Rugby Union: Lynagh frees Saracens' spirit and flair

Saracens 28 Harlequins 20
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The Independent Online
In the end, one kick settled it. It was only to be expected with Michael Lynagh on one side and Thierry Lacroix on the other, two veritable masters of the boot. But it was not a kick at goal and came in the middle of an entertaining match studded with five tries.

Harlequins had just scored one of those tries, by Laurent Cabannes, and Lacroix had converted to inch them into the lead. Saracens were flagging. Their forwards looked shattered. From the restart following that Quins try, the ball was recycled on Saracens side. Then came the kick. Lynagh launched a towering one. From the ensuing maul, Saracens drove upfield and Tony Diprose, their captain, plunged over for a critical try. They were back in the lead, by a point.

From then on, cheered on by the biggest home crowd, around 8,200, in their history, Saracens threw themselves into attack and Tony Copsey was driven over with five minutes remaining. Lynagh's conversion took them two scores in front; a score too far for Harlequins, but enough to lift Saracens into sixth place in the Courage Championship.

But it would have been a travesty if Quins had won. Saracens defended astoundingly well. If the back row were not putting their bodies on the line then the backs, notably Philippe Sella, did.

One tackle by Matt Evans on Thierry Lacroix, when the former France stand- off was centimetres from the line in the closing minutes was miraculous.

It was the first time the Saracens back row triumvirate of Pienaar, Diprose and Hill had been in harness, but it did not show. Diprose, Richard Hill and Francois Pienaar seemed to live perpetually in the faces of the opposition. Even Cabannes was eclipsed. Recycling was rapid and to the point. Lynagh found himself with plenty of time to decide what to do. There were some wonderful touches by the world-record points scorer in internationals, who used his hands and feet to devastating effect.

His timing of the pass was superb and he had a hand in their opening try at the start of the second half, feeding Diprose who then sent Sella over in the corner. Lacroix had kept Harlequins in touch, but was unable to match Lynagh's control of affairs and, anyway, too often Quins found themselves on the back foot as the Saracen hordes swarmed upfield. Daren O'Leary was handed a soft try shortly before Cabannes crossed for his, but the reality was that Quins were second best. Missed tackles, fumbled ball and Saracens spirit and flair accounted for them.

Saracens: Tries Sella, Diprose, Copsey; Conversions Lynagh 2; Penalties Lynagh 2; Drop goal Lynagh. Harlequins: Tries O'Leary, Cabannes; Conversions Lacroix 2; Penalties Lacroix 2.

Saracens: M Evans, R Wallace, P Sella, S Ravenscroft, K Chesney; M Lynagh, K Bracken; T Daly, G Botterman, A Olver (P Wallace, 64), C Yandell (P Johns, 59), T Copsey, F Pienaar (G Clark, 78), R Hill, T Diprose (capt).

Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary, W Carling, P Mensah, D Luger; T Lacroix, H Harries; J Leonard (capt), P Delaney (H Brown, 59-68), L Benezech, M Watson, G Llewellyn, R Jenkins, L Cabannes, B Davison.

Referee: A Spreadbury (Somerset).