Saracens were back to their brutal best on Saturday. They suffocated the life out of a high-flying Harlequins outfit with consummate ease. This despite losing Ben Earl, and Elliot Daly in the warm-up and Alex Lozowski a couple of minutes into the game. No problem, up stepped the likes of Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell but also the more unheralded names, Andy Christie and Olly Hartley in particular. If ever there was an ominous warning to the Gallagher Premiership this was it. Saracens have reasserted their title credentials writes Charlie Inglefield.
Saracens showcases title credentials
Lesser lights come to the fore
It shows how strong this Saracens squad is when you lose a world-class player like Ben Earl and Andy Christie comes in and delivers a performance that should have won him the man of the match award. Farrell was understandably given the nod for a commanding performance at number 10. But Christie and Juan Martin Gonzalez were the men of the match for Sarries. They were totally dominant over their counterparts. Alex Dombrandt, so good this season for Quins was totally anonymous for an hour before being substituted. Gonzalez and Christie were everywhere for Saracens.
Outwide Tom Parton and Olly Hartley more than justified their step-up to the Premiership. The conveyor belt of talent and youth looks to be in rude health at Sarries. Hartley and Parton were excellent in defence, keeping Marcus Smith quiet and helping themselves to a try each in the process. Yes, they have the money but Saracens recruit so well. Gonzalez is an absolute bargain buy from London Irish over the summer and he will more than compensate for the worrying injury that Ben Earl did to his knee in the warm-up.
Familiar names step up
Maro Itoje had an enormous game at the Stoop quashing worries that his mind is more in tune to what his next contract could be. Itoje has improved throughout the World Cup and against Harlequins he terrorised the Quins lineout. There is always much jealousy at how happy the Saracens players always seem to be. Itoje’s contractural situation is a case in point when he comes out and plays like that against a top of the table team.
Owen Farrell had a fine afternoon’s work bossing the corners and ticking the backline over nicely. Alex Goode, was another who had an excellent match once again showing his ageless ability at this level. It is one of Eddie Jones’ great mysteries why he did not involve Goode at the start of his coaching tenure with England. It has been Saracens’ gain and Goode looks as good as he has ever done. Goode’s kick through the tightest of traffic for Alex Lewington to scoot in for the Saracens’ final try was a masterclass in attacking strategy. How England could have done with his services over the last decade.
Saracens reassert title credentials
The lead-up to the game had all the hype. Who were the real London team and how Harlequins could finally derail Saracens dominance in this fixture. Add in the likes of Marcus Smith, Andre Esterhuizen and Danny Care all coming back from World Cup action and the scene was set perfectly. Eighty minutes later an exhausted and battered Quins team limped off the field. It felt like the big brother had sat on the little brother. And that was how it played out.
Dombrandt desperate to impress the watching England coach Steve Borthwick had an afternoon to forget. Gonzalez, Billy Vunipola and Christie totally dominated the breakdown and the Quins loose forward trio. Marcus Smith did his best to ignite his team but was constantly scragged by the Sarries rush defence. Esterhuizen battered away when given his limited opportunities but Hartley and Nick Tompkins gave him nothing in attack.
Harlequins were schooled in all departments and Saracens have reasserted their title credentials in emphatic fashion. The rest of the Gallagher Premiership have been put on notice.