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Match Reaction: London Irish 32 Saracens 36

Mark McCall could only sit back and applaud his players’ bravery after a bold decision not to kick for the posts late on paid off for Saracens.

With Sarries three points behind London Irish in the closing stages, skipper Brad Barritt opted to send a kickable penalty into touch.

The resulting rolling maul piled over the Exiles’ line at the Madejski Stadium and Billy Vunipola grabbed the winning try.

Earlier Alex Lexington had claimed a hat-trick as Irish sought to repeat their Aviva Premiership Rugby victory over Saracens last season, but it proved not to be enough.

“There are no right or wrong answers with that and we’ve always had a policy, since I’ve been at the club, to leave it to the players to make those decisions,” said McCall.

“Would I have made the same decision? Probably not but Brad had the belief to go for it. Our maul has been a weapon all season, we’ve worked incredibly hard on it. It was a brilliantly executed maul and the players had the nerves to go for it.

“London Irish, if they play like that will cause some teams problems this year, they are a young, energetic, physical team that make you work for things.

“Some teams will come here and not win, and I hope that’s the case to be honest but you’ve just got to look after yourselves. We’re probably disappointed with how we did today.”

As well as Lewington’s trio, Blair Cowan also crossed over for Irish who were able to take two bonus points from the clash.

But Vunipola, as well as tries for Tim Streather and Richard Wigglesworth and the respective boots of Owen Farrell and Alex Goode, ensured that was all.

But for London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith, attentions quickly switch to another big test next weekend – Leicester Tigers.

“Preparation is going to need to be good before going to Leicester away next,” he said.

“That was a very physical contest, Sarries are a massive team and they are a massive squad and they are very, very physical so we’ve got some boys that are very disappointed right now.

“We go up to Leicester next and we’ve played very well up there recently. We possibly did enough to win that game, we’ll dust ourselves off.

“We just need to digest today because it takes a bit of getting over. It was like a train smash at the end there.

“It’ll take a couple of days to get over but by Tuesday we’ll firmly set our sights on the Tigers, our tactics and the group to go forward for that. These coming weeks are a big challenge for us.”
 
London Irish: Fenby; Lewington, Mulchrone, Geraghty, Short; Noakes, Steele (O’Leary 50); Court, Paice, Aulika, Skivington, Sinclair (Leo 55), Cowan, Treviranus (Low 30 (blood); Guest 52), Narraway
Not used: Ellis, Parr, Halavatau, Sheridan
 
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Streather (Taylor 59), Barritt, Wyles; Farrell (Hodgson 66), Wigglesworth (de Kock 59); Gill (Barrington 51), George, Longbottom (Johnston 51), Hamilton (Botha 60), Smith, Joubert, Burger (Wray 43), Vunipola
Not used: Spurling

Scorers
 
London Irish
Tries: Cowan, Lewington 3
Conversions: Geraghty 3
Penalties: Geraghty 2
 
Saracens
Tries: Streather, Wigglesworth, Vunipola
Conversions: Farrell 2, Goode
Penalties: Farrell 3, Goode 2
 
Referee: Luke Pearce
Attendance: 6,655
 

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