A powerful Saracens side proved far too strong for defending champions Leicester Tigers as they cruised to a bonus-point 38-21 win at Bedford’s Goldington Road.
The home side produced an outstanding first-half display to put the result beyond doubt and added a second-half try from Andy Saull to wrap up the maximum points.
The reigning champions were looking to back up last year’s success when they beat Northampton Saints at Sixways 26-14 in the final back in March.
But with a young team they were always up against it, taking on a formidable Sarries lineup, with World Cup winner John Smit on the bench.
One positive for the visitors was the return to first-team action of England international Matt Tait, who came off the bench to make his first appearance for the Tigers in 13 months.
First-half tries from Jamie George, Duncan Taylor and Joe Maddock put Sarries in total control, with fly-half Nils Mordt adding 12 points with the boot to put the home side 27-0 up.
The visitors showed more fight in the second half with tries from Joe Cain, Michael Noone and Harry Thacker but the added experience of the home side and Saull's effort proved too large an obstacle to overcome.
It took Sarries just six minutes to break the deadlock with a Mordt penalty before Tigers debutant Lucas Guillame was sent to the sin bin for an infringement at the breakdown.
Midway through the half Sarries got the first try, full-back Ben Ransom weaving through the Tigers defence but his grubber kick, intended for Maddock, was forced into touch.
Saracens earned a lineout and their rolling maul pushed Leicester’s forwards over the try-line for hooker George to record the first try of the night. Mordt slotted the conversion.
Leicester seemed to have regrouped but a poor chip from Andrew Forsyth was easily caught by Taylor who ran half the length of the pitch to score an easy try.
Maddock added to visitors’ misery on the cusp of half-time with a try on the right wing. Saull darted between two Leicester forwards before offloading to Maddock who sprinted round the Tigers defence to dot down.
After the break Alex Lewington almost got the first Leicester try of the night but was forced into touch five metres from the tryline. Leicester kept up the pressure and Cain went over five minutes later. The Saracens forwards buckled to the Tigers’ rucking for the first time, Cornwell adding the easiest of conversions.
Five minutes later Leicester added their second with Noone burrowing over after some impressive mauling from the visiting forwards.
Smit came on after 56 minutes to stabilise Sarries’ forwards and the home team scored immediately after. James Short scythed through the Tigers’ backline before offloading to Saull, who ran five metres to touch down and earn Saracens the bonus point.
Tait then entered the fray with ten minutes remaining to replace Henry Purdy, spending the remainder of the game at full-back.
And Thacker managed a late consolation for the Tigers as the youngster emerged from the back of a forward drive although it was too little too late for Leicester.