Saracens show strength in numbers to beat Harlequins with Elliot Daly and Ben Earl injured in warm-up

Maro Itoje - Saracens show strength in numbers to beat Harlequins with Elliot Daly and Ben Earl injured in warm-up
Visitors beat London rivals in the league for the seventh successive time - Getty Images/Tom Dulat

Harlequins 10 Saracens 38

Adversity has had a habit of inspiring and motivating Saracens to even greater feats over the years. And, once again at The Stoop on Saturday night, the champions showed just why their strength of character and belief makes them favourites for many to lift a seventh Premiership title.

Just when the rugby Gods try to conspire against them with unexpected injuries to big game players, before and shortly into the contest, Mark McCall’s men merely brushed the problems aside and set about grabbing another important bonus point win in the London derby.

Most teams would have had a little panic. But Saracens are not most teams. They have such a strong squad, but more importantly resolute and resilient attitude to the game, they almost enjoy taking the blows to prove they cannot be knocked off their stride.

Even without England men Elliot Daly, who was due to start on the wing, and Ben Earl (on the bench), who were forced out with injury problems in the warm-up, they were too good and too skillful for Quins. Worse for the champions was the sight of Alex Lozowski limping off after just three minutes with his evening brought to an abrupt end.

Alex Lozowski -
Just minutes into the game Alex Lozowski (centre) was forced off after twisting awkwardly when chasing down Marcus Smith - Getty Images/Frankie OKeeffe

Flanker Earl cut a disconsolate figure sat on the bench with his thigh bandaged up, and he could be out for while. But the Saracens bench was full of star names too, and they will not be so badly affected by his loss.

The battle for London supremacy was also another mouth-watering collision between players whose friendly rivalry on the international stage helped spur England on to a far better than expected World Cup campaign, and will continue to simmer nicely right up to when Steve Borthwick reveals his squad for the Six Nations.

Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell were on opposite sides and with the spotlight shining firmly on them, and their was a distinct edge and expectation filling the air around the Twickenham area as both set out to make another resounding personal statement.

It was a collision between two teams in fine form and climbing up the table on the back of winning runs, Quins four on the bounce and Saracens three. And with such an army of internationals on show on both sides, you were guaranteed a capital showpiece of the highest quality and intensity.

Saracens were anxious to complete a seventh successive league win over their opponents while Quins desperately needed to try and get that particularly monkey off their backs.

Smith, uncharacteristically, missed an early penalty from in front. His effort rebounded out off the post. He succeeded with his next kick but only to see Saracens surge down the other end to celebrate the opening try courtesy of Argentine flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez.

Indeed, three quick tries from the visitors saw them take a firm grip on proceedings and soared into a 19-3 half-time lead.

Centre Olly Hartley, who had replaced the injured Lozowski, reached out for the second try on the half hour and a few minutes later England hooker Jamie George then rose to take the plaudits following a driving maul.

Quins brought on England scrum-half Danny Care to try and spark some life into their attacking flair and fortunes. But with Saracens controlling the ball, and their pack dominating in most areas on the field, it was difficult for the host to get a real foot hold in a contest which had drifted away from them.

Olly Hartley -
Olly Hartley scored Saracens' second try at the Stoop - Getty Images/Garry Bowden

Even when they had the try line in their sights, Saracens wolf pack defence stood firm and aggressive to kept them at back.

Hartley had another try disallowed for Itoje pulling back an opponent in the build up, but completed his brace wide on the left from Alex Goode’s pass. Goode was the provider once more with a perfectly placed grubber through for replacement Alex Lewington to race and dive onto for the sixth try.

Quins miserable night was added to with replacement James Chisholm sin-binned for a high tackle. Centre Andre Esterhuizen grabbed a consolation try near the end

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