Ruthless Saracens put Saints to the sword
PREMIERSHIP WRAP: A hat-trick from Scotland wing Sean Maitland helped Saracens to an astonishing 55-24 humiliation of fellow English giants Northampton Saints.
The bonus-pointy wein was achieved in their opening Premiership match at Twickenham on Saturday.
It was no second-string Saints side either with the likes of Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley in the forwards and former England backs Ben Foden and Luther Burrell also starting.
Saracens steamrollered Northampton in the first half - it was the most points Saints had conceded in one half in their Premiership history - with Alex Lozowski bringing up the bonus point for four tries after only the half-hour mark.
Elsewhere, last season's beaten finalists Wasps showed that extra-time defeat to Exeter, who lost 21-28 to Gloucester on Friday, was behind them as scrumhalf Dan Robson scored four tries in an enthralling 50-35 victory over Sale Sharks which featured 12 tries in total.
The Sharks, who are seen as dark horses for the play-offs at least, looked down and out when they trailed 14-36, but pulled it back to 28-36 only for Wasps to race away again.
Robson was unable to break the Premiership record for tries in a match of six - jointly held by Wasps team-mate Christian Wade (against Worcester in 2016) and Saracens Ryan Constable (against Bedford in 2000) - as he went off in the second half.
We look at all the Saturday matches!
Saracens 55-24 Northampton
Sean Maitland scored a first-half hat-trick as Saracens cruised past Northampton Saints 55-24 in the opening game of the London double header - scoring nine tries in the process.
Flyhalf Alex Lozowski, captain Brad Barritt, Richard Wigglesworth and Vincent Koch took Saracens' first-half try tally to seven in their first outing of the new Premiership season.
Lewis Ludlum and Tom Wood (2) crossed for the Saints in the second half but tries from Schalk Brits and Ben Spencer kept Saracens well clear on the scoreboard.
The reigning European champions were beaten by eventual winners Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership semifinals last year but were at their clinical best at Twickenham with Lozowski ending with 13 points.
Barritt opened the scoring inside ten minutes after a delayed short pass from Lozowski and Wigglesworth stretched over under the posts just three minutes later.
Maitland's first, after a long pass from Barritt, made it 17-0 before Harry Mallinder managed to get Northampton Saints on the board with a penalty.
Lozowski dotted over for the try bonus point inside half an hour with Maitland going over twice before Koch rounded off a seven-try first half.
Ludlum found a gap in the Saracens defence to reduce the deficit to 41-10 after 43 minutes as Mallinder successfully added the extras with Saracens' Maitland replaced by Chris Wyles soon after.
Brits had Saracens' eighth try of the afternoon, with Lozowski adding the conversion, with the hooker substituted almost immediately to a rapturous reception from the Twickenham crowd.
Wood then demonstrated Saints resolve with two tries, the second grounded against the base of the goalpost after a series of pick and go drives from the forwards in the Saracens 22.
But Saracens took their total beyond 50 when Ben Spencer dotted down in the 69th minute.
Tries: Barritt, Wigglesworth, Maitland 3, Lozowski, Koch, Brits, Spencer
Cons: Lozowski 5
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Ludlam, Wood 2
Cons: Mallinder 3
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Dominic Day, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Chris Wyles.
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ben Foden, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Harry Mallinder, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Ken Pisi.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace, Roy Maybank
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Wasps 50-35 Sale Sharks
Four-try Dan Robson stole the show as Wasps began their 150th anniversary season with victory over Sale Sharks.
The hosts got off to a flying start as Christian Wade and debutant Gaby Lovobalavu combined to set up Robson for an early score, Jimmy Gopperth adding the extras.
With 13 minutes gone, Robson got himself on the scoresheet once again as he exploited the blindside to break free and dot down, reigning Premiership player of the season Gopperth again converting.
