Ben Spencer got Saracens’ LV=Cup campaign off to the perfect start after scoring ten points on the way to a 25-20 win over Harlequins at Allianz Park.
Scores from Duncan Taylor, Mike Ellery and substitute Jack Wilson added to Spencer’s efforts and sealed the win for the home side.
Quins secured a losing bonus point by scoring two themselves, through Mark Lambert and Charlie Walker and forced Saracens to panic late on as they threatened to steal it at the death, but were unable to get an all-important third try.
Saracens’ experience told in the end, with five internationals starting, against a Quins side whose average age was just shy of 24.
In a scrappy opening 20 minutes Spencer notched the first points of the match, converting a simple penalty as Quins were penalised for not releasing at the breakdown.
Both sides failed to put together any sustained passages of play, with simple errors bringing an end to several attacks in the first quarter of the match – the early proceedings largely punctuated by set-pieces.
And one such mistake led to the opening try, Quins’ fly-half Louis Grimoldby charged down five metres from his own line by Duncan Taylor who only had to fall on the bouncing ball to score – Spencer added the extras to take the home side into a ten point lead.
Saracens then extended their lead before the half-hour mark, England sevens star Ellery evading a weak Ollie Lindsay-Hague tackle on the right wing to dot down, the subsequent conversion missed by Spencer.
Grimoldby put the visitors on the board with half-time approaching, slotting a penalty from 20 metres after Saracens were caught on the wrong side at the ruck.
But Sarries did not relent and thought they had scored a third, stealing a Quins lineout inside the 22 and moving the ball left, Nick Tompkins just denied by a last-gasp Luke Wallace tackle, dragging the England under-20 back into touch.
The second half followed in a similar vein to the first, with both sides’ efforts undermined by poor handling and basic errors.
A swathe of Saracens substitutions further interrupted the flow as Quins fought to get a foothold in the match, only to be denied by a resolute and powerful defence.
But Quins never gave up and brought themselves back into the contest, prop Lambert muscling over from close range after a well worked, multi-phase move, with substitute Tim Swiel – playing his first game on loan at Quins – adding the extras.
This five-point deficit was short-lived however as soon after, substitute Jack Wilson latched onto an offload to saunter in under the posts.
With the Spencer conversion added Sarries now led by 12 but again Quins responded, sucking in the defence with quick drives from the forwards before Swiel exploited the overlap to feed Walker on the right-wing to touch down.
South African Swiel hit the conversion from the touchline but Quins faced an uphill battle after Lindsay-Hague was then sent to the bin for taking Wilson out in the air.
The home side looked to capitalise on this man advantage and Spencer took Sarries more than a converted score ahead with a 30 metre penalty but Swiel nailed a penalty himself to keep Quins in the hunt.
This took the visitors within five but despite their late flurry they could not force the win, having to settle for a losing bonus point.
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