Saracens strengthened their title-winning credentials with a bonus-point 36-24 victory in a free-flowing encounter with local rivals Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership.
First-half tries from Alex Lozowski, Nick Tompkins and Andy Christie cancelled out Alex Dombrandt’s early score as the league leaders raced into a 22-7 half-time lead at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The away side hit back in the second half through Cadan Murley’s brace and Joe Marchant’s score but tries from Sean Maitland and Maro Itoje kept Quins at arm’s length and ensured victory and a home semi-final in the play-offs for Mark McCall’s side.
It was Quins who flew out of the traps with the quick thinking of veteran scrum-half Danny Care taking advantage of some sloppy defensive mistakes to allow Dombrandt to open the scoring.
Even the best teams switch off from time to time but Saracens responded in a manner befitting of their league position – Lozowski combining with Ben Earl to level the scores, before midfield partner Tompkins finished off a free-flowing move to put the home side 14-7 ahead after 15 minutes.
Owen Farrell demonstrated all his experience against fellow England fly-half Marcus Smith in the early goings and the Sarries captain added three points to his team’s total from the tee after Care was sin-binned following an infringement at the breakdown.
Harlequins tried to wrestle momentum back as the half wore on and carved out numerous openings in the opposition’s 22 but a combination of handling errors and dogged Saracens defending denied Tabai Matson’s side a much-needed score before the break.
Instead, it was Saracens who would demonstrate the required clinical edge to extend their lead on the stroke of half-time, Maitland releasing Christie down the right wing for the flanker to touch down for Sarries’ third try and a 22-7.
Just as they did in the first half Harlequins started fast and scored just three minutes into the second period with Smith’s pin-point pass allowing Murley to cross over in the left corner.
But once again it was Saracens’ composure in attack that kept their opposition at arm’s length with Maitland and Christie combining again for Saracens’ fourth try.
Another free-flowing move found Christie on the left wing with the flanker turning provider, drawing in two defenders before releasing his fellow Scottish international in acres of space as Saracens took a 29-12 lead.
Murley powered over again for his second try of the game shortly after but ill-discipline from Luke Northmore hindered Quins’ efforts, with Sarries making full use of the man advantage as Itoje bundled over from close range.
Quins continue to threaten and Marchant secured his side’s fourth try and a bonus point when he connected with Care’s cross-field kick but the league leaders held on for a well-deserved win that sees Quins remain eighth.
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Featured image credit: Ben Fleming