Harlequins 12 Saracens 22 match report: Owen Farrell adds the points as Saracens power forward

Evans’ four penalties prove to be in vain as Harlequins are outmuscled in cross-capital derby

Twickenham Stoop

It will one of the fascinations of the unfolding season to discover whether anyone can live with Saracens’ power for a full 80 minutes. Toulouse will give it a go in the Heineken Cup at Wembley the week after next; Northampton and Toulon had Sarries’ number in Premiership and European semi-finals at the back end of last season. But England’s current league leaders appear to be growing stronger even as their backroom staff travel the globe tapping up talent from Russian clubs to Tongan youngsters.

A passage of play 10 minutes from full time summed up Quins’ plight. Often referred to as the “red zone”, the five metres closest to Saracens’ goal-line had been foreign territory to the home team all afternoon but there they were, with Mo Fa’asavalu, whose temper had got the better of him earlier in a fierce battle of the back-rows, surging manfully forwards. Saracens swarmed around the Samoan and Mako Vunipola, who had a fine all-round match, stripped him of possession.

When Quins earned a penalty four minutes later Nick Evans accepted the shot at the posts and the chance at least of a losing bonus point. But, having kicked everything well in a wind-assisted first half, Evans hit the right-hand post and Duncan Taylor belted the ball clear.

Harlequins had swooped like ravenous wolves on a series of ponderous Saracens passes in the first quarter, eager to avoid a second home loss in the season’s opening month. The other had been to another title contender, Northampton. Everyone is aware the Premiership cannot be lost in September – “We won home and away to Northampton and Leicester last season and they went to the final,” said Quins’ director of rugby, Conor O’Shea, “and you can’t overreact either way” – but it was important to Quins that their forwards, lacking the injured Nick Kennedy and retired Olly Kohn, had the weapons to hurt a Saracens team chasing what would have been a record start of four bonus-point wins on the spin.

What did hurt Harlequins was that the referee, Martin Fox, was penalising them after the tackle, even when they were going forward through the contact, but Saracens were certainly knocked off their stride, epitomised by the yellow card their England full-back Alex Goode earned when he leant into Ugo Monye near the halfway line to prevent the wing chasing a chip ahead.

Evans had a horror night with the boot in that Saints defeat, but the fly-half kicked four penalties from four attempts in the first half, answered by two from Owen Farrell.

The most eye-catching incident came five minutes before the break when Kelly Brown caught Quins off- guard with a run from the front of a line-out, and the Scot would have scored had it not been for a brilliant cover tackle by Tom Williams.

While the wing, who had led Quins out on his 200th appearance, was busy getting his leg under Brown’s body, other players arrived for a row among themselves. Robshaw gave one of his predecessors as England captain, Steve Borthwick, the mildest of slaps but Fa’a savalu grabbed a fistful of the Saracens flanker Jacques Burger’s curly hair, and went to the sin-bin.

Farrell’s influence gradually increased as his distribution improved, and though Saracens did not often launch the Vunipola brothers Mako and Billy across the gain line, they were strong in other areas. The scrums yielded little playable ball, and anyway Saracens were happiest keeping the ball in – despite having the carrying threat of the younger Vunipola in his favourite position at No 8. The 22-year-old former Wasp may have dropped four stones since his teens but Saracens’ change kit did him no sartorial favours – his grey shorts looked as if they had done previous service as an America’s Cup mainsail.

And though Saracens are much more than just bulky brutes, they were never more scarily intimidating than when James Johnston, who transferred from Harlequins in the summer, trundled on. A one-man cavalry charge, and you fancied you saw some Quins shoulders slumping as the substitution was made.

It came near the end of a third quarter in which Saracens took control. Farrell missed a long-range penalty but soon afterwards the young Lion dummied an outside pass, held off Tom Casson’s grab of his jersey and freed Chris Wyles, who sent Chris Ashton through to score at the posts, Farrell converting. Next, a 35-metre drive by Saracens’ forwards – seeing and raising the earlier good mauling work by Quins – was dragged down, Joe Marler departed to the sin-bin and Farrell’s penalty had Sarries 16-12 up.

Despite the long- and short-term absences respectively of Brad Barritt and Joel Tomkins from their midfield, Saracens ploughed on regardless, with penalties by Farrell on 63 and 67 minutes, the second after George Robson had dived desperately into a line-out drive.

“This was our most satisfying win so far,” said Mark McCall, O’S hea’s Saracens counterpart. “We just built pressure on them all the way through the second half.”

Line-ups:

Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams (B Botica, 62), G Lowe (M Hopper, 15-19, 30), T Casson, U Monye; N Evans, D Care (K Dickson, 68); J Marler, R Buchanan (D Ward, 57), W Collier (K Sinckler, 68), N Easter, G Robson (J Trayfoot, 22-32), M Fa’asavalu (L Wallace, 72), C Robshawe (capt), T Guest (M Lambert, 60-65; Trayfoot, 70).

Saracens: A Goode; C Ashton (J Wilson, 78), C Wyles (M Tagicakibau, 77), D Taylor, D Strettle; O Farrell, R Wigglesworth (N de Kock, 51); M Vunipola (N Auterac, 78), S Brits (J George, 73), M Stevens (J Johnston, 57), S Borthwick (capt), G Kruis (A Hargreaves, 51), K Brown (J Wray, 73), J Burger, B Vunipola.

Referee: Martin Fox.

 

 

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there