London Irish vs Saracens match report: Alex Goode stars in first Premiership match on foreign soil

London Irish 16 Saracens 26

Simon Rice@simonrice
Saturday 12 March 2016 23:14
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Alex Goode in action for Saracens against London Irish
Alex Goode in action for Saracens against London Irish

Playing under the clear blue skies of New Jersey, it was a new dawn for Premiership Rugby, but for London Irish and Saracens it was a familiar story

Competing in the first ever competitive Premiership match on foreign soil things went as expected with bottom of the table Irish losing 26-16 to top of the league Saracens - but it was mighty close for much of the contest.

Playing as the home side at the Red Bull Arena, London Irish would have been hoping a change of scene could be the catalyst for a change in fortunes and they made a positive start. Alex Lewington was denied an early try by TMO which meant Greg Tonks was able to claim the first Premiership points scored on US soil when he put a penalty through the posts.

Saracens, bolstered by the return of Alex Goode following his release from Eddie Jones' England squad, saw the international score the first try of the afternoon when he capitalised on a loose tackle from Luke Narraway.

But just moments later it was Goode's turn to make a mistake, his limp attempt at a tackle playing its part in allowing Alex Newington to put Irish 10-7 ahead. Another penalty from Tonks saw Irish leading 13-7 at the break and it could have been better had the ball bounced more kindly for Topsy Ojo when he threatened to get over the line.

With Ben Spencer missing a couple of penalties in the first half, Goode took over kicking duties and a trio of them early in the second period had Saracens in the lead for the first time in the match.

Tonks hit back and with the score at 16-16 the game was set up for a nail-biting finish (but no overtime as some of the locals may have been asking) only for Goode to sneak a long penalty over the bar.

With seven minutes remaining Tonks had the chance to level it up with a penalty from distance but his kick went wide of the posts and that was to be the last chance for London Irish to get back into the match.

The Premiership trophy in Times Square

With just a couple of minutes remaining Marcelo Bosche gave the game a late flourish of excitement with a try following his charge down. Goode then converted, the England main rightfully having the last say on the match.

The win for Saracens puts them back at the top of the table and leaves London Irish returning home knowing that relegation from the Premiership is becoming more of an inevitability with every passing fixture.

For the Premiership overall the result was of little importance - what mattered was that this game, being screened to households across America on NBC and watched by 14,811 in the stadium, provided a showcase for the sport.

Despite a trio of collapsed scrums late in the first half it was an entertaining game and one that may have just helped pick up a few new fans in unfamiliar territory.

BT Sport is the only place to watch top live matches from the Aviva Premiership, European Rugby Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup.

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