It’s not often you’ve heard that said in recent years. Harlequins were utterly awful, there really was nothing at all to take from that kind of performance. The forwards, the backs, the kicking, the tackling, the set piece, take your pick. 39-nil. Add on the fact that this was a home game – is it too early to sound the alarm bells? It will be a real test of character to rebound not just next week against Wasps, but for the rest of the season.
The real problem is there is no cavalry to bring in, and nobody to put pressure on the incumbents. Dave Ward must be injured and Asaeli Tikoirotuma has yet to arrive, but who else is there? It was a gamble by Conor O’Shea in the off-season not to pick up reinforcements and it pretty clearly hasn’t paid off.
There were signs last year that Nick Evans was starting to slide off his best, and a few more doubts will be creeping in now. Even worse he came off at the break with a shoulder injury and Ben Botica is the primary backup. With barely more than a handful of Premiership starts on his CV this must be seriously disconcerting.
Kyle Sinckler had a poor game and should get a serious talking-to. Jordan Turner-Hall has completely lost his mojo. Nick Easter looked every inch his 36 years. Had Mike Brown not shown up to play defense the score would have been even more lopsided.
Poor Joe Marler looked overwhelmed as captain and had trouble with Kieran Longbottom, a decent scrummager for an Australian but that’s not saying much. Chris Robshaw had a better day but was shown up at the breakdown