An electric treble from David Strettle inside the opening 25 minutes helped Saracens ease past Worcester Warriors at Allianz Park – the hosts securing an Aviva Premiership home semi-final with a 47-17 win.
There was also a try for replacement prop Carlos Nieto and the resurgent Chris Ashton, as well as 17 points from the boot of Charlie Hodgson, as the 2011 champions tightened their grip on top spot.
Strettle was the main beneficiary of a free-flowing encounter that was aided by warm conditions, but Richard Hill’s side also contributed ably despite not having won a game away from Sixways since a 6-0 victory at London Wasps on New Year’s Day 2012.
In fact, it was the Warriors who made the early running, putting together some concerted pressure from the kick-off and winning a penalty on Saracens’ 22 after referee Tim Wigglesworth penalised Matt Stevens for failing to roll away from a tackle.
Fly-half Danny Gray converted a straightforward chance to put Worcester 3-0 ahead early on, but that lead was immediately cancelled out when Charlie Hodgson replied with a penalty of his own to punish Josh Drauniniu for getting isolated at a ruck close to his own 10-metre line.
The next 20 minutes belonged exclusively to Strettle, who extended his tally to eight tries in his last Aviva Premiership games, who starred at the heart of some exceptional running rugby as Mark McCall’s team exploded into life.
His first score came at the end of a sweeping backline move that showcased very slick handling from Joel Tomkins and Ashton, creating just enough space for the wing to bolt over just inside the left-hand touchline.
Hodgson missed the conversion after failing to negotiate a tricky breeze, but made amends by capitalising on a simpler chance when Worcester gave away a penalty for getting offside in midfield.
Having stretched to an 11-3 lead, Saracens had their tails up and were boosted further as Strettle’s stunning 60-metre solo break allowed him to round Warriors full-back Chris Pennell and cross the line.
Hodgson added the extras and was soon on the front foot igniting his backs once more. Following a prolonged period of territorial dominance, Strettle went over from close range to seal his hat-trick and put the home side 23-3 ahead.
Though Saracens were threatening to cut loose at point-per-minute pace, a searing outside break from centre Alex Grove allowed Drauniniu to outpace the cover defence and dent the arrears.
The impressive Gray landed a tough conversion and, although Stevens and Rhys Gill – on his 100th appearance – were causing trouble for the Warriors’ scrum, Worcester finished the first half strongly.
That momentum continued after the break as well, Matt Kvesic bundling over at the back of a lineout drive in the right-hand corner. Another well-struck conversion by Gray gave the West Midlands outfit hope, hauling them to within a score of the league leaders.
However, those were to prove the visitors final points of an ultimately fruitless afternoon, Saracens pulling away on the back of a powerful display as the imposing experience of their bench shone through.
As Worcester chased the game against the wind, Nieto and Ashton each grabbed converted tries – the former an extremely popular effort with the sell-out crowd to secure the bonus point – before a late Hodgson penalty turned the screw.
Finally, with 80 minutes on the clock, the industrious Jackson Wray shunted through Worcester’s fringe defence to give the scoreline a somewhat flattering sheen.
But no doubt the majority inside the Allianz Park will be hoping to make their way to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham on May 25 if this performance is anything to go by.