Alex Goode leads Saracens to victory as Premiership rugby goes Stateside
London Irish suffered a heart-breaking loss against Saracens in their historic Aviva Premiership clash at the New York Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
The first top-flight Premiership game to be played overseas saw the Exiles, who are rooted to the bottom of the league standings, face high-flying Sarries at the 25,000 capacity venue just outside New York.
Alex Goode's 16-point haul helped Sarries secure a hard-fought win as Mark McCall's men regained top spot in the table.
Debutant fly-half Greig Tonks kicked 11 points for the Exiles, with Alex Lewington crossing for their solitary try.
All the momentum was with the designated home side as the Exiles came flying out of the blocks.
Slick offloads from Topsy Ojo and Luke Narraway sent Ciaran Hearn scything through a gap. From the next ruck, Narraway was involved again as his overhead pass freed up Tonks, who sent Lewington crashing over in the corner.
The Saracens cover, however, did enough to put the Exiles winger into touch. Referee Luke Pearce came back for the advantage, with Tonks firing over the penalty to make it 3-0.
Sarries had a chance to draw level soon after, but scrum-half Ben Spencer sent a relatively straight-forward effort wide of the left post.
Goode, who was released from the England squad earlier this week, shrugged off weak tackles from Scott Steele and Narraway to race away for the first try of the evening in the 15th minute. Spencer made no mistake with the conversion to make it 7-3.
The Exiles replied with a try of the highest quality, with the impressive Lewington running a superb support line off Steele's offload for a well-worked try. Tonks added the extras as the men in green regained in the lead at 10-7.
Tonks, who was making his debut for London Irish after joining from Edinburgh this month, was having a hugely impressive outing and the Exiles fly-half soon made it 13-7.
The Sarries pack forced a penalty at scrum-time, but Spencer one again failed from the kicking tee.
Powerful young prop Titi Lamositele entered the fray at half-time and the US Eagles loosehead made his presence felt almost immediately with a big carry forcing the Exiles offside. Goode, who took over the goal-kicking duties from Spencer, fired over the resulting penalty.
McCall sent on further reinforcements as lock Alistair Hargreaves, Scotland flanker Kelly and veteran scrum-half Neil de Kock joined the action. Their impact was almost immediate as Goode added another penalty to tie the scores up at 13-13.
Goode continued to stick the boot into the Exiles with this third three-pointer nudging Sarries into the lead.
Tonks levelled it up once more with a 58th-minute penalty following a sparkling break from Exiles full-back Sean Maitland.
Goode shifted to fly-half in place of Nils Mordt for the final quarter, with the Sarries star landing a monster penalty to put the Londoners in front with 12 minutes of the contest remaining.
Tonks sent a 72nd minute penalty effort wide of the posts after Sarries had infringed at the breakdown.
The Exiles threw everything at Sarries late on, but it was Nike Tompkins who had the final say as the centre charged down substitute Darren Allinson's kick to seal a hard-fought victory.