Rugby Union: Quins find old swash and Saracens buckle

Harlequins 41 Saracens 28
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The Independent Online
THE PRE-MATCH prognosis could hardly have been worse for Harlequins. Four out of five league defeats, a 10-point lead reversed in injury time at Bedford last week, Zinzan Brooke absent after failing a late fitness test, reports of dissension in the dressing-room, and odds of 9-2 against them ending Saracens 100 per cent record on Saturday.

But within five minutes of the kick off Quins had scored two tries. They went on to add two more in the next half hour and left Saracens looking and playing as if they had not the faintest idea what had hit them.

The Saracens player-coach, Francois Pienaar, could find no excuses for what seemed an inexplicably lame performance in the opening period. "We played badly for the first 25 minutes and we got thumped," he said. But Saracens might have known it was not going to be their day when the stand- off Alain Penaud fumbled two easy chances in the first 10 minutes while his opposite number Thierry Lacroix was busy landing two pin-point 50- yard touch kicks in the same period.

From then on the Quins forwards took the game to the opposition in a passage of play as compelling as it was devastating. Their talismanic hooker Keith Wood characterised Quins new found passion. He was at the heart of every drive, ruck and maul, and even went on a 20-yard blind- side dash for a try of which a winger would have been proud.

Saracens rallied briefly in a ten minute spell either side of half time, a period which momentarily raised the spectre of Bedford in the mind of their director of rugby John Gallagher. "It did cross my mind that if we gave away three converted tries in the last 10 minutes we would have lost," he said ruefully. "Maybe we have lacked a little arrogance on the field, but we got it back today."

In the end it was not so much Quins' arrogance as Saracens' silly penalties close to their line which sealed the victory. Repeated offsides played directly into the unerring boots of John Schuster, and his two second half penalties, plus a late try by Daren O'Leary, put the match beyond an upset of even Bedford's proportions.

Harlequins: Tries Williams, Jenkins, Wood, O'Leary; Conversions Schuster 3; Penalties Schuster 5. Saracens: Tries Daniel, Penaud, Wallace; Conversions Penaud 3.

Harlequins: J Williams; D O'Leary, D Officer, J Schuster, D Luger; T Lacroix (capt), N Walshe (C Wright, 40); A Leach, R Jenkins, B Davison, G Morgan, G Llewellyn, G Halpin( J Leonard, 59), K Wood, D Barnes.

Saracens: M Singer; R Wallace, J Thomson, K Sorrell (S Ravenscroft, 40), B Daniel; A Penaud, K Bracken; T Diprose (capt), R Hill, T Coker, (F Pienaar, 51), D Grewcock, P Johns, P Wallace, G Chuter, R Grau.

Referee: C White (Gloucester).

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