Four minutes later, Wasps sprung into action again as Tom Cruse pickpocketed Sale and fed Danny Cipriani, who freed up Wade to cross the whitewash to make it 21-0, with help from the boot of Gopperth.
Sale finally got themselves up and running in the 22nd minute via Byron McGuigan, with his try converted by AJ MacGinty, but a Gopperth penalty shortly afterwards made it 24-7.
Before the break arrived, Robson was celebrating a first-half treble as he collected Nathan Hughes' pass and blazed his way over the trial, Gopperth again successfully converting.
However, almost immediately from the resultant restart, a Gopperth kick was charged down and Ben Curry scored at the other end, MacGinty adding the extras to make it 31-14.
Robson continued his heroics four minutes into the second period, storming over for his fourth try of the game after a break from Wade but with a quarter of the game to go, Sharks hit back through Denny Solomona, MacGinty converting.
Francois de Klerk, on debut, then twanged home supporters' nerves as he charged over the line, MacGinty again dissecting the posts as the visitors reduced the deficit to eight points.
However, despite turning the screws in the latter stages, Sale would ultimately fail to pull off an unlikely comeback, with Will Rowlands and Alex Rieder both bagging converted scores late on.
There was still time for Josh Strauss to barge over for the visitors, MacGinty adding the extras once more.
Tries: Robson 4, Wade, Rowlands, Reider
Cons: Gopperth 6
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: McGuigan, Curry, Solomona, De Klerk, Strauss
Cons: MacGinty 5
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Gaby Lovobalavu, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Alex Rieder, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Will Rowlands, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Juan De Jongh, 23 Marcus Watson.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Will Addison, 12 Sam James, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Josh Beaumont, 4 Bryan Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Alex Tarus, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Tom Curry, 22 Will Cliff, 23 Mark Jennings.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Michael Hudson
TMO: David Sainsbury
London Irish 39-29 Harlequins
London Irish had the perfect return to the Premiership as Tommy Bell kicked 24 points in a 39-29 victory over Harlequins at Twickenham with both teams scoring try bonus points.
Bell got one of four Irish tries in the London Double Header fixture with the club's all-time leading tryscorer Topsy Ojo, No.8 Ofisa Treviranus and Brendan McKibbin also dotting down.
Harlequins replied through Joe Marchant before a trio of tries in quick succession from Marland Yarde, Danny Care and Charlie Walker reduced the deficit to just three points.
But McKibbin's late try sealed a winning return to Premiership for London Irish.
London Irish raced out of the blocks as Tommy Bell knocked over two early penalties. Marcus Smith got Harlequins on the board with a penalty before Topsy Ojo flew down the right wing with Fergus Mulchrone in support to score the games' opening try.
Bell burst clear after collecting a Blair Cowan offload to extend the newly-promoted side's lead but when Jamie Roberts fed Joe Marchant to dot down Harlequins were right back into it.
Another Bell penalty, this third of the afternoon, made it 21-10 to Irish at the break.
Harlequins saw replacement Catrakilis sent to the sin bin for a ruck infringement after 53 minutes with Bell knocking over a simple penalty for Irish before the second half ignited.
First, Treviranus added the finishing touch to a fine Irish move for his side's third try of the afternoon before Yarde offered Harlequins late hope.
And the lightning quick Care followed up his assist with a score of his own and despite Mike Brown getting sin binned, Walker earned Harlequins a try bonus point and brought them back to within three.
But the game was eventually settled by McKibbin's late intervention as Irish left Twickenham with the full five points.
For London Irish:
Tries: Ojo, Bell, Treviranus, McKibbin
Cons: Bell 2
Pens: Bell 5
Tries: Marchant, Yarde, Care, Walker
Cons: Smith, Catrakilis 2
London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Topsy Ojo, 10 James Marshall, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Mike Coman, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 David Paice (captain), 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi.
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Conor Gilsenan, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Dave Ward, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Ben Glynn, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Winston Stanley.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Keith Lewis