Quins lose ground with loss

Andover Advertiser: Chris Ashton goes in for one of Saracens' tries Chris Ashton goes in for one of Saracens' tries

Harlequins rested their England contingent for their Wembley showdown with Saracens and paid the price by losing ground in the race for a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs.

Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown were given the weekend off following their involvement in the RBS 6 Nations and Quins desperately missed their three most influential players in a 39-17 defeat.

While the trio were absent as a new attendance record for a club match of 83,889 was set at Wembley, Saracens started Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola, both of whom featured against Italy last Saturday.

Farrell was superb as he masterminded Quins' seventh defeat of the season behind a dominant pack, finishing with a try, three conversions and two penalties in an individual haul of 17 points.

The England fly-half and Vunipola were replaced in the final quarter but by that point Saracens were already beyond reach.

Chris Ashton, George Kruis, Jacques Burger and Marcelo Bosch also ran in tries in a resounding victory that restores them to the summit of the Premiership table in the wake of Northampton's defeat at Sale.

Karl Dickson and Sam Smith crossed for Quins, who were spirited but outgunned in all departments and have only five matches left to force their way into play-off contention.

A brutal opening five minutes are sure to interest the citing officer with Nick Kennedy's uppercut on Steve Borthwick trumped by a dangerous tackle on David Strettle.

Strettle was struck by a swinging arm from Maurie Fa'asavalu and then hit his head on the Wembley turf, resulting in several minutes of treatment before being carried off on a stretcher.

A bright spell from Harlequins ended in calamity when Nick Easter's pass was picked off by Ashton.

There was still a chance for Ugo Monye to prevent Ashton pulling clear but he slipped off the tackle and the England wing ran three quarters of the pitch to score.

Quins were guilty of a more conspicuous defensive error in the 27th minute when Kennedy feebly rolled down the legs of Kruis and the lock cantered over unopposed.

Fine build-up play preceded the score, but the 2012 Premiership champions were picked apart far too easily.

Quick witts from Dickson, who scampered through a gap around the breakdown to dart over from close range, narrowed the gap only for his team to hit the self-destruct button once more on the stroke of half-time.

Of all players it was Nick Evans, the composed veteran former All Black fly-half, who flung an unnecessary pass 10 metres out from his own line that was picked off by Farrell for Saracens' third try.

Determined work from wing Smith, a late replacement for Tom Williams who was injured during the warm-up, enabled Quins to cross on the blindside early in the second half.

The visitors were enjoying their brightest spell of the match, aided by Borthwick being sin-binned for a line-out infringement, but once the Saracens skipper returned they cracked once again.

Hooker Schalk Brits darted free from a line-out and was hauled down several metres short of the whitewash, but Burger was on hand to gather his pass out of the tackle and touch down.

Quins' humiliation was completed in the 80th minute when their disintegrating defence allowed Bosch to skip in under the posts.

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