It was billed as a battle between the two pretenders to Riki Flutey's inside-centre spot for England but that never really materialised. Jordan Turner-Hall and Brad Barritt will be kicking themselves at missing a golden opportunity to impress Brian Smith, England's attack coach, who was at The Stoop to run the rule over two candidates for the No 12 jersey against Australia in November.
Both were starved of possession as Saracens won an often ugly kickathon. Indeed Turner-Hall came off with a left shoulder injury that could rule him out of the autumn internationals. It leaves Smith and England manager Martin Johnson with a problem. There are few stand-out alternatives to Flutey, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury. It may mean turning to Shane Geraghty, who has started the season well for Northampton.
Johnson will also be waiting anxiously for an injury update on his captain, Steve Borthwick. The lock was an all-action hero as he helped the Sarries pack turn the tables on Quins, but was forced off late on with a rib injury. Brendan Venter, the Saracens director of rugby, was full of praise for Borthwick. "You don't just want a fantastic captain and a tremendous guy, you want a guy who is playing good rugby. And he is doing everything," he said.
Sarries' pragmatic approach did for the error-prone Quins. Derick Hougaard, the fly-half making his full debut, booted three penalties, two drop goals and converted a try by Kameli Ratuvou early in the second half. Quins' second-half display was shambolic at times. They are rooted to the bottom of the table and maybe the effects of the "Bloodgate" scandal have permeated the squad. "We are snatching at opportunities and there seems to be an anxiety in our play," said John Kingston, their head coach.
Harlequins: Penalties N Evans 3. Saracens: Try Ratuvou; Conversion Hougaard; Penalties Hougaard 3; Drop goals Hougaard 2.
Harlequins: U Monye; D Strettle (J Drauninui, 63), T Masson (R Clegg, 58), J Turner-Hall (N McMillan, 71), G Lowe; N Evans, S So'oialo (G Williams, 69); C Jones, G Botha (T Fuga, 58), M Lambert (J Andress, 67, A Croall, 78), L Stevenson, J Evans, C Robshaw (T Guest, 64), N Easter, W Skinner (capt).
Saracens: A Goode; N Cato (R Haughton, 58); K Ratuvou, B Barritt, C Wyles; D Hougaard, N de Kock (J Marshall, 71); R Gill (T Mercey, 55), S Brits, C Nieto (R Skuse, 66), S Borthwick (capt, F Ongaro, 78), T Ryder (H Vyvyan, 29), M Owen (J Melck, 50), A Saull, E Joubert.
Referee: C White (Gloucestershire)