on the wing who looked to cut back inside but the Irish defence scrambled back.
That pressure turned in to points when a high shot on Nick Tompkins earned the hosts a penalty, and Owen Farrell made no mistake as he cut the deficit to seven points.
Max Malins then thought he had scored when he gathered a loose ball and dived over under the sticks, but the TMO deemed the ball had gone forward in the process of grounding and Irish survived.
More possession followed, and that brought Sarries another penalty which Farrell slotted to cut the gap to four points as we approached half time.
Then came a crucial moment in the final play before the break as Alex Goode’s quick thinking saw him cruise through for a try as the hosts went in front for the first time in the match. He took a quick lineout and then the ball went from Malins, through Tompkins and Earl and then back inside to the veteran who could dive over in front of a jubilant North Stand. Farrell’s excellent conversion ensured his side went down the tunnel with a 13-10 lead.
Sarries started the second half with real intent and that was summed up by a barnstorming run from Theo Dan from turnover ball. He was stopped in his tracks but it was a high shot and Rob Simmons was sent to the sin-bin.
Irish were punished straight away as from the penalty Farrell kicked to the corner, and the ball went calmly from right to left, creating a huge overlap for Sean Maitland to stroll over. Farrell added the extras from the touchline as the lead stretched to 10 points.
Irish then earned a scrum penalty as they went in search of a way back in to the match, and after a spell in the 22 they got another penalty and Jackson opted for the posts as they got back to within one score.
Another penalty just five minutes later gave Jackson another shot after a huge hit on Hugh Tizard saw him penalised for holding on, and the Irishman was successful again to make it 20-16 with just under half an hour remaining.
Two consecutive scrums then resulted in two penalties for Sarries, and after a brief attempt in the corner they opted for the posts as Farrell edged them seven ahead as we entered he final quarter.
The game deciding moment then arrived as the excellent Theo Dan crashed over from a maul to give Sarries some much-needed breathing space.
A lovely break from Maitland saw him enter the 22 and his kick ahead almost popped up for Jackson Wray but Irish gathered, only to be penalised at the breakdown. The penalty was kicked to the corner, and Dan stayed composed at the back of the maul to dot down in then corner. Farrell was again on the money from the tee as the lead went up to 30-16.
The floodgates then threatened to open as the bonus point arrived just four minutes later. Eroni Mawi came on for his 50th appearance and scored with his first touch as Nick Isiekwe stole a lineout and then the Fijian flew out of the maul with a huge grin on his face to score. The conversion went just wide, but now Sarries had a 19 point lead.
Farrell was successful with his third penalty of the day with eight minutes left after another high shot on Tompkins, and the bench was then emptied as StoneX rose for so many of its star players.
Mawi marked his big day with another score to round off the win in style. Another kick in to the corner meant more front foot ball, and the Fijian picked a brilliant line and was never going to be stopped from close range. Farrell’s conversion made it 45-16 and put the cherry on top of a brilliant day for the North Londoners.
Mike Willemse got a consolation for the visitors with one minute left, but that proved to be the last action of a memorable day for everyone at Saracens.