Saracens fought back from 24-12 down at half-time to seal a 30-27 victory against Harlequins in a thrilling Premiership encounter at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a tightly contested affair in which momentum between the two sides ebbed and flowed throughout and the result was in the balance until the game’s dying moments.
Max Malins led the way for the visitors as he scored a brace of tries while Elliot Daly and Nick Tompkins also crossed the whitewash. Sarries‘ other points came courtesy of two conversions and a penalty from Owen Farrell and Daly also succeeded with a three-pointer from the kicking tee.
For Quins, Cadan Murley (2) and Joe Marchant dotted down and Tommaso Allan finished with a 12-point haul courtesy of three conversions and a couple of penalties.
There was frustration in Quins’ ranks ahead of this match as they were without the services of star fly-half Marcus Smith. The club attempted to secure his early release from the 10-week stand down period imposed on England players involved in the July tour to Australia, but were refused by the variety of bodies that make the decision.
Facing them, however, were Farrell, Maro Itoje, Billy Vunipola, Jamie George and Mako Vunipola – each of whom were in action against the Wallabies, highlighting the inconsistency of a policy designed to improve player welfare.
Quins’ sense of injustice found an early outlet as they surged 17-0 ahead but Saracens replied with four tries, including Malins two, to set up a tense finish at Twickenham Stoop.
Saracens had a bye for last weekend’s opening round and, having blown away the cobwebs, they produced some brilliant moments before showing the composure needed to protect their slim lead at the death.
The rust showed early on as through a mixture of well executed play and opportunism, Quins had built a 14-point lead in the opening 10 minutes with Murley showing his pace to finish on both occasions.
The first came after a direct run by inside centre Lennox Anyanwu sucked in defenders to create an overlap and the second was the result of a turnover by Alex Dombrandt, who then fed the rampant Murley.
Allan landed a long-range penalty to accompany his earlier conversions but a setback came when tighthead prop Will Collier limped off and in the next play Saracens struck with their first meaningful attack.
By keeping the ball alive, Farrell and then Billy Vunipola created a half-chance that was finished brilliantly when Tompkins drew the last defender and sent Daly racing over.
Momentum continued to shift towards Saracens when Ben Earl punched a hole in the middle and several phases later Malins was over in the right corner, rounding off a period of dominance.
Quins hit back, almost going close through their pack before punishing an error as the visitors counter-attacked when Farrell scooped the ball straight into the arms of Dombrandt who sent Marchant over.
The try came at a cost as Dombrandt limped injury off immediately after and the exhilarating pace of the match continued into the second-half with Saracens the next to score.
Scrum-half Lewis Gjaltema was at the heart of confusion in the backfield and, following a direct run by Alex Lozowski, the ball was threaded to Malins to score his second.
Harlequins were struggling to escape their half as pressure mounted with a Farrell penalty reducing their lead to four points.
Billy Vunipola made his presence felt with two big carries and as a direct result of the second Saracens edged ahead for the first time through Tompkins.
Allan and Daly swapped penalties to continue fraying the nerves right until the end and Quins will rue a butchered line-out deep into visiting territory.
Nemani Nadolo scored two tries as defending champions Leicester beat Newcastle 36-21 to claim their first win of the Premiership season.
Tigers took the lead within three minutes from a James Cronin try but Falcons hit back with two of their own through Josh Barton and George McGuigan.
Fijian Nadolo also set up a Chris Ashton try with a sublime pass to give Tigers the lead at the break but Falcons scored early in the second through Mateo Carreras to set up an edgy final 30.
However, a Jimmy Gopperth penalty and Olly Cracknell’s converted try inside the final 10 minutes handed Tigers the bonus-point victory and condemned the Falcons to their second successive defeat.
Sale Sharks overcame a first-half red card for prop Nick Schonert to beat Bath 37-20 and claim their second Premiership triumph of the season.
Schonert was sent off after just nine minutes by referee Christophe Ridley for a head-high challenge on Bath second-row Dave Attwood.
Sale spent 10 minutes of the final quarter reduced to 13 players after replacement prop Ross Harrison was sin-binned, but Bath could not capitalise.
The Sharks posted tries by wing Tom O’Flaherty, hooker Akker van der Merwe, flanker Tom Curry, who made his first appearance since suffering concussion during England’s summer tour of Australia and scored just two minutes after going on, and Jono Ross.
Fly-half Rob du Preez kicked three penalties and four conversions for a 17-point haul as Sale followed up last weekend’s win against Northampton with another impressive bonus-point triumph.
Wing Joe Cokanasiga and full-back Tom de Glanville scored second-half tries for Bath, with Piers Francis converting both touchdowns and booting two penalties.
Callum Sheedy scored 18 points as Bristol beat Wasps 23-8 at the Coventry Building Society Arena in a match that looked every inch a meeting between the ninth and 10th-placed teams in last season’s Premiership.
The Bears, buoyed by their opening round victory over Bath, barely got out of second gear as they cruised to a win by simply making fewer errors than a Wasps side devoid of confidence after letting a 21-point lead slip at Gloucester last week.
Tom Cruse’s early try was not to be a tone-setter for Lee Blackett’s side as Sheedy’s penalty and his converted score gave Bristol a half-time lead.
Charlie Atkinson kicked a penalty but then missed a straightforward opportunity that would have put Wasps ahead.
From that point on the scoring was all in Bristol’s favour as Sheedy landed another penalty as well as two drop goals, either side of Magnus Bradbury’s try.
In the day’s earlier game, Northampton Saints got their campaign back on track courtesy of a deserved 38-22 triumph against London Irish at Franklin’s Gardens.
Stand-in captain George Furbank contributed 13 points courtesy of a try conversion and two penalties. Saints’ other tries were scored by Juarno Augustus, Ollie Sleightholme and Alex Mitchell while James Grayson, who was a late replacement for Dan Biggar at fly-half, succeeded with two conversions and as many penalties.
For London Irish, Oliver Hassell-Collins and Will Joseph scored tries and they were also awarded a penalty try. Their other points were scored by Paddy Jackson and Caolan Englefield, who added a penalty and a conversion respectively.