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Match Report: London Irish 16 Saracens 26

12 Mar 2016
Match Report: London Irish 16 Saracens 26

Alex Goode scored 19 of Saracens’  26 points as they came from behind to beat London Irish 26-16 in the first-ever Aviva Premiership Rugby game on American soil.

In a groundbreaking move the game was taking place at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, home of the New York Red Bulls.

London Irish were the nominal home side and after hosting the New York Jets at their Hazelwood training base before their NFL game at Wembley last year, the NFL franchise had returned the favour by allowing Irish to use the facility in the build-up to the clash. 

It appeared to pay dividends in the first half as Irish led by six at the break, 13-7 thanks to an Alex Lewington try with Goode scoring Saracens’ try.

But the England full-back took over kicking duties in the second half and pushed Saracens ahead to move them back to the top of the table, leaving Irish eight points behind Newcastle at the bottom after Nick Tompkins’ late try that completed the win.

London Irish made the quicker start with new signing Greig Tonks, in his first start, knocking over an eighth-minute penalty.

They could have already been in front with Lewington just putting a foot in touch after some last-gasp Saracens tackles on the right.

It was an open encounter, with both sides looking to run the ball in perfect conditions, and it was one of Saracens’ international contingent who scored the first try.

Omitted by Eddie Jones this week, Goode showed how dangerous he can be as he shrugged off a number of tackles before streaking away for the opening try. Ben Spencer converted to make it 7-3 to the league leaders.

The Exiles responded almost immediately, and with another fantastic score. Quick hands between the backs opened up some space and after holding the ball just long enough Scott Steele found Lewington inside him, and the winger raced away for the score. Tonks added the extras.

Another penalty from Tonks stretched the lead to 13-7 after 24 minutes with Spencer missing a second penalty of the game on the half-hour as Irish led by six at the break.

With Spencer struggling with his goal-kicking, Goode took over duties in the second half, slotting two quick penalties to draw Saracens level.

And he added another not long after to put Saracens ahead for the first time, only for Hayden Smith to concede a penalty which Tonks slotted to make it 16-16.

However another Goode penalty put Saracens back in front once again with Tonks missing a chance to level the scores with less than ten minutes to go.

And that proved crucial as Saracens were able to see out the game in the right area of the pitch, stopping Irish from creating a chance to win it.

In the end, Tompkins pounced on a spilt ball to sprint away and seal the victory, denying the Exiles a bonus point.

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