Harlequins 16 Saracens 20: Skirving's late lunge saves Saracens' skins

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The Independent Online

Saracens pulled off a thrilling victory over Harlequins at the Stoop last night after it looked as if the home side had just nicked the Premiership win for themselves.

Ben Skirving found himself on the end of a punishing Saracens attack and lunged over the line in the left-hand corner with three minutes remaining.

That was just five minutes after Quins had nosed ahead themselves after replacement fly-half Andrew Mehrtens had sparked the move for Quins' only try.

Heavy traffic around south-west London had caused a 10-minute delay to the kick-off. But thankfully the fog lifted enough to allow the match to go ahead and Saracens were ahead within 43 seconds of Harlequins kicking off.

A turnover saw the Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson get his hands on the ball and hoof it upfield with Thomas Castaignède and Dan Scarbrough giving chase.

Wing Scarbrough managed to toe-poke it ahead and the ball rolled over the home line. Frenchman Castaignède flew through and got the touchdown.

It was Castaignède who triggered the second score when he gathered a steepling high kick, the ball went left, before a kick ahead and Kameli Ratuvou powered through the murk on the far side to win the second chase of the night.

But the promise of a runaway win was quickly dashed, because Saracens then found themselves under pressure for the bulk of the rest of the first half as the home side asserted its superiority up front, it was only Harlequins' lack of finishing that spared the north Londoners, as they found themselves conceding penalties in dangerous areas of the pitch - that is, too close to their line far too often than was healthy.

It was from a couple of those penalties, towards the end of the first half, that Quins eventually got on the scoresheet when Adrian Jarvis, who had missed an earlier attempt, finally succeeded with two and added a third in the opening minutes of the second half.

But two further misses by Jarvis sandwiching a successful one by Jackson heralded the replacement of the Quins fly-half with Mehrtens, who instantly had the 10,000-plus crowd on its feet and roaring with a quick break.

Shortly after, a long miss-pass by Mehrtens went slightly awry but full-back Mike Brown scooped it up on the second bounce and put Tom Williams over on the left. Mehrtens then converted to give Quins that short-lived lead.

Harlequins: Tries Williams; Conversion Mehrtens; Penalties Jarvis 3. Saracens: Tries Castaignède, Ratuvou, Skirving; Conversion Jackson; Penalty Jackson

Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle, H Luscombe, S Abbott, T Williams; A Jarvis (A Mehrtens, 69), A Gomarsall (S So'oialo, 74); C Jones, T Fuga, M Ross, O Kohn, S Miall (J Evans, 68), A Vos (capt), W Skinner, C Hala'ufia (T Guest, 80).

Saracens: T Castaignède; D Scarbrough, K Sorrell, A Farrell, K Ratuvou; G Jackson, N de Kock; K Yates, F Ongaro (M Cairns, 68), C Visagie (T Mercey, 79), I Fullarton, S Raiwalui (capt; K Chesney,53-64), H Vyvyan (K Chesney, 64), R Hill (D Seymour, 80), B Skirving.

Referee: S Davey (Sussex).

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