Saracens 36-24 Harlequins: Dominate display seals top-two Premiership finish for Sarries
Saracens’ greatest strength remains their inevitability.
The Men In Black were always going to win this match and lock down a top-two Gallagher Premiership finish – the 36-24 scoreline merely completed the formalities. Sarries have set up a home semi-final with three league games to play, thanks to a sizeable 11-point advantage at the top of the table.
Harlequins fought back from the brink on a number of occasions but never sufficiently to trouble the result. Technically this victory was five tries to four, but Saracens were ultimately far greater value than that.
Saracens’ only worry on a brisk day’s business in front of a 55,000 crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was an ankle injury to Owen Farrell. The England captain hobbled off in discomfort, but was all smiles when icing the problem joint on the subs’ bench.
No wonder Farrell could shrug off the setback. Any notion of a big Farrell-Marcus Smith supremacy battle evaporated on the hosts’ overall supremacy. Smith was left to try to conjure hitch-kick and goose-step magic. Never a good sign, save of course for those in the Saracens defensive line.
Alex Lozowski, Nick Tompkins, Andy Christie, Sean Maitland and Maro Itoje claimed the scores for Sarries, on another show of strength that can only be considered ominous for their rivals. Cadan Murley bagged a brace that owed much to twice upending Max Malins, while Alex Dombrandt and Joe Marchant also crossed for Quins.
The west Londoners were still well beaten in truth, and barring a late rally their play-off tilt is surely at an end.
Saracens were in control by the break. Dombrandt stepped in for an early Quins score, but the west Londoners could not sustain that pace.
Lozowski slipped in after a neat Farrell pop to cap two penalty lineouts. Tompkins followed suit just six minutes later, with Quins folding off only two phases.
Alex Goode’s grubber forced a 50-22 and the home men quickly turned that platform into their second try.
Danny Care’s yellow card for a professional infringement left Quins in major trouble, but Matson’s men leaked only Farrell’s penalty in that 10-minute spell a man down.
Smith offered a reasonable turn at scrum-half, but he himself would doubtless admit to wanting faster service in the 10 channel.
Christie romped in at the corner to hand Sarries the last word on a hectic half, Mako Vunipola scooping up a bobbling ball and feeding Goode to keep the move alive. Goode’s rapid take and give created the extra man, before Christie applied a neat finish.
Harlequins had to score first after the break to keep the clash alive, and Murley delivered a fine effort from Smith’s bullet miss-pass.
Quins could not live with Saracens’ breakdown might however, and Maitland notched the bonus-point try thanks to Malins’ cute grubber and Christie’s astute inside-ball.
The west London men refused to relent though, and Murley powered right over Malins for his second try.
Quins teed up their own final downfall thanks to Northmore’s utterly needless yellow card. The outside centre clotheslined Farrell after a failed charge-down, with the ball long gone. Northmore was relieved to avoid a red card, but Saracens preyed on Quins’ reduced numbers straight away.
Itoje powered in after a maul, less than a minute into the sin-bin, with Farrell slotting the extras.
Nick David’s half-field break should have brought a try for Quins, only for the full-back to knock on trying to ground the ball under Malins’ tackle.
Christie was sin-binned at the death, allowing Care to chip to the wing for Marchant to finish well. Farrell then hobbled off, before Alex Goode missed a late penalty shot.
Bigger days await Saracens in the next few weeks, but all evidence points to a group entirely prepared to thrive.