Aviva Premiership: Saracens comfortably see off Harlequins
Last Updated: 24/03/13 5:40pm
Mako Vunipola on the charge for Saracens
Saracens moved five points clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership after an impressive 27-12 victory over Harlequins at Allianz Park.
With the play-offs fast approaching and both sides almost certain to be involved, this was an important marker for Sarries as they bid to reclaim the title from their London rivals.
The champions were second best from the outset as Saracens claimed a surprisingly comfortable victory, with tries from Shalk Brits and Will Fraser and 17 points from the boot of Owen Farrell. Nick Evans kicked four penalties in reply for Quins.
Farrell and Evans exchanged a brace of early penalties apiece before an excellent break by Chris Ashton split the visiting defence and released flanker Fraser, who was denied a try by Mike Brown's cover tackle.
The combined efforts of the Quins defence prevented Fraser from recycling the ball at the cost of a yellow card for Joe Marler, whose absence cost his side 11 points in total.
Farrell landed the resulting penalty and kicked his fourth in the 23rd minute, before a slick five-man handling move opened up the depleted Quins defence and Brits spun and barged his way over for the game's first try, although Farrell missed the conversion.
Marler returned as the visitors were awarded a 30th-minute penalty, kicked by Evans after Sarries number eight Ernst Joubert offended at the breakdown, but both fly-halves missed kickable penalties in the closing minutes of the half.
Five minutes after the break Evans made amends for his earlier miss to cut the gap to five points after the back-pedalling Saracens scrum was penalised.
Saracens responded with Brown, Goode and Ashton combining to put Harlequins in trouble again. Playing the advantage after Quins failed to release Ashton, Farrell produced a superb cross-field kick into the arms of the unchallenged Fraser who touched down. Farrell converted to give Saracens a 24-12 lead.
Farrell missed a 58th-minute penalty shot but made no mistake 10 minutes later to stretch his side's lead to 15 points.
In the closing stages, Ashton looked fortunate to escape with only a yellow card for a high tackle on Harlequins' replacement flanker Maurie Fa'asavalu after referee Greg Garner asked the television match official to review the incident.
Harlequins tried desperately to make their one-man advantage pay but Saracens kept them out with disciplined and determined defence.