The boot of Ben Botica finally condemned 14-man Saracens to their first defeat of the season as Harlequins ran out 29-23 winners after a sensational contest at the Stoop.
Quins remarkably led 15-14 at the interval despite Saracens dominating the opening 20 minutes, twice fighting back with tries from Rob Buchanan and Jack Clifford cancelling out Neil de Kock and Billy Vunipola’s efforts.
After Owen Farrell put the visitors ahead early in the second period with two penalties, he and Botica exchanged kicks from the tee until Rhys Gill saw red for a dangerous tackle on George Lowe.
And the Kiwi fly-half held his nerve to send Quins clear as they made their extra man count, with James Horwill also crossing in the dying moments to clinch only a second victory in the last 15 matches against Mark McCall’s side.
Saracens – 15 games unbeaten in all competitions coming into this clash – dominated the early stages and the hosts made life even more difficult for themselves within the first two minutes, with Horwill being sin-binned for a high tackle that saw George Kruis stretchered off.
Saracens made their extra man count and mounted the pressure inside Quins’ 22, and the home side’s poor scrummaging cost them dear when they conceded a ninth-minute try from de Kock – Farrell easily adding the extras.
Ross Chisholm tried to kick-start his side with an attack into the Saracens half that lead to great play from Buchanan and Marland Yarde before Saracens intercepted.
But Quins’ efforts paid off after a superb lineout saw captain Danny Care break through the Saracens defence and expertly set up Buchanan for a try.
Nick Evans’ conversion attempt went wide however so the opportunity to level the game went begging.
And it did not take long for Saracens to reply soon after, Vunipola with an excellent pick and go from the base of the scrum to go over for a try on his 50th appearance for the visitors.
Farrell’s conversion was again good, but Evans soon responded with a penalty to bring the score back to 14-8.
And a brilliant phase of free-flowing rugby from the home side saw them take the lead at half-time after winger Yarde broke through defence, only to be denied inches from the try-line.
Evans continued the attack and played in Clifford to go over at the second attempt, with the fly-half converting himself with the last kick of the half.
Saracens once again started the second period the better side with two Farrell penalties giving the visitors the lead again.
Superb play from Mike Ellery then led to Jamie George burrowing over only for the score to be cancelled out via the TMO for an earlier obstruction.
Despite replacement Botica’s penalty conversion, Farrell replied again to maintain Saracens’ lead of five points.
However, the momentum switched after Gill was dismissed for a dangerous tackle on Lowe.
Harlequins took full advantage as Botica made no mistake with two penalties to take a slender lead again in the closing stages of the game.
And with 14-man Saracens pressing for a winning score late on, Clifford went on a superb run from one end to the pitch to another to win a penalty, and Horwill made sure of the victory for Quins with a try from the resulting lineout to end Sarries unbeaten start to the 2015/16 season.
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