Friday, 27th March 2020 @ 00:00
Harlequins suffered a 38-24 defeat to rivals Saracens who withstood a Paul Lasike-inspired second half comeback.
Paul Gustard's men headed to Allianz Park off the back of a home win against Sale Sharks at The Stoop last Friday as rugby returned to the northern hemisphere.
The territorial kicking game started early, with Quins fly-half Marcus Smith exchanging multiple shots with the Saracens backline.
The early stages would prove beneficial for the home side on this occasion, with Sarries making their way into Quins’ half and sending Scotland wing Sean Maitland over in the corner for the first try of the day. Farrell’s conversion would go wide and right of the posts, seeing Quins concede an early 5-0 lead with just two minutes on the clock.
Straight back into action, both sides returned to attempting to apply positional pressure via the boot, with Quins fullback Mike Brown and wing Nathan Earle collecting with deft aerial skill and carrying hard back into the Saracens defensive line.
But Quins would concede again after both sides enjoyed spells in possession, with scrum-half Martin Landajo penalised for blocking Saracens number four Maro Itoje. Farrell’s second kick would find its target, with the home team extending their lead to eight points 14 minutes into the game.
Both sides trade possession and territory for the following quarter of an hour before Smith would take a drop goal on the half hour mark to bring the score to within five points. 31 minutes on the clock and the score reads Saracens 8, Harlequins 3.
Play resumes and Saracens charge down the right touchline, with blindside flanker Michael Rhodes offloads a ball that looks to have gone forward into the hands of wing Lewington. However, play continues and Itoje crashes over for a short-range score. Farrell’s conversion is good and the home side take a 12-point lead with 33 minutes gone. Saracens 15, Harlequins 3.
Saracens scrum-half Davies sniped over with less than a minute left on the clock to claim the home side’s third try. Farrell converts again. Saracens 22, Harlequins 3.
However, Quins are awarded a penalty ahead of the restart for a push on a Quins player by Farrell after the whistle, and we restart via the boot of Lang. Quins pressure with a driving maul within Saracens’ half but the huddle goes down and we head into the changing rooms.
It's Saracens who claim the next set of points, with Farrell converting another penalty after Quins were deemed to have infringed at the breakdown. 45 minutes on the clock and Saracens claim a 25-3 lead.
The highlight of the match for Quins so far comes through an opportunistic and physical burst from the foot of the ruck, from Quins blindside James Chisholm, charging 25 metres into Sarries’ half. But Quins struggle to make the most of Chisholm’s physical display and concede a breakdown penalty just before Saracens’ line, who clear their lines.
53 minutes in, and despite some staunch defensive efforts from Quins, Farrell adds another three to his side’s tally after an Itoje winning breakdown penalty, slotting the kick to take the score to Saracens 28, Harlequins 3.
After a number of second-half changes that see Tom Lawday, Dino Lamb, Scott Steele and Paul Lasike arrive to the field of play in place of Chisholm, Lewies, Landajo and Lang respectively, Harlequins claim their first try of the day, with big ball-carrying American international Lasike crashing over. Smith slots the conversion and the scoreboard reads 28-10 as we head towards another water break with eighteen minutes left to play.
Changes come once more shortly after another Farrell penalty with roughly a quarter of an hour left to play, with reserve hooker Joe Gray and tighthead prop Will Collier replace Scott Baldwin and Simon Kerrod respectively. With Farrell’s fourth penalty of the day Saracens lead 31-10 as Quins win a breakdown penalty ten metres from Sarries line. We take the scrum penalty…
Steele scores! The scrumhalf crashes over from short range shortly after another line-bending carry from Lasike to claim his first try in the Quarters in his second appearance. Smith adds the two, with the scoreboard reading Saracens 31, Harlequins 17 as the deficit is reduced.
Quins push forward and some strong chasing and tackling from the kick off pushes Vunipola backwards through a superb Dombrandt tackle. Quins continue to press but see a promising line out come to nothing. With 6 minutes left, Lasike crashes through the midfield to claim his second try of the game. Smith quickly slots home the conversion to leave Quins chasing a converted try to level the match.
Lewington scores to ruin the chance of a grandstand finale after a fortuitous deflection of a clearing kick from the full back, lands in the hands of Itoje who breaks forward and passes to Lewington to run into the corner and claim the bonus point for Saracens. Saracens then run down the clock in the final moments to seal the 38-24 win.
A stirring comeback from Harlequins is not quite enough this time and they will look ahead to matches against Worcester Warriors and Northampton Saints to push up the table.
Next match: Quins travel to Sixways on Wednesday 26th August to take on Worcester Warriors.