Saracens absorbed the loss of three England stars to put Harlequins to the sword in a 38-10 Gallagher Premiership victory at The Stoop.
Ben Earl and Elliot Daly were lost to respective knee and hamstring injuries during the warm-up and just seconds into the game Alex Lozowski was forced off after twisting awkwardly when chasing down Marcus Smith.
The champions took the disruption in their stride, however, as they amassed six tries in a London derby that lacked the spite seen in recent years, with Harlequins far too submissive against the league’s best side.
Both teams’ World Cup players were on parade and it was Maro Itoje who stood out among them, the lock catching the eye with a couple of big runs but also proving a handful at close quarters.
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) November 18, 2023
Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt did little to impress England head coach Steve Borthwick, who was watching from the stands, but the fault for a meek Harlequins performance was hardly theirs alone.
Saracens’ pack was typically menacing from start to finish and they supplied the opening try as part of a frantic opening with the excellent Juan Martin Gonzalez driving over from short range.
The champions frequently shuttled the ball across the field and with some success, forcing Quins to scramble out wide.
When the home ruck defence had gone missing near the centre of the pitch, Saracens reacted in a flash with Andy Christie stampeding into space only for the supporting Ivan van Zyl to cut an awkward supporting line.
Quins were breached too easily again on the half-hour mark when a counter attack launched by Alex Goode was given legs by Itoje and a phase later Olly Hartley had barged over.
A line-out drive finished by Jamie George provided Saracens’ next try as the hosts continued to be overpowered up front and as they trudged off for half-time 19-3 behind, there was no obvious way back.
Their outlook continued to deteriorate as Christie added a maul try soon after the interval, registering the bonus point, but only once Itoje had staged a marauding run.
Smith was trying his best to inspire a revival, on one occasion using his footwork to weave into space, and it took a try-saving tackle from Alex Lewington to stop Quins from scoring.
Pressure was building on the Saracens line but they weathered the storm, advanced downfield and used a mixture of forward power and polished back play to cross through Tom Parton.
Lewington and Andre Esterhuizen exchanged tries and Saracens could have plundered one more late on but Tom Willis spilt the ball forward over the line following fine approach work by Gonzalez.