Armitage heroics in vain
Hodgson boots Saracens to hard-fought victory
Last Updated: 14/04/12 6:14pm
Delon Armitage scored two tries on his return to the London Irish starting line-up, but could not prevent the Exiles sliding to a 28-19 defeat against Saracens at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
The reverse represented a seventh straight Aviva Premiership loss for London Irish who remain in ninth spot in the standings.
Armitage, who had been on the bench for the previous two matches, struck in each half for the hosts, whose other nine points came from three Tom Homer penalties.
Saracens won the match on the back of an immaculate kicking display from England fly-half Charlie Hodgson who landed five penalties from five attempts, struck two drop goals and converted Sarries' only try, scored by flanker Will Fraser.
However, the victory was not enough to stop the reigning Premiership champions dropping from second to third as Leicester moved above them with their bonus-point win at Northampton earlier in the day.
Homer kicked Irish into the lead in the seventh minute with his opening penalty, although Saracens drew level three minutes later - Hodgson slotting his first drop-goal following a powerful rolling maul off the back of a lineout.
Homer restored the home side's lead with a 15th-minute penalty after Saracens strayed offside and he then made it 9-3 with his third after 19 minutes when prop Matt Stevens - who was enduring a tough afternoon against England squad-mate Alex Corbisiero - was penalised at a scrum.
Hodgson reduced the deficit to three points with a penalty before out-of-favour England full-back Armitage, recalled to the Irish side as a winger, scored the opening try.
Centre Jonathan Joseph timed the final pass to perfection to send Armitage bursting through Sarries full-back Alex Goode's attempted tackle.
But Hodgson kept the visitors in touch with two well-struck penalties in the final four minutes of the opening half to ensure Irish went in only 14-12 to the good at the break.
He struck from 45 metres when Irish were caught offside in the 36th minute and two minutes later the fly-half eclipsed that after Irish were penalised at the breakdown.
Having already warned the hosts over infringements at the breakdown, referee Martin Fox finally lost patience with the hosts' indiscipline when he dispatched flanker Jamie Gibson to the sin-bin in the 52nd minute.
Hodgson kicked the resulting penalty to put Saracens ahead for the first time and Saracens then capitalised on their one-man advantage, winning a line-out and producing a 20-metre rolling maul which ended with Fraser touching down - Hodgson converted to put them 22-14 ahead.
But Irish, restored to 15 players, hit back with Armitage's second try. Taking a pass from lock Bryn Evans, he stepped inside Sarries' centre Chris Wyles before beating two more defenders on the way to the line.
Hodgson eased any Saracens nerves with his fourth penalty in the 81st minute but two minutes later the visitors were reduced to 14 men when Fraser was yellow-carded for tackling Homer in the air as the young full-back collected a high-kick.
Irish conceded two penalties as they tried to press home their advantage but Hodgson denied them even the consolation of a losing bonus-point with his second drop-goal in the final minute.