The first try of this invigorating London derby was contaminated by controversy as the referee, Tony Spreadbury, one of the best in the business, found himself isolated. Neil de Kock's seven-pointer at the posts would probably have been vetoed had it gone to a video official but that option was not available.
Referees can only call on the "eye in the sky" if the match is televised. This one wa not so Spreadbury had to make a snap judgement and it looks as if he got it wrong. The Guinness Premiership is always banging on about the huge progress made since the game went professional 12 seasons ago and it has much to be proud of, but in this regard it is made to look amateurish.
With so much at stake, the inconsistency is intolerable. Why cannot the clubs set up their own cameras to help eliminate such cock-ups? They say it is too expensive. In that case perhaps they should do away with the television match official altogether. At least then everybody would know where they stood.
Where Spreadbury was standing was about 20 yards behind the action when a cross-kick by the excellent Kameli Ratavou he had been released down Saracens' left wing by a quite magical piece of work in midfield by the giant Samoan prop Cencus Johnston resulted in a chase between De Kock and Ugo Monye. It was close but it looked as if Monye got his right hand to the ball first. Spreadbury shot a glance at one of his touch judges, who appeared to shrug his shoulders, before giving De Kock the benefit of any doubt. Cue a major outbreak of booing.
It was all very unsatisfactory, particularly as it gave Saracens a half-time lead of 10-3 and the margin at the end remained seven points. Dean Richards, the Harlequins coach, said "it didn't look like a try", and nor was he happy with the try by Brent Russell early in the second half which gave the visitors a 20-6 cushion.
Most tries are scored after anything up to half a dozen phases; this gem came from one. Chris Jack, the All Black recruit, won a line-out just inside the Quins half and De Kock delivered a perfect pass to Glen Jackson, who looped outside Andy Farrell before sending Kevin Sorrell screaming down the middle. The centre gave a short, stunning, try-scoring pass to his full-back, Russell. Richards was adamant that the final pass was forward.
There were three more tries, two by Quins with Monye getting a seven-pointer seven minutes from the end, but it still left them seven behind. They got a losing bonus point but they have lost seven and drawn one in eight matches and are out of the Heineken and EDF Energy Cups.
Under De Kock's captaincy Saracens are looking very useful indeed. "We're trying to compete with the elite," Alan Gaffney, their coach, said. On Saturday night they went to a fancy dress party at their old Southgate ground. They could have gone under the guise of serious contenders.
Harlequins: Tries Fuga, Monye; Conversions Jarvis 2; Penalties Jarvis 2. Saracens: Tries De Kock, Russell, Penney; Conversions Jackson 3; Penalties Jackson 2.
Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle, De Wet Barry, J Turner-Hall, U Monye; A Jarvis, A Gomarsall (S So'oialo, 55); C Jones, G Botha (T Fuga, 55), M Ross, O Kohn (J Percival, 63), J Evans, C Robshaw (C Hala'Ufia, 63), N Easter(capt), W Skinner.
Saracens: B Russell; R Haughton (R Penney, 55), K Sorrell, A Farrell, K Ratavou; G Jackson, N de Kock (capt); N Lloyd, F Ongaro, C Johnston, H Vyvyan, C Jack, K Chesney (T Ryder, 59), B Skirving (A Kyriacou, 77), R Hill (D Seymour, 59).
Referee: T Spreadbury(Somerset).Reuse content