Saracens get maximum haul against Quins
March 22, 2014
Saracens' Jacques Burger makes some ground against Harlequins
© Getty Images
Harlequins rested their England contingent for their Wembley showdown with Saracens and paid the price by losing ground in the race for a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs.
Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown were given the weekend off following their involvement in the RBS Six Nations and Quins desperately missed their three most influential players.
While the trio were absent as a new attendance record for a club match of 83,889 was set at Wembley, Saracens started Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola, both of whom featured against Italy last Saturday. Farrell was superb as he masterminded Quins' seventh defeat of the season behind a dominant pack, finishing with a try, three conversions and two penalties in an individual haul of 17 points.
The England fly-half and man of the match, along with Vunipola, was replaced in the final quarter but by that point Saracens were already beyond reach.
Chris Ashton, George Kruis, Jacques Burger and Marcelo Bosch also ran in tries in a resounding victory that restores them to the summit of the Premiership table in the wake of Northampton's defeat at Sale. Karl Dickson and Sam Smith crossed for Quins, who were spirited but outgunned in all departments and have only five matches left to force their way into play-off contention.
A brutal opening five minutes are sure to interest the citing officer with Nick Kennedy's uppercut on Steve Borthwick trumped by a dangerous tackle on David Strettle.
Strettle was struck by a swinging arm from Maurie Fa'asavalu and then hit his head on the Wembley turf, resulting in several minutes of treatment before being carried off on a stretcher.
A bright spell from Harlequins ended in calamity when Nick Easter shovelled on a hair-brained pass that was picked off by Ashton.
There was still a chance for Ugo Monye to prevent Ashton pulling clear but he slipped off the tackle and the England wing ran three-quarters of the pitch to score.
Quins were guilty of a more conspicuous defensive error in the 27th minute when Kennedy feebly rolled down the legs of Kruis and the lock cantered over unopposed.
Fine build up play preceded the score, but the 2012 Premiership champions were picked apart far too easily.
Quick wits from Dickson, who scampered through a gap around the breakdown to dart over from close range, narrowed the gap only for his team to hit the self-destruct button once more on the stroke of half time. Of all players it was Nick Evans, the composed veteran former All Black fly-half, who flung an unnecessary pass 10 metres out from his own line that was picked off by Farrell for Saracens' third try.
Determined work from wing Smith, a late replacement for Tom Williams who was injured during the warm-up, enabled Quins to cross on the blindside early in the second half.
The visitors were enjoying their brightest spell of the match, aided by Borthwick being sin-binned for a line-out infringement, but once the Saracens skipper returned they cracked once again.
Hooker Schalk Brits darted free from a line-out and was hauled down several metres short of the whitewash, but Burger was on hand to gather his pass out of the tackle and touch down.
Quins' humiliation was completed in the 80th minute when their disintegrating defence allowed Bosch to skip in under the posts.
Ashton dives in for the opening try of the game against Harlequins © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Communication error please reload the page.
The Football Association is to launch an investigation into the alleged spitting incident between Manchester United defender Jonny Evans and Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse
Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 4. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups as they are named to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen implores rugby to ask itself 'is this really the game we want?', "if we want to encourage people to watch the game"
Tyson Fury is willing to risk his shot at Wladimir Klitschko by facing a different opponent just to "keep busy"
Missing the cut in his first US appearance of 2015 was not what Rory McIlroy had in mind when he teed off at the Honda Classic last week
Could the Force's scrum woes and the general sluggishness of the pack affect Michael Foley's hopes of Wallabies role? Brett McKay asks the question in Three Points
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
One of world rugby's ultimate professionals, Super Rugby's milestone man Keven Mealamu quickly learned the value of a spare pair of boots
The Chiefs are keeping the ball alive when going into contact, and this makes their low turnover rate all the more impressive, Richard Kelly writes
Join Steve Bunce and Barry Jones each week for the latest news, views and debate from the boxing world.
Amir Khan is unlikely to face Kell Brook this summer as he looks to negotiate a fight with Miguel Cotto in America
Louis van Gaal wants his Manchester United players to cut out the backpasses to David De Gea as frustrations mount among supporters over his side's unadventurous approach this season
Brendan Rodgers admits Liverpool's defeat at Crystal Palace in November left him fearing for his job at Anfield
Andre Ward has warned Carl Froch that he will be calling all of the shots over their proposed title unification bout
Emre Can sees his long-term future at Liverpool as a midfielder, but insists he will never be the new Steven Gerrard
Eight years ago, Steve Bunce was offered the chance of buying a 'share' in Tyson Fury, and it would have been a shrewd investment if he had the money
He may try and play down his obsession with his appearance, but Cristiano Ronaldo has apparently been sending a personal stylist to regularly brush up his waxwork model
Who was the 100th man to win a world championship Grand Prix?
Paul Butler tells Inside Boxing he turned down the chance of a trial with Liverpool in order to focus on boxing - and it was the right choice
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner