Planet Rugby

Saracens grind past Harlequins

19th September 2009 16:59

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Kameli Ratuvou score against Harlequins

Key try: Kameli Ratuvou

Saracens moved top of the Guinness Premiership table after recording a 22-9 victory over Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

New fly-half signing Derick Hougaard booted the unbeaten side to their third successive win as Harlequins' problems continued to mount.

The South African finished with 17 points, including two drop goals and a conversion to Kameli Ratuvou's try as struggling Quins were condemned to a third straight defeat.

After a summer of off-field drama, Harlequins simply cannot kickstart their season into life and they managed only three penalties from Nick Evans.

England's attack coach Brian Smith was in the stands, ostensibly to cast his eye over the opposing centres Jordan Turner-Hall and Brad Barritt following Riki Flutey's injury, but there was very little attack on show.

Saracens' tactics were to kick virtually everything and that limited Barritt's impact while Turner-Hall left the field midway through the second half, gingerly nursing a shoulder injury.

England are also on the hunt for a new full-back after Delon Armitage also damaged his shoulder and Harlequins' Ugo Monye was at least able to press his case further with another accomplished display as a stand-in 15.

Harlequins started much the better. Evans pushed them ahead with a 10th-minute penalty and then created the first real opening of the game with a brilliant chip and chase which cut Saracens apart down the middle.

The former New Zealand fly-half regathered and then fired a flat pass wide for George Lowe, who was caught just short of the line after a blistering foot race with his England U21 team-mate Noah Cato.

Back-row duo Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter were in destructive mood and pounded for the line, earning Harlequins a second penalty which Evans gladly accepted.

Saracens had offered nothing and it was not until 21 minutes that they secured an attacking foothold in the Harlequins half.

Even then, Harlequins produced a powerful defensive scrum but Neil de Cock was able to feed Hougaard and the South African slotted the drop goal to put Saracens on the board.

Easter burst through the Saracens defensive line with another powerful run before Robshaw galloped on, carrying defenders with him, but he was held up over the line.

Harlequins could not apply the killer finish, Saracens cleared and then applied pressure at the breakdown to earn a first penalty shot which Hougaard slotted from 35 yards.

Quins, frustrated at making all the running, began to lose their discipline and could have fallen behind after Easter was penalised twice in quick succession just before the interval but Hougaard pushed his touchline effort wide.

Four minutes into the second half and Saracens did have the lead after Ratuvou took the scoring pass from Andy Saull to finish off their only slick move of the match in the right corner.

Evans responded with a third penalty but Hougaard tightened Saracens' grip on the game with a giant drop-goal from about 55 metres with the angle.

Harlequins' challenge was fading against the resolute Saracens defence. They lost two lineouts in promising positions and even when Saracens' American winger Chris Wyles was sin-binned for tripping David Strettle they could not profit.

Saracens finished on top with a rumbling rolling maul and break from Michael Owen which led to Jim Evans being sin-binned and Hougaard applying the coup de grace.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Pen: Evans 3

For Saracens:
Tries: Ratuvou
Con: Hougaard
Pen: Hougaard 2
Drop: Hougaard 2

Harlequins: 15 Ugo Monye, 14 David Strettle, 13 Tosh Masson, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 George Lowe, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Steve So'oialo, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Will Skinner (capt), 6 Chris Robshaw , 5 Jim Evans, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Mark Lambert, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Aston Croall, 17 Tani Fuga, 18 John Andress, 19 Tom Guest, 20 Neil McMillan, 21 Gareth Williams, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Josh Drauniniu.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Michael Owen, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Tom Mercey, 18 Richard Skuse, 19 Hugh Vyvyan, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Justin Marshall, 22 Glen Jackson, 23 Richard Haughton.

Referee: Chris White

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