My live sports watching started in the late 70’s at White Hart Lane where I stood on the Shelf, the new Spurs Stadium is pretty much on the same site, but is now probably the best stadium in this country if not the whole of Europe. My seat was close to the action and virtually on the half way line, perfect for this London Derby.

Both teams had their full squads available barring injuries, this was bound to be an exciting match. 55,000 people took the opportunity yo visit this stadium and watch what turned out to to be a very good game of rugby. At stake for Saracens was the point they needed to ensure a home semi-final for Quins this was a chance to stay in the running for a Top 4 finish.

Luke Peace was the man in the middle and he’d feature in a very memorable/comical incident as the game progressed. An early penalty for Quins saw Danny Care pass from the line out to Marcus Smith, Alex Dombrandt took the pass from Smith and stepped past the Saracens defender to score, A difficult kick was converted by Smith. With 3 minutes on the board Quins had a 7 nil lead.

Saracens were awarded their own penalty a couple of minutes later, they won another couple of penalties, taking a line out from one of them, The ball found its way out to Alex Lozowski who took a short pass from Ben Earl, Owen Farrell added the extras.

Lozowski turned creator for Saracens second try, a great kick from Alex Goode gave Saracens a line out deep in the Quins half, The ball came out to Farrell quickly who popped a pass to Lozowski who looked likely to score again, he’d made good ground but was brought down, the ball went to Fly Half Ivan Van Zyl who passed to Nick Tompkins who had the space to run an and score. 15 minutes and we’d seen 3 very good tries.

The first controversial incident involving the players saw van Zyl kick the ball forwards, at the time I thought the collision between van Zyl and Danny Care was a ‘rugby incident’. Had the referee been able to see a replay his decision may have been different. In common with the Freddie Steward red card for England, Saracens fans will believe a red card was due, Quins fans not, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the incident wasn’t dissimilar. A huge concern for me is that the Saracens man stayed on the pitch at that time, in spite of the referee checking that the doctor was happy no HIA was needed, van Zyl did leave the pitch for said HIA a little later.

Care was shown a yellow card a couple of minutes later after he hit the ball out of van Zyl’s hands as he was taking it from a ruck. Saracens converted the resulting penalty. This was when van Zyl left for that HIA, all very wrong in my opinion, he should have gone at the time of the incident.

Billy Vunipola called the mark as the ball came to him in the Saracens 22, he took the kick out and it was a cracker! Marcus Smith in the meantime had to take over the Scrum Half duties for Quins, he did a good job of it too. Aled Davies on for van Zyl made an error with his kick however kicking straight out and taking play deep into the Saracens half. Saracens spent the majority of the 10 minutes with Quins down to 14 defending. They had one excellent attack after Farrell stole the ball in the ruck the Vunipola brothers combined to get the ball to Max Malins on the wing, who ran three quarters of the pitch before he was tackled. Care returned with Saracens having added only the 3 points for the penalty for the card incident.

A potential high tackle on Smith was missed, (a potential tip tackle on Malins had been missed earlier) but poor Luke Pearce was then bundled over by Irne Herbst, funny in many ways, and yet, ouch! Not much fun for Sir.

Play re-started with a scrum, Quins won a penalty and Smith kicked to the corner, van Zyl returned to play having passed his HIA. A great opportunity for Quins, but the final pass from Smith went awry, in hoping to regain the ball Nick David gave away a penalty.

Quins had spent plenty of time in the Saracens half, but Saracens, back in possession, attacked with the ball going through virtually every players hands, Andy Christie was out on the wing and he flew over the line. the conversion went to the right of the posts. I chose to watch. the ITV version of the game and it was good to hear Chris Robshaw praising Saracens as half time approached. Th teams went in with the scores on Saracens 22 Harlequins 7.

Harlequins started the second half as they’d started the game, with a lovely try, Alex Goode and Maro Itoje combined to knock the ball on from the kick off, Quins made the most of that from the scrum, Esterhuizen made a couple of forays but he was held up over the line by Farrell and Lozowski. Quins chose a scrum from the penalty they had waiting and a lovely pass out to Cadan Murley from Smith saw him score in the corner. Care and Smith had combined again; I”d judge that Care has been and still is one of the best fly halves in the Premiership. Another difficult kick sailed through the posts and the gap was narrowed to 8 points.

Murley showed his defensive qualities foilowing a great Saracens attack, one in which Malins seemed to pop up all over the pitch, back on his wing he looked like scoring until Murley put in a huge tackle to get the ball won back for Quins.

A penalty for holding on by Care saw Quins marched another 10 metres, that gave Saracens a great attacking platform and there was another display of running rugby with Max Malins chipping the ball through he was brought down by a key tap tackle, but the ball went back out to Andy Christie, through several sets of hands, who became provider for Sean Maitland this time. That was the bonus point try for Saracens .

Billy Vunipola gave away a penalty with a double roll from the kick off. The Quins forwards battered the Saracens line but the defence hald firm, it took a massive pass from Esterhuizen to Murley out on the wing. A great decision by the referee and his team to award the try, an unusual miss for Smith that kept the gap at 10. That try made Murley the leading try scorer in the Premiership for the season; It hard to understand why he wasn’t included in any of Steve BBorthwick’s 6 Nations teams.

Controversy number 2 came when Luke Northmore clattered into Farrell as he kicked the ball ahead, he had his arms high and hit Farrell across the neck, I will concede that Farrell went down like he was shot, the ensuing Yellow card feels like the right decision.

The penalty was taken from where the ball landed and Saracens attacked through their forwards this time with Maro Itoje claiming the try. Farrell added the extras to take Saracens to 36.

Quins looked to have scored after Smith chose to take a tap after he’d called the mark, David took a lovely pass and stormed down the pitch, it looked like a cracker, but Malins made a try saving tackle and the ball bounced out of David’s hands before he touched it down.

Worryingly for Saracens; with a European play off game next week, Farrell turned his ankle in the tackle and had to leave the field. Alex Goode took over the Fly Half duties. Farrell looked to be walking much easier buy the time he reached the side line.

Andy Christie say yellow and with only 9 minutes of the match left that would. be his game. Quins again took the scrum option; Danny Care put in a brilliant cross field kick to Joe Marchant, he took the ball in the air and almost fell over the line. Goode had been under him, but he landed safely. Marchant questioned that, but. was denied any penalty.

Harlequins had both the first and last word as far as points were concerned and the final score was Saracens 36 Harlequins 24. This was a game worthy of this London Derby, with both teams playing some lovely rugby. The bonus point win confirms a home semi-final for Saracens. Billy Vunipola was awarded the Man of the Match award, I think Max Malins would’ve been my choice.


  1. Thanks Debbie
    You have a great skill in reporting a game but still be able to enjoy watching and catching all the critical incidents
    Well Done

    Liked by 1 person

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