Charlie Hodgson went from villain to hero as he recovered from a shaky start to score all of Saracens’ points as they downed London Welsh 28-23.
Despite undoubtedly being the star of the show Hodgson wouldn’t have liked the way he started in the spotlight as his loose pass gifted Phil MacKenzie a first Aviva Premiership try.
But the Saracens fly-half crossed himself shortly after – ending Saracens’ longest-ever Aviva Premiership try drought – and added 23 points with the boot for the win.
Gavin Henson, on his London Welsh debut, kept the hosts in with a shout by keeping their score ticking over with some fine kicking of his own.
And although he played a crucial role in a late score for Tom Arscott, there was no spoiling Hodgson’s day as he surpassed his previous best tally for a Premiership game when he scored 27 points for Sale against Leeds a decade ago.
London Welsh started the game on the back foot and after just four minutes saw captain Jonathan Mills sent to the sin-bin after taking the Saracens lifter out at a line-out.
But despite being a man down and under some intense pressure from their visitors they took the lead on eight minutes, Canadian international MacKenzie racing on to a loose pass from Hodgson, hacking forward and then going over for the simple try.
This gave 30-year-old Henson the opportunity to make the perfect introduction on his London Welsh debut, having fractured his cheekbone in a pre-season clash with Scarlets, and the Welshman made no mistake with the simple conversion.
Henson then tried to adhere himself to the Kassam Stadium faithful even further with an audacious 50m penalty attempt only for his kick to fall just short.
Hodgson then tried to make amends for his earlier error with a 47m three-pointer of his own but his effort struck the right upright.
But on 15 minutes Hodgson did get Saracens on the scoresheet with a penalty, London Welsh getting off lightly while down to 14 men.
But as Mills rejoined the action Hodgson did make amends for his early gift as he crossed following several good phases of play from Saracens for their first try in four games.
This put Saracens ahead for the first time in the clash and fly-half Hodgson added the extras for a 10-7 lead.
Saracens were dominating possession and territory but could only manage three more Hodgson penalties to their tally before half-time, Henson doing his best to keep up with his opposite number as he knocked over two of his own as London Welsh trailed 19-13 at the interval.
The visitors picked up from where they left off after the restart and on 50 minutes Andy Saull, in his first Aviva Premiership start of the season, was put over the try-line by Hodgson only for the flanker to fumble the ball at the very end.
But just five minutes later Saracens did stretch their lead further – that man Hodgson again sending over his fifth penalty.
Five soon became six as the former Sale Shark was successful with another kick just before the hour, Henson replying moments later to keep London Welsh in the tie.
And with just over five minutes remaining London Welsh were indeed in with a shout, Henson’s clever pass out left finding Nick Scott, who in turn fed MacKenzie who sent full-back Arscott over.
Henson added the extras to get London Welsh to within two points but almost immediately Hodgson replied with his seventh penalty and the hosts had to settle for a losing bonus point despite one last desperate drive for the line right at the death.