Planet Rugby

Saracens put a foot in the play-offs

15th April 2007 17:02

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Thomas Castaignede

Thomas Castaignede bursts away for the opening Saracens try

Saracens' late charge towards the Guinness premiership play-offs looks to have been a successful one, after Glen Jackson nicked a bonus-point try in the final minutes of Sarries' 33-19 win over Harlequins on Sunday.

The win leaves Saracens third on 63 points, two ahead of Wasps and three ahead of Bristol, who do have a game in hand but it is against Leicester Tigers and thus is by no means a certainty.

New Zealander Jackson, top scorer in the Premiership this season, kicked 13 points and also crossed for a try for an 18-point personal haul.

With Wasps' win over Northampton earlier in the day the pressure was on the home side to deliver and they responded with a suitably superior and accomplished performance.

It was Saracens' 10th successive home win in all competitions and ensures their play-off fate remains in their own hands.

Despite the high stakes the home side showed no signs of nerves and dominated the opening quarter.

After Jackson struck an early penalty Saracens twice came close to scoring the opening try when both Neil de Kock and Richard Hill spilled the ball with the line at their mercy.

It was England stalwart Hill who was to create the first five-pointer though, bursting through a couple of tackles and allowing Kris Chesney to cross in the corner.

Jackson soon kicked another penalty to extend their lead as a shell-shocked Quins struggled to get out of their own half.

However, as the half wore on All Black outside half Andrew Mehrtens began to find his range with touch finders and pinned the home side back in their 22.

Quins were rewarded for their efforts when Mehrtens and Simon Keogh combined to allow Mel Deane to crash over.

More worrying for the visitors though was the sight of England flyer David Strettle limping off with an ankle injury sustained in the build-up to the try.

Although Jackson struck another penalty Harlequins stunned the large home crowd with a score right on half-time.

Stealing possession right on halfway, Mehrtens kicked ahead and replacement Tom Williams won the chase to score.

Saracens quickly reasserted their dominance at the start of the second half and produced another period of adventurous play that had Quins gasping. It was no surprise that another try was quickly forthcoming.

Sarries' forwards barged up field and de Kock delivered a defence-splitting pass for French full-back Thomas Castaignede to race over under the posts.

With Jackson converting the home side had breathing space and they maintained a stranglehold on proceedings despite a determined showing from the visitors.

Saracens produced two late tries to secure both the victory and a precious bonus point.

Firstly Jackson and Andy Farrell exchanged passes to free Dan Scarborough to touch down in the corner.

And with time running out Jackson was on hand to finish off a flowing move and cross the line.

Quins still had time to score a consolation try with Mike Brown crashing over in the final seconds, but they are now out of the running for a top six finish.

The scorers:

For Saracens:

Tries: Castaignede, Chesney, Scarbrough, Jackson

Cons: Jackson 2

Pens: Jackson 3

For NEC Harlequins:

Tries: Deane, Williams, Keogh

Cons: Mehrtens 2

Saracens: 15 Thomas Castaignède, 14 Dan Scarbrough, 13 Kevin Sorrell, 12 Andy Farrell, 11 Rodd Penney, 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Richard Hill, 6 Kris Chesney, 5 Simon Raiwalui, 4 Hugh Vyvyan, 3 Cencus Johnston, 2 Matt Cairns, 1 Kevin Yates.

Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Tom Mercey, 18 Paul Gustard, 19 David Seymour, 20 Moses Rauluni, 21 Adam Powell, 22 Tomas de Vedia.

NEC Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 David Strettle, 13 Mel Deane, 12 Tosh Masson, 11 Simon Keogh, 10 Andrew Mehrtens, 9 Andy Gomarsall, 8 Chris Hala'ufia, 7 Paul Volley (capt), 6 Andre Vos, 5 Jim Evans, 4 Ollie Kohn, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Tani Fuga, 1 Ceri Jones.

Replacements (from): James Hayter, Jimmy Richards, Ricky Nebbett, Simon Miall, Tom Guest, Nick Easter, Will Skinner, Danny Care, Steve So'oialo, Adrian Jarvis, Tom Williams, Charlie Amesbury.

Referee: Chris White

Touch judges: Paul Dix, Ken Stewart

Television match official: John Burtenshaw

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