Saracens off to a winning start at the London Stadium
England international Maro Itoje produced a man-of-the-match performance.
Saracens returned to winning ways in the Aviva Premiership as they saw off Harlequins 24-11 in their first game at the London Stadium.
Tries from returning internationals Liam Williams and Maro Itoje, plus 14 points from the boot of Alex Lozowski, proved the difference in front of a crowd of 55,329.
Despite Owen Farrell and George Kruis being unavailable, Saracens were able to call on six of their international heavyweights following the conclusion of the NatWest 6 Nations.
And Itoje shrugged off criticism from Sir Clive Woodward suggesting he looked “out on his feet” for England during the championship to deliver a man-of-the-match performance as second-placed Saracens bounced back from defeats to Exeter and Leicester.
The hosts started strongly and were soon on the scoreboard, with Lozowski converting a penalty after two minutes.
Playing in a special edition blue kit, Saracens continued to starve Quins of possession and their next visit to their opponents’ 22 resulted in the game’s first try.
Winger Sean Maitland’s weaving run forced the visitors on the back foot, before the ball went through the hands of Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt and Alex Goode to set up Williams to dot down in the corner.
Lozowski added the extras to put Saracens 10-0 ahead, but just as they looked to be running away with it, Quins’ scrum powered them back into the game.
Buoyed by the return of Kyle Sinckler and Chris Robshaw, the pack forced two penalties which were both converted by Demetri Catrakilis to cut the deficit to four points.
After a positive response to going behind, Quins were hit with two setbacks in as many minutes. A knock left Catrakilis unable to continue, before Itoje showed his class – and lack of fatigue after starting all five of England’s Six Nations games.
He slipped a tackle and fended off four defenders on his way to his first try of the season. Lozowski was unsuccessful with the touchline conversion attempt, but a penalty on the stroke of half-time gave Saracens a 18-6 lead at the break.
Quins came out firing at the start of the second half and appeared to have the momentum with them when captain James Horwill crashed through the Saracens defence for the visitors’ first try.
But the positive vibes did not last long. Another penalty from Lozowski restored Saracens’ 10-point advantage and their defence kept Quins at arm’s length.
A yellow card for Saracens replacement Max Malins for knocking the ball into touch deliberately gave Quins some hope, but Lozowski made sure of the result in the 78th minute with his fourth penalty.