Saracens laid down a marker ahead of the season run-in as they overcame champions Harlequins 27-12 at Allianz Park on Sunday.
Saracens laid down a marker ahead of the season run-in as they beat Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins 27-12 at Allianz Park on Sunday.
Schalk Brits' try and four Owen Farrell penalties gave the home side a deserved 17-9 advantage at the interval.
Nick Evans kept Quins in the game by kicking all of their points in the first-half and added a fourth penalty after the break, but Will Fraser's touchdown secured the victory.
Both teams have enjoyed fine seasons but their respective forms were in stark contrast. While Sarries had won three league games in succession with bonus-points, the Twickenham Stoop outfit were shocked by Exeter Chiefs three weeks ago.
And it was the hosts who started the brighter when Farrell's penalty took them into a 3-0 lead, after a powerful surge from Mako Vunipola had set up the position.
Despite the sides looking to move the ball at every opportunity, the early stages of the game were dominated by the accurate boot of the respective fly-halves. Evans kicked successive penalties to make the score 6-3 in Quins' favour before Farrell levelled matters with just 17 minutes gone.
However, then came a decisive moment as an excellent break and offload by Chris Ashton sent Fraser away. Although the back-rower was hauled down, Joe Marler cynically slowed down the ball and was justifiably shown a yellow card. Sarries' fly-half added two further three-pointers off the tee before another period of pressure ended in Brits touching down from close range.
The visitors' fly-half did reduce the arrears with a penalty, but Mark McCall's men still led 17-9 at half-time.
Evans ate into that advantage further early in the second period but the hosts continued to look the more dangerous with ball in hand. And it was no surprise to see them cross the whitewash for the second time when Fraser went over after a fine burst from Kelly Brown.
Farrell sealed the win with a penalty, although Ashton was yellow carded for a high tackle late on for Saracens.
Tries: Brits, Fraser
Pen: Farrell 5
Pen: Evans 4
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ugo Monye, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care,8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 George Lowe.
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: David Grashoff