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London Irish stun Saracens with famous away day upset

Eamon Sheridan of London Irish takes on the Saracens defence. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images Eamon Sheridan of London Irish takes on the Saracens defence. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Saturday, February 8, 2014
5:24 PM

Premiership: Saracens 13 London Irish 22

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All good things must come to an end and London Irish provided one of the upsets of the season to do just that to Saracens’ proud unbeaten regular season record at Allianz Park.

Only Northampton had beaten the Men in Black at their new home - which celebrates its first anniversary next week - but that was in last term’s play-off semi-final. In the league, Sarries had been imperious and today was expected to be no different against an Exiles side that had only won three games all season.

Now Saints have a chance to leapfrog the Hendon outfit at the summit if they can see off Exeter in this evening’s kick-off.

But in a windy north London, Irish stung the hosts to come off better in a crazy first half that saw them on the back foot for large periods, before they restricted Sarries to one late Schalk Brits score in a frustrating second session for the hosts.

Saracens dominated possession and penalty count in the first half but only had Marcello Bosch’s try to show for their efforts. That had put his side 5-3 in the lead after a James O’Connor penalty from the halfway line had opened the scoring in the Exiles’ favour.

Once Matt Parr had barrelled over for his first ever league try for the visitors, the Sunbury side never relinquished the lead despite seeing Fergus Mulchrone and Blair Cowan sent to the bin for separate incidents.

They had to make good use of a strong wind at their backs and an O’Connor goal was followed by two quick-fire scores before the break to put them in the box seat.

Saracens fly-half Charlie Hodgson narrowed the deficit to 8-10 with a penalty but was then at fault in both Exiles scores as first, his grubber cannoned off the thigh of Eamonn Sheridan into the path of Tomas O’Leary who scooped up the ball and set free Alex Lewington to race clear.

O’Connor missed the conversion but straight from the restart Sarries failed to deal with a high, swirling kick and Lewington dribbled the ball through a sea of black shirts but should have been stopped by Hodgson who fumbled. That allowed the winger to toe-poke the ball forward into the path of second row George Skivington who showed the legs to belie his huge frame to, outpacing the far from slow Jamie George to flop on the ball.

O’Connor added the extras to make it 22-8 in his side’s favour at half time and that’s how the scoreboard stayed until late in the second half when Brits squeezed the ball home. Hodgson’s conversion miss summed up Sarries’ afternoon and virtually ended any hopes of a late rally from the hosts and confirmed a famous win for Irish.

Saracens: Ransom (Tomkins), Ashton (Wilson), Bosch, Wyles, Strettle, Hodgson, De Kock (Wigglesworth), Barrington (Saunders), George (Brits), Stevens (Johnstone), Borthwick (c), Botha (Kruis), Wray, Burger, Joubert (Hankin)

Saracens scorers: Try – Bosch, Brits; pen - Hodgson;

London Irish: O’Connor (Fowlie); Lewington, Mulchrone, Sheridan, Fenby; Geraghty (Humphreys), O’Leary (Kennedy); Parr (Yapp), Paice (Stevens), Hagan (Halavatau); Skivington (capt), Rouse (Ellis); Low, Cowan, Treviranus (Sinclair).

London Irish scorers: Try – Parr, Lewington, Skivington; con – O’Connor 2; pen – O’Connor;

Referee: Dean Richards

Attendance: 9,012

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