PREMIERSHIP WRAP: Following their shock win against Sale Sharks, Harlequins suffered a 24-38 defeat to Saracens on Saturday.
The Saracens, who are relegated to the Championship next year, outscored the visitors four tries to two at Allianz Park in London.
The England champions welcome back talisman Owen Farrell, who made his first appearance since England’s Six Nations victory Wales on March 7.
Making his 200th appearance for Saracens, the England star added 16-points to his team’s tally during the London derby.
The territorial kicking game started early, with Quins flyhalf Marcus Smith exchanging multiple shots with the Saracens backline.
The early stages would prove beneficial for the home side on this occasion, with Sarries making their way into Quins’ half and sending Scotland wing Sean Maitland over in the corner for the first try of the day. Farrell’s conversion would go wide and right of the posts, seeing Quins concede an early 5-0 lead with just two minutes on the clock.
Quins conceded again after both sides enjoyed spells in possession, with scrumhalf Martin Landajo penalised for blocking Saracens number four Maro Itoje. Farrell’s second kick would find its target, with the home team extending their lead to eight points 14 minutes into the game.
Both sides trade possession and territory for the following quarter of an hour before Smith would take a drop goal on the half hour mark to bring the score to within five points. 8-3 to Saracens after 31 minutes.
Play resumes and Saracens charge down the right touchline, with blindside flank Michael Rhodes offloads a ball that looks to have gone forward into the hands of wing Lewington. However, play continues and Itoje crashes over for a short-range score. Farrell’s conversion is good and the home side take a 12-point lead with 33 minutes gone. Saracens 15, Harlequins 3.
Saracens scrumhalf Davies sniped over with less than a minute left on the clock to claim the home side’s third try. Farrell converts again for a 22-3 lead at the break.
Saracens extended their lead with Farrell converting another penalty after Quins were deemed to have infringed at the breakdown.
53 minutes in and Farrell added another three to his side’s tally after an Itoje winning breakdown penalty, slotting the kick to take the score to Saracens 28-3.
After a number of second-half changes that see Tom Lawday, Dino Lamb, Scott Steele and Paul Lasike arrive to the field of play in place of Chisholm, Lewies, Landajo and Lang respectively, Harlequins claim their first try of the day, with big ball-carrying American international Lasike crashing over. Smith slots the conversion and the scoreboard reads 28-10 as we head towards another water break with eighteen minutes left to play.
Just after the break, Farrell slotted the fourth penalty of the day for a 31-10 lead.
However, Harlequins did not surrender and scrumhalf Steele crashed over from short range shortly. Smith added the two, to reduce the deficit.
Quins push forward and some strong chasing and tackling from the kick-off pushes Vunipola backwards through a superb Dombrandt tackle. Quins continue to press but see a promising line outcome to nothing. With 6 minutes left, Lasike crashes through the midfield to claim his second try of the game. Smith quickly slots home the conversion to leave Quins chasing a converted try to level the match.
Lewington scores to ruin the chance of a grandstand finale after a fortuitous deflection of a clearing kick from the full back, lands in the hands of Itoje who breaks forward and passes to Lewington to run into the corner and claim the bonus point for Saracens, who run down the clock in the final moments to seal the 38-24 win.
Meanwhile, at Twickenham Stoop, Northampton Saints recorded a comfortable 27-3 win over London Irish.
Bath kept themselves firmly in the Premiership play-off picture by crushing an inexperienced Leicester side 38-16 at Welford Road.
Leicester fielded one of their youngest starting line-ups in Premiership history, with head coach Steve Borthwick handing out three debuts, making 13 changes and resting all his England contingent apart from prop Dan Cole.
Saracens 38-24 Harlequins
Tries: Maitland, Itoje, Davies, Lewington
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 4
Tries: Lasike, Steele
Cons: Smith 3
Drop Goal: Smith
Saracens: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Dom Morris, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Mike Rhodes, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Sam Crean
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Juan Pablo Socino, 23 Manu Vunipola
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Aaron Morris, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 James Lang, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Will Collier, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Will Evans, 22 Scott Steele, 23 Paul Lasike
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Jamie Leahy & Paul Dix
TMO: Geoff Warren
London Irish 3-27 Northampton Saints
For London Irish:
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Collins, Ludlam, Haywood, Tuala
London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Matt Williams, 12 Theo Brophy Clews, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Jack Cooke, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 George Nott, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Matt Cornish, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Ben Donnell, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Jacob Atkins, 23 Ross Neal
Northampton: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ryan Olowofela, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Shaun Adendorff, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Tui Uru, 21 Tom James, 22 Reuben Bird-Tulloch, 23 Ahsee Tuala
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson & Mike Hudson
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Leicester Tigers 16-38 Bath
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Clare, Wallace
Pens: McPhillips 2
Tries: Stuart, Dunn, McConnochie, Boyce, Obano, De Glanville.
Cons: Priestland 3, Spencer
Yellow card: Taulupe Faletau (Bath, 60)