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Favourites flounder at the Madejski

London Irish 27 Saracens 22

French star Thomas Castaignede scored all the Saracens points - but this was the only joy for Sarries as London Irish produced a typically gutsy performance to condemn the Zurich Premiership favourites to their first defeat of the season.

The Exiles, playing their first game in the Madejski Stadium played superb rugby in the opening stages and for the first 25 minutes looked the far superior side. But with Castaignede pulling the strings, the visitors fought back strongly to make for a nervy second half for the crowd of more than 7,000 to endure.

The home side took the lead early on in sensational fashion after capitalising on some poor handling in the own half, Paul Sackey picking a pass inside his home half of the field before sprinting unchallenged from the half way line to score.

Picture: Kieron Campbell releases the backs from a scrum during London Irish's win against Saracens

A Jarrod Cunningham penalty and the first score of the afternoon for Castaignede took the score to 10-3 but the expected Sarries charge didn't materialise and in fact, the Londoners pushed home their early advantage to stretch their lead. After a patient passage of play which saw Irish applying pressure, Kieron Dawson stretched out the lead with a try in the corner.

Castaignede pulled another three points back with a penalty and this sparked a mini revival as the full-back continued his one man fightback, scoring a try in the corner and then converting a tremendous 40-yard drop-goal to bring Sarries back into the game. Cunningham and Castaignede scored a late penalty apiece as the two sides turned around at half-time with a five-point gap.

After a scoreless opening to the second half, Cunningham stretched Irish's lead with another penalty before Castaignede converted yet another penalty - awarded after Duncan McCrae was checked by a very high tackle by Irish centre Tabai Matson.

Late Irish pressure in the dying moments could have led to a larger winning margin but the Premiership favourites finished well on top as Irish snuffed out some relentless late pressure on their own line in nearly four minutes of pressure.

Teams:
London Irish:
Tries: Sackey, Dawson.
Cons: Cunningham.
Pens: Cunningham 5.
London Irish: O'Shea, Sackey, Matson, Wright, Bishop, Cunningham, Campbell, Worsley, Kirke, Halford, Williams, Strudwick, Halvey, Dawson, Sheasby.
Replacements: Ellis for Matson (70), Hatley for Worsley (56), Hardwick for Halford (52).
Not Used: Everitt, Alexopoulous, Danagher, Delaney.
Sin Bin: Williams (17), Matson (60).
Saracens:
Tries: Castaignede.
Cons: Castaignede.
Pens: Castaignede 4.
Drop Goals: Castaignede.
Saracens: Castaignede, Luger, Johnson, Sorrell, O'Mahony, McRae, Bracken, Flatman, Cairns, White, Murray, Grewcock,Roques, Hill, Chesney.
Replacements: Sparg for McRae (66), Wallace for Flatman (56), Davison for Murray (56).
Not Used: Walshe, Parkes, Cole, Diprose.
Sin Bin: White (17).
Att: 7,312
Ref: Brian Campsall (RFU).