Skelton at the double as Saracens defeat Harlequins with stirring fightback
PUBLISHED: 17:08 23 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:09 23 March 2019
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Gallagher Premiership: Saracens 27 Harlequins 20
Two tries from Will Skelton helped Saracens come from behind to beat London rivals Harlequins 27-20 at the London Stadium in the Gallagher Premiership.
Despite two penalties from Alex Lozowski, an error-strewn first-half display saw the north Londoners trail 17-6 at the break.
Sarries rallied in the second half, though, to take the win, with Australia international Skelton crossing twice.
The Allianz Park outfit made six changes to their line-up from their previous outing in the Premiership, an 18-9 defeat at Bath on March 8.
Liam Williams, Sean Maitland, Jamie George and Billy Vunipola were all restored to the XV after returning from international duty with their respective countries in the Guinness Six Nations.
Skipper Brad Barritt and prop Titi Lamositele were also recalled for the clash at the London Stadium.
For Harlequins, wing Nathan Earle came up against his former employers having left Allianz Park last summer.
After a fairly cagey opening, Quins took the lead in the 10th minute when Marcus Smith successfully bisected the posts with a penalty from distance.
Sarries looked to be in for the game’s first try 10 minutes later when Skelton offloaded in the tackle to Lozowski, but the centre’s pass to wing Maitland went into touch.
At the other end in the 31st minute, a brilliant tackle from Saracens wing David Strettle prevented James Chisholm from a try after a brilliant break from his own 22 by Harlequins fullback Mike Brown.
Lees than a minute later, Quins found another gaping hole in the north Londoners’ defence with Smith profiting to go over, before adding the extras as the visitors moved 10-0 in front.
Saracens finally got on the scoresheet in the 36th minute, with Lozowski successfully kicking a penalty for the hosts.
With a minute left in the first half, Quins saw lock Matt Symons sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
From the resulting penalty, Lozowski kicked his second penalty of the afternoon from in front of the posts to cut the gap to four points.
Lozowski was then involved in a moment of controversy as the centre kicked for touch as the clock went red, but referee JP Doyle awarded Harlequins a lineout near the tryline.
Quins made the most of the opportunity, with scrum-half Danny Care taking the ball from the back of a maul to go over in the corner.
Smith brilliantly converted the try from out wide to hand the visitors a 17-6 lead at the break, with Saracens heading down the tunnel wondering what on earth had happened to them in the first half.
Sarries thought they had made the lightning start they needed in the second half when Vunipola crossed in the 43rd minute.
The try, however, was ruled out when television match official David Grashoff ruled the forward has used referee JP Doyle to block Quins co-captain Chris Robshaw from making a tackle.
The north Londoners kept the pressure on and finally got their reward four minutes later when Schalk Burger went over near the posts from close range, with Lozowski converting.
Both teams were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes in the 55th minute with Williams and Care sent to the sin-bin after exchanging views off the ball following a ruck.
Sarries took the lead for the first time two minutes later when Skelton went over from close range, with Lozowski adding the extras to make it 20-17.
It was a lead that was short-lived, though, as Smith kicked a penalty for Quns from just inside the Sarries half to level the score at 20-20 in the 61st minute.
The north Londoners regained their lead with 13 minutes to go when Skelton went over from close range again for the second time, with Lozowski converting.
That proved to be the decisive score, with Sarries eeing out the closing moments to take a valuable win in their quest for home advantage in the play-offs.
Saracens return to their Allianz Park home next Saturday for a crucial Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Glasgow Warriors.
Saracens: Williams; Strettle, Lozowski (Tompkins 75), Barritt (Tompkins 59-68 (HIA)), Maitland; Goode, Spencer; Lamositele (Barrington 55), George, Koch (Judge 32); Skelton (Kpoku 74), Isiekwe; Wray, Burger (Earl 52), Vunipola.
Replacements: Woolstencroft, Taylor, Malins.
Harlequins: Brown; Earle, Marchant (Alofa 37), Tapuai, Chisholm; Smith, Care; Marler (Boyce 59), Elia (Ward 68), Sinckler (Collier 65); Symons, Horwill (Merrick 68); Clifford (Bothma 59), Robshaw, Dombrandt.
Replacements: Hildago-Clyne, Catrakilis.
Referee: JP Doyle.
Attendance: 42, 717.