Match Reports

Harlequins defeated at Wembley

Saturday, 28th March 2015 @ 15:00

Harlequins suffered a bruising 42-14 defeat at the hands of Saracens in front of a world record club attendance at Wembley Stadium.

After an early try from Jack Clifford, Saracens responded with scores from Man of the Match Chris Wyles, Billy Vunipola and a brace from Chris Ashton.

Nick Evans could only add three penalties to Clifford’s earlier score for Harlequins, while Charlie Hodgson and Alex Goode shared the remaining 17 points for the hosts.

Saracens now sit in second place of the Aviva Premiership, while Harlequins will continue their battle for European qualification from eighth.

Making very few changes to the side that beat London Irish in the previous round, Harlequins were bolstered by the returning England internationals who, after an emotionally draining final weekend of the Six Nations, gave everything at the home of football.

It was another chance for many youngsters to get some valuable game time, while George Robson made his 200th appearance for the club.

Coming out of the blocks in perfect fashion, Clifford scored within the first minute. Pressurising Neil De Kock’s box kick, the back-row did enough to charge the ball down on the 22. Winning the foot race to the line he scored his fourth try of the season; Evans’ touchline conversion sailed wide.

A second opportunity to score  went begging moments later; Charlie Matthews wriggled the ball free in a tackle and his offload would have put Marland Yarde in for a stunning score had it not been for the resulting fumble.

Saracens are a dangerous outfit, which Harlequins have learnt on many occasions in recent past. Strettle scythed through the Harlequins defence and although Dave Ward did an excellent job to turn the ball over, the following clearance kick allowed the hosts to attack again.

Argentinian international Marcelo Bosch found a gap and the ball was then shipped between Ashton and De Kock before Wyles crossed the whitewash. The conversion from Hodgson put Saracens into a 7-5 lead.

Harlequins responded well but were again punished following a knock-on. Hopper fumbled gathering a flat pass from Danny Care and after David Strettle gathered possession in his 22, he hacked up field. With play now in the Harlequins 22, the pressurised Ugo Monye was shown yellow by Wayne Barnes for holding on close to his line. Hodgson extended the lead to 10-5.

Despite the numerical difference, Evans was able to add a penalty and bring the scores to within two points. As time progressed, it looked as if Monye’s time in the sin bin would go unpunished; that was until Ashton raced down the vacant wing, chipped over the defence and scored. Goode took over the kicking duties and added a penalty before half-time as Saracens led 21-8.

The second half by contrast was a very stop start affair until the 70 minute mark when things began to get scrappy. Ashton was only shown yellow after lifting Matt Hopper’s legs beyond the horizontal in a tackle, causing the Harlequins centre to land on his shoulders, narrowly missing his head. This tackle followed what appeared to be a no arms tackle by Jaques Burger on Kyle Sinckler earlier in the match.

Ashton’s yellow, on 72 minutes, did little to negatively impact the Saracens lead. The Saracens winger had already completed his brace of tries, as Evans kicked two further penalties in the second half as a response.

While down to 14 men, Strettle showed some expert footballing skills on the right wing, volleying a box kick away from touch, before Wyles gathered and scored the bonus point try. In the final minute of the match, Billy Vunipola rumbled over from the back of a maul and the following conversion, completed the 42-14 victory.