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Ashton doubles up as Saracens run riot against champions Leicester

Chris Ashton of Saracens charges upfield. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images Chris Ashton of Saracens charges upfield. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Saturday, December 21, 2013
5:44 PM

Premiership: Saracens 49 Leicester Tigers 10

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Saracens started Christmas early as they inflicted champions Leicester’s heaviest defeat in the Premiership with a stunning bonus point victory to start the festive period where they have been all season so far – top of the league.

Chris Ashton notched twice, while there were scores for the impressive Jack Wilson – in for the injured David Strettle – Billy Vunipola, Jackson Wray and a penalty try.

A late concussion for Owen Farrell threatened to put a dampener on the afternoon as the England fly-half, who booted 13 points, recieved lengthy treatement on the pitch before stretchered off. But huge cheers rang around Allianz Park when he emerged from the changing room to take a seat on the bench before the full time whistle confirmed his side’s most complete performance of the campaign.

They took an early lead when they worked it out wide to Wilson, who after scoring on his first outings in both the Premiership and the LV= Cup, did well to stretch for the line for his fourth of the season after initially being tackled just short of the paint. Farrell’s conversion was dead straight and he soon added a penalty goal after a scything break from Tim Streather, who was a very late replacement for the ill Marcello Bosch - gettin the nod 30 seconds before kick-off.

The hosts were almost in again midway through the half when the scorer started off a move that flowed from one flank to the other. But for the last-gasp intervention of Jamie Gibson Ashton would have been over, though the England wing’s time would come.

Things had been going according to plan until Billy Vunipola conceded penalty that Ryan Lamb fired over to get Tigers on the board. Yet it was one of few indiscretions from the Londoners all game and the 10-point gap was restored with a second goal from Farrell, while the Leicester stand-off squandered an effort from the tee as half time approached.

Then, out of nowhere, Graham Kitchener scored between the posts when he charged down a clearance kick from the Sarries fly-half. Lamb converted but the Tigers try-scorer was sent to the bin moments later for a late tackle on Farrell.

The victim had a quick measure of revenge when he changed the direction of play, leaving Leicester flat-footed to pick out Chris Wyles on the short side. The centre, after much video replay deliberation, was adjudged to have legally fed in Ashton who slid in at the corner. The conversion was wide but it made for a deserved half time lead for the hosts, that perhaps flattered Tigers.

The 15 minute break was as good as it got for the visitors because Saracens were further ahead five minutes into the restart. An initial break from Richard Wigglesworth, Wilson and Wyles got the Hendon side with spitting distance of the line and Billy Vunipola breezed over, almost unchallenged. The extras were a formality but Sarries’ dominance led Tigers boss Richard Cockerill to change his entire front row.

Terrence Hepetema, who’d come on a half time for Tigers, last barely 10 minutes before a collision with the home side’s most recent scorer saw him require lengthy treatment on the pitch before a replacement was called. For Saracens though, the result was a penalty which Farrell made no mistake with.

It was lights out for the goal kicker soon after and there was a long delay as the England man received treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off. Wray came on for Ernst Joubert during that break in play and he scored with his first touch after Neil de Kock had slipped through. Hodgson, on as Farrell’s replacement, slotted the extras.

Things got even worse for the visitors when Thomas Waldrom was yellow carded and he had barely taken his seat on the sidelines before referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty try after the depleted Tigers infringed one too many times in the shadow of the posts.

Still Saracens weren’t done as Jamie George sprung from the base of a ruck five metres out, offloading to De Kock who had the simple job of feeding Ashton for his second of the afternoon. Hodgson brought them to within one point of the half century mark with a conversion that was helped hugely by a gust of wind.

But there can be no confusion as to the dominant side in English rugby at the moment and there will be few raised eyebrows if the title changes hands between these two sides come May.

Saracens: 15. Goode (Ransom), 14. Ashton, 13. Bosch, 12. Wyles, 11. Wilson, 10. Farrell (Hodgson), 9. Wigglesworth (De Kock), 1. Barrington (M. Vunipola), 2. George, 3. Stevens (Johnston), 4. Borthwick (c), 5. Hargreaves (Kruis), 6. B. Vunipola, 7. Brown, 8. Joubert (Wray)

Replacements not used: 16. Brits

Scorers: Tries – Wilson, Ashton 2, B.Vunipola, Wray, penalty try; cons - Farrell 2, Hodgson 2; pens - Farrell 3;

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Matt Smith, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Ben Youngs, 1 Boris Stankovich, 2 Neil Briggs, 3 Fraser Balmain, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Pablo Matera, 8 Jordan Crane (c)

Replacements (all used): 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Jérôme Schuster, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 David Mélé, 22 Terrence Hepetema, 23 Adam Thompstone

Scorers: Tries - Kitchener; cons - Lamb; pens - Lamb;

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Attendance: 9,999

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