Shell-shocked Saracens still licking their wounds after mauling from Harlequins
PUBLISHED: 16:58 26 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:58 26 January 2020
PA Wire/PA Images
If Saracens thought getting back on the pitch after a tumultuous week would bring relief then they reckoned without a Harlequins side who were only too happy to rub salt into the wounds.
Two tries in the opening 11 minutes set the tone for Quins to run away with a six-try 41-14 success in the Gallagher Premiership.
And they were only flashes of good play from the shell-shocked visitors to the Twickenham Stoop who looked perhaps understandably off the pace following a dramatic last eight days.
One weekend previous weekend had seen relegation imposed on them by Premiership Rugby after breaches of the salary cap.
This was their first league encounter since that decision and while in essence they have nothing to play for now other than pride, there was still intrigue to see how the team would fare.
That intrigue was increased due to absence of their big hitters, the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers, having begun their Six Nations campaign with England.
That left a squad who, maybe minus one or two, are likely to form the nucleus of Sarries' Championship outfit.
If they are in the shirts come next season then they can be safe in the knowledge they won't get many tests like this one.
It took just 78 seconds for Danny Care to scoot across the line following silky hands and strong running from Alex Dombrandt.
And they had second nine minutes later. Again there were soft hands and delightful off-loading but it was all too easy for Caden Murley to dot down in the same corner as Care.
Saracens looked incredibly disjointed and lacking in any sort of urgency but Quins on the other hand were on fire, demolishing scrums and sending one maul from a line-out backwards.
They added a third try on 22 minutes with Murley ending the move that began with the winger throwing the most outrageous of dummies to give him the freedom of the Quins right wing.
Finally though Saracens began to show some teeth and Alex Lozowski put them on the board by bursting through the defensive line following plenty of pressure from the forwards.
Joel Kpoku produced a wonderful rip to steal possession, the starting point of a move that almost put Alex Lewington in, Care showing all his experience to be in the right place at the right time to clear the winger's kick ahead.
Steady rain made the surface greasy and the ball too at the start of the second half but that had nothing to do with the problems Saracens had with getting the basics right.
Gabriel Ibitoye got the home side's bonus-point score, getting the better of Matt Gallagher as the pair slid to gather a kick ahead.
Four minutes later a lack of support on another kick ahead forced Saracens to concede a line-out and from there first Elia Elia and then Paul Lasikie punched holes through the defence to score.
Sarries did pull one back before the hour after more concerted forward pressure on the Quins line.
That was repelled but a long pass out to the wing gave Dom Morris the easy score.
But Smith kicked three points to extend the lead to a comfortable 20 points and although the majority of play ended up in the Saracens half, there was little sense that there was a comeback in the offing.
And in fact the final try of the day belonged to the hosts. Elliott Obatoyinbo fielded a kick but instead of carrying the ball over the side-line, the former Old Albanian tried to keep the ball alive and Martin Landajo pounced.
There was time for skipper Chris Robshaw to receive a standing ovation from the Stoop crowd, just as Care had about eight minutes earlier.
It was that sort of day for the hosts.
For Saracens though there still needs to be a regrouping after the travails of the last few weeks and a return to some sort of form.
Long term this will help the young players no doubt but they will be hurting after this loss.
Saracens: Barrington, Singleton, Koch, Hunter-Hill, Kpoku, Isiekwe, Clark, Wray, Wigglesworth, Vunipola, Segun, D.Morris, Lozowski, Lewington, Gallagher.
Replacements: Woolstencroft, Lamositele, Ibuanopke, Christie, Reffell, Spencer, Wilson, Obatoyinbo.
Tries: Lozowski 29, D.Morris 55
Conversions: Vunipola 29, 55
Harlequins: Botta, Elia, Collier, Lewies, Symons, J.Chisholm, Robshaw, Dombrandt, Care, Smith, Ibitoye, Lasike, Penny, Murley, A.Morris.
Replacements: Musk, Auterc, Kerrod, Cavubati, Kunatani, Landajo, Herron, Goneva,
Tries: Care 2, Murley 11, 22, Ibitoye 44, Lasikie 48, Landajo 76
Conversions: Smith 2, 22, 48, 76
Penalty: Smith 59
HT: Harlequins 19 Saracens 7
Tickets sold: 14,258
Referee: Luke Pearce (Exeter)