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Fixture Type: Aviva Premiership
Match Date: Sun 09 Jan 2011
Kick Off: 15:00
Venue: Vicarage Road
Referee: David Rose
Assistant Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant Referee: Roger Baileff
<1r>In a match where both sides were very evenly matched it came down to two second half penalties from young Saracens fly half Owen Farrell that was ultimately the difference.
It was a game dominated by defence with players from both teams putting in some enormous hits. Both sides refused to give an inch and there were early indications that it would be a try less affair which turned out to be the case.
The Exiles had a nervy start to the game with unforced errors in their own 22 giving Saracens early attacking impetus.
The first points of the game did not arrive until the 21st minute. Matt Garvey, who followed on from his impressive performance against Bath last week with another outstanding display, dragged down Saracens captain Steve Borthwick in the air during a lineout. This gave Owen Farrell his third attempt at goal after his two earlier attempts had both hit the post. He made no mistake with the third and gave Saracens a 3-0 lead.
Ten minutes before half time after a sustained period of possession in the Saracens 22, Chris Malone came close to scoring a try only to be tackled two metres from the Saracens try line after cutting a great line off Dan Bowden. Referee, David Rose went back for an earlier infringement in play to give Malone the chance to make it 3-3 which he duly did.
Malone and Farrell then both exchanged penalties before half time to make it 6-6 at the half time break.
The second half started the same as the first with both sides looking to play for territory. Both Farrell and full back Alex Goode seemed to be edging this battle for Saracens taking play deep into the Exiles half.
Ten minutes into the second half Irish started to make real inroads into the Saracens defence, after 14 phases, Bowden released the ever dangerous Tagicakibau down the left wing and after beating two defenders he lost his footing before being tackled by Alex Goode.
Irish were not able to put all this territory and possession into points and it was Saracens who were able to make their way up field and open up the scoring for the second half.
After 63 minutes Irish gave away a penalty for putting their hands on the ball after the ruck had been formed. Farrell stepped up to make it 9-6 to Saracens.
Six minutes later Farrell received another opportunity for three points as Topsy Ojo was penalised for not releasing the ball after being tackled. Farrell slotted the penalty to make it 12-6.
Irish did have one last opportunity to attack the Saracens line in the last 5 minutes after substitute Ryan Lamb put in a huge kick which was fumbled by Saracens wing James Short giving Irish an attacking lineout just outside the Saracens 22.
The Exiles kept hold of the ball edging their way ever closer to the Saracens line. After three minutes of going through the phases, Matt Garvey was tackled by Saracens substitute hooker Jamie George who knocked the ball free and allowed substitute Gavin Henson to clear the ball 50 metres up field.
Despite the defeat, the players showed plenty of desire and determination during the game and are definitely moving in the right direction. The set piece was solid and the defensive effort very impressive.
The statistics from the game show it was a very even contest. It came down to taking the points when they were on offer which young Owen Farrell did, leaving the majority of the 7,013 crowd at Vicarage Road very pleased.
Next up for London Irish is a home fixture against the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup.
Scorers: London Irish: Pens: Chris Malone (2); Saracens: Pens: Owen Farrell (2)
Score sequence: (Saracens first ) 3-0, 3-3, 3-6, 6-6, 9-6, 12-6
London Irish: 15. C Malone, 14. T Ojo, 13. E Seveali’i, 12. S Mapusua, 11. S Tagicakibau, 10. D Bowden (rep: R Lamb), 9. P Hodgson (captain)(rep: D Allinson,), 1. A Corbisiero (rep: C Dermody), 2. J Buckland, 3. F Rautenbach (rep: P Ion), 4. N Kennedy, 5. M Garvey, 6. R Thorpe (rep: C Hala’ufia), 7. S Armitage, 8. G Stowers
Saracens: 15. A Goode,14. D Strettle, 13.M Tagicakibau, 12. B Barritt, 11. J Short, 10. O Farrell, 9. R Wigglesworth, 1. D Carstens, 2.S Brits, 3 C Nieto, 4. S Borthwick (captain), 5.M Botha, 6. J Burger, 7. A Saull 8. K Brown
Referee: David Rose