Premiership champions Saracens rout Harlequins as Newcastle lose again

At the double: Saracens wing Sean Maitland scored two tries in a 52-7 hammering of Harlequins in the English Premiership (ROMAIN PERROCHEAU)
At the double: Saracens wing Sean Maitland scored two tries in a 52-7 hammering of Harlequins in the English Premiership (ROMAIN PERROCHEAU)

Reigning champions Saracens thrashed Harlequins 52-7 in the English Premiership on Saturday, scoring eight tries against their London rivals in a display that surprised even boss Mark McCall.

In a match played in front of more than 60,000 spectators at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the home of the Premier League football club, Saracens managed four tries in each half as they leapfrogged Harlequins into second place.

With Premiership leaders Northampton hammered 52-21 by Bristol on Friday, Sarries are now just three points behind the table-toppers ahead of next week's game away to the table-topping Saints.

Only the top four teams at the end of the regular season qualify for the title-deciding play-offs.

"We weren't expecting the scoreline and weren't expecting the performance to be quite at that level," said Saracens supremo McCall after a match where his team showed no signs of rustiness following an eight-week break for the international Six Nations Championship.

"We understand, however, that sometimes when you are dominant it's not always reflected on the scoreboard -- today it was," the former Ireland international added.

Saracens surged into a 24-0 lead before half-time, with Sean Maitland scoring two tries while Alex Lewington and Theo Dan also crossed Harlequins' line.

Dan crossed again early in the second period and Saracens led 31-0 before Harlequins managed a consolation try through Alex Dombrandt.

But the Argentina duo of Lucio Cinti and Juan Martin Gonzalez added to Quins' agony before Alex Goode scored Saracens' eighth try.

Owen Farrell, the former England captain, marked his 250th appearance for Saracens with six conversions as a Quins team featuring England fly-half Marcus Smith were overwhelmed.

Farrell will leave Saracens at the end of the season to join French club Racing 92 and McCall believes the 32-year-old playmaker is bowing out in style.

"Incredible, he played as good as I've seen him play for a very long time," said McCall. "It looked like it mattered to him and I think he's going to be like that for the rest of the season, hopefully."

Elsewhere, Newcastle's new consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond's first game in charge ended with a 25-16 loss away to Exeter.

It was the Falcons' 13th defeat from as many league games this season and left them firmly rooted to the foot of the table.

Newcastle scored a try after only 70 seconds, through wing Ben Stevenson, but Exeter managed four of their own as Greg Fisilau, Zack Wimbush, Scott Sio and Rusi Tuima as they maintained their bid for a top-four finish.

Diamond, however, was encouraged by his team's display.

"Taking Newcastle from where they have been in the doldrums, not really being competitive -- I thought we were competitive today against a good side who don't lose many at home," he said.

"With a little bit more skill and knowledge we'll be able to pick up some wins during the remainder of the season, and the lads are working hard," the former Sale boss added.