Saracens hooker Jamie George put down a sizeable marker that he’s ready to enjoy a breakthrough season for club and country by scoring two first-half tries as London Irish were cut down to size 42-20 at Twickenham.
George, who made his Sarries debut in 2009, has played second fiddle to South African duo Schalk Brits and John Smit in the hooking pecking order in recent seasons.
But with Smit having retired and Brits serving a suspension – George now has his chance to impress for Saracens and he grabbed it with both hands on the biggest stage of all at the Heathrow Express London Double Header at Twickenham.
It took just four minutes for Saracens to get the scoreboard ticking over, with Owen Farrell striking over a penalty, before George burrowed over for the first of his tries on nine minutes – converted by the England and Saracens No.10.
Ian Humphreys reduced the arrears to 10-3 with a penalty for London Irish but Farrell extended Saracens’ lead on 27 minutes with his second penalty of the afternoon, before George, 22, added try number two for the North London club.
Following a successful line-out, a smart inside ball released the hooker and he dashed over in the corner – Farrell missed with his conversion this time around.
But flanker Kieran Low dragged London Irish straight back into the game straight from the resulting kick-off with a try under the posts after holding off would-be tacklers – Humphreys added the extras.
But momentum swung back to Saracens on the stroke of half-time as Farrell continued his kicking form from the British & Irish Lions tour this summer, adding a penalty to make the interval total 21-10.
Within 60 seconds of the restart, London Irish indiscipline resulted in a Saracens penalty and Farrell extending the lead to 24-10 and it could have got worse three minutes later but the England man missed his kick at goal this time around.
Already dominant in the scrum; the strength of the respective squads was highlighted on 50 minutes as Saracens introduced three-time Test Lion Mako Vunipola off the replacements bench.
While just minutes earlier, Farrell had further extended Saracens lead to 27-10 with a fine kick from the touchline – effectively squeezing the life out of London Irish with every successful strike at goal.
Just before the hour mark London Irish flyer Marland Yarde demonstrated why he’s on England boss Stuart Lancaster’s radar with a devastating break but unfortunately the Exiles couldn’t get support to him.
Despite enjoying elongated pressure on the Saracens line, Smith’s men were unable to take advantage at the set-piece and had to settle for a solitary penalty from fly-half Humphreys.
But Sarries roared straight back on to the scoreboard, with explosive front rower Vunipola burrowing over the London Irish line after a series of pick and go’s – Farrell added the extras to stretch the score to 34-13.
Lions prop Matt Stevens blotted his copybook with just 15 minutes remaining as he was sent to the sin-bin for an unfair tackle on Topsy Ojo and the reduction in numbers handed the emphasis back to London Irish.
The Exiles came storming back with just ten minutes remaining as a wonderful offload from replacement Chris Hala’ufia saw Yarde go over in the corner.
The try was made all the more special as Yarde was lying on the floor receiving treatment from the London Irish medical staff when the move started – Humphreys added the conversion to make the score 34-20.
Farrell took the sting out of London Irish’s fightback with a penalty to stretch Saracens’ lead to 37-20 – taking his personal tally for the afternoon to 22 points.
And with the final play of the game, England wing Chris Ashton ensured Saracens claimed the all-important bonus point win as he stretched to touch down in the corner – Farrell unable add the extras.