Aviva Premiership: Saracens beat Quins to set up Saints clash
Aviva Premiership: Saracens produce a second-half comeback to beat Harlequins 31-17
Saracens produced a brilliant second-half comeback to defeat Harlequins 31-17 to set up an Aviva Premiership final showdown with Northampton Saints.
Mark McCall’s side overturned a 17-11 deficit at the break to score 20 unanswered points with tries from Brad Barritt and Chris Ashton and the boot of Owen Farrell taking care of the rest to dispatch a stubborn Quins side who lost England duo Ugo Monye and Mike Brown—who both ran in tries in the first half—to injury late in the match.
The win means the Allianz Park club are still on course for a rare domestic and European double with the last-ever Heineken Cup final against Toulon in Cardiff next week.
The afternoon started badly for the hosts as they lost lock Mouritz Botha to injury during the warm-up with Alistair Hargreaves parachuted into the starting XV and Eoin Sheriff drafted in on the bench.
Quins outside-half Nick Evans and Farrell exchanged early penalties before Farrell struck again for a 6-3 lead for the hosts.
But Sarries afternoon was made tougher when Marcelo Bosch was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Evans before Matt Stevens—in his last home match before a summer switch to Natal Sharks—joined his team-mate for a deliberate knock-on.
With a numerical advantage, Quins quickly made it pay as Monye was given too much space to walk over for the game’s first try, Evans adding the conversion.
But the lead was short-lived as Scotland captain Kelly Brown crashed through a disjointed Quins defence to go over for Sarries’ first try, but Farrell missed the conversion.
There was more to come from Quins and they struck just before the break as centre Tom Molenaar forced Saracens to spill the ball with Mike Brown strolling in to pounce on a hoof forward with Evans again adding the extras to stretch the lead to 17-11.
After penalty misses from Bosch and Farrell, Saracens regained the lead as England centre Barritt powered his way through some poor Quins defending from Evanas and Molenaar to go over near the posts. Farrell found his range again to add the conversion and another penalty extended their lead to 21-17.
Bosch looked to have scored a third for Sarries, but the TMO confirmed he was a metre offside to chalk it off.
But the relentless stamina of McCall’s side and key injuries in the Quins backline—notably England full-back Brown going off with a hamstring problem forcing scrum-half Danny Care to be switched to unfamiliar territory on the right wing—proved to be too much for Quins and Ashton sprinted clear to put the icing on the cake with his trademark dive over the line with 20 minutes still to play and there was still time for a late Farrell penalty.
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt, David Strettle (Chris Wyles, 58); Owen Farrell (Charlie Hodgson, 73), Neil de Kock (Richard Wigglesworth, 51); Mako Vunipola (Richard Barrington, 66), Schalk Brits (Jamie George, 73), Matt Stevens (James Johnston, 65), Steve Borthwick (captain) (Eoin Sheriff, 68), Alistair Hargreaves, Kelly Brown, Jacques Burger (James Johnston, 33-41) (Jackson Wray, 59), Billy Vunipola.
Tries: K Brown, Barritt, Ashton
Cons: Farrell (2)
Pens: Farrell (4), Bosch (0/2)
Yellow cards: Bosch (24), Stevens
Harlequins: Mike Brown; Tom Williams (Sam Smith, 58), Tim Molenaar (Ben Botica, 60), Jordan Turner-Hall, Ugo Monye (Karl Dickson, 66); Nick Evans, Danny Care; Joe Marler (Mark Lambert, 73), Dave Ward (Rob Buchanan, 66), Kyle Sinckler (Will Collier, 64), Charlie Matthews, George Robson (Nick Kennedy, 73), Luke Wallace (Tom Guest, 58), Chris Robshaw (captain), Nick Easter.
Tries: Monye, M Brown
Cons: Evans (2)
Pens: Evans (1)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
Man of the Match: Billy Vunipola (Saracens)