Saracens 39 Harlequins 17: World record crowd sees Saracens blast Quins to go top
17:28 22 March 2014
It was a day for smashing records in the capital today in all codes of football as Wembley Stadium broke the barrier for the world’s biggest club rugby crowd with 83,889 fans watching Saracens thrash London rivals Harlequins 39-17 in the Premiership.
While in west London the soccer fraternity witnessed Chelsea ruin Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s landmark 1,000th game in charge with a record 6-0 scoreline, the hallowed Wembley turf, most fondly associated with soccer, witnessed a feast of scores with the oval-ball.
Wembley has seen many marvellous feats of Association Football but wing Chris Ashton set Sarries on their way with 70-metre rugby try stunner worthy of some of the venue’s classic moments.
This fixture and this venue saw the world record rugby attendance smashed in 2012, when Quins came out on top, but that was never on the cards today as Sarries duo George Kruis and Owen Farrell added to the first half score.
Harlequins, who were the architects of their own downfall with hospital passes for two of those tries, notched through Karl Dickson.
Sam Smith narrowed the deficit four minutes into the second period but Jacques Burger secured the bonus point which was quickly followed by news that Saracens were the new Premiership leaders following Northampton Saints defeat at Sale Sharks.
Marcelo Bosh put the icing on the cake in the final minute with a fifth try, dancing through the Quins defence to touchdown between the sticks. Charlie Hodgson added the extras with the final kick after coming on for Farrell, whose 17-point haul saw him deservedly named man-of-the-match.
At the finish it was all smiles for the north half of London’s Premiership elite, though a dampener was put on the early proceedings when top scorer David Strettle was stretchered off in a neck brace after Maurie Fa’asavalu pole-axed the former Quin with a forearm smash that could easily have seen the back row dismissed.
The replays of the incident did not look pretty but director of rugby Mark McCall would not be drawn on the incident afterwards, saying: “I didn’t see the angle everyone is talking about, so I can’t comment on it.
“It would be foolish for me to say anything. David is OK. He’s pretty shaken up but he’s OK.”
A recovered Strettle took a seat on the bench in the second half, having missed his wing partner’s intercept score as part of 27 first period points. With the scoreboard still unblemished Quins had engineered an overlap and should have crossed the whitewash themselves but Nick Easter tried an audacious pass that spooned in the air and was gobbled up by Ashton who was never going to be caught once he’d eluded Ugo Monye on his own 22 line. The long range score was completed with his trademark swan dive celebration and soon after his side were flying again when Kruis skipped through a gaping hole in the Quins rearguard to dot down between the posts.
The Twickenham side rallied with a sniping Dickson score that his rested scrum-half colleague Danny Care would have been proud of - but they then threw away more points.
A third successful penalty from Farrell preceded the England goal-kicker taking full advantage of a horror pass inside Quins’ own 22 from opposite number Nick Evans. The Sarries fly-half scored, just as he had last weekend for the Red Rose in Italy, and he converted his own score for a 27-10 cushion at the interval.
Smith reduced the arrears early on, running through Richard Wigglesworth by the corner flag after Saracens appeared to have seen off danger by halting a maul on their try-line. Evans added the extras after Saracens had been reduced to 14 men moments before the score when captain Steve Borthwick was yellow carded.
But Quins could not put the squeeze on their rivals who shut up shop and, once restored to a full deck, claimed a bonus point try through some quick lineout thinking.
Hooker Schalk Brits played a short one-two with first man Kruis and skipped down the wing before offloading for Burger to ram his way over. Farrell missed for the first time in the match with a wayward conversion but Bosch claimed a fifth score with his side already home, hosed and buoyed by a tannoy announcement which informed Wembley that they were also the new Premiership leaders - by three points.
It was a big day for Saracens and a big day for rugby.
Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Strettle, Farrell, Wigglesworth, Vunipola, Brits, Johnston, Borthwick (c), Kruis, Wray, Burger, Joubert
Replacements (all used): George, Barrington, Stevens, Botha, Brown, De Kock, Hodgson, Taylor
Harlequins: Lindsay-Hague, Smith, Hopper, Casson, Monye, Evans, Dickson (Stuart), Marler (Lambert), Gray (Ward), Sinckler (Doran-Jones), Kennedy, Robson, Fa’asavalu, Wallace, Easter (c)
Replacements not used: Trayfoot, Guest, Grimoldby
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Attendance: 83,889 (WORLD RECORD)