05272017

Saracens hammer Harlequins in front of 71,000 in London derby

Chris Ashton try

Chris Ashton scored two tries in Saracens’ European Champions Cup quarter-final win over Glasgow

Chris Ashton scored his fifth try in three games as Saracens confirmed a Premiership play-off spot by beating London rivals Harlequins at Wembley.

Quins’ Nick Evans opened the scoring with the first of four penalties, but Ashton’s try and Schalk Brits’ score put Sarries 17-9 up at the break.

Michael Rhodes and Alex Goode tries ensured victory in front of a crowd of 71,324 at the home of English football.

James Horwill’s try in response was of little consequence in a costly defeat.

Defeat for Quins means they remain five points adrift of the play-off spots in sixth, with fourth-placed Leicester and Bath equal on points after 19 games following the West Country side’s victory over Tigers at Twickenham in the early kick-off.

Goode’s try to secure a bonus-point win for Sarries means there is just one top-four place still available after second-placed Exeter beat Bristol on Saturday.

In a game which took the combined attendances for the two showpiece fixtures in London on Saturday to more than 130,000, the boot of England international Owen Farrell was instrumental, as he kicked 20 points to grind down a Quins side that dominated possession at times.

Evans’ penalties kept Harlequins in the hunt, with his fourth one reducing the arrears to eight points after 49 minutes.

But, two Farrell penalties in three minutes and Rhodes’ dashing finish down the left, after Maro Itoje managed to steal the ball from a line-out with eight minutes remaining, put the result beyond doubt.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall: “This was a hugely pleasing performance because we’re going big game after big game after big game.

“Sunday’s game against Glasgow was big for us, so to show the qualities that we did was superb, although not everything we did was perfect.

“The first seven months of the season are about getting into strong positions in the competition we’re interested in and now there are a lot of things to be excited about.”

Harlequins boss John Kingston: “Once Saracens get ahead on the scoreboard it becomes very difficult and they’re very good at taking advantages of your mistakes. They deserved it.

“They’re difficult to break down and they take the laws to the limit, but they’re an incredibly physical side and we ran into a brick wall. They’re a great side at the moment.

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Maitland; Farrell, Spencer; M Vunipola, Brits, Koch, Itoje, Hamilton, Rhodes, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: George, Lamositele, Du Plessis, Flanagan, Conlon, Wigglesworth, Lozowski, Tompkins.

Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Marchant, Roberts, Visser; Evans, Care (capt); Marler, Buchanan, Collier, Merrick, Horwill, Robshaw, Clifford, Luamanu.

Replacements: Gray, Lambert, Sinckler, Matthews, Ward, Mulchrone, Swiel, Alofa.

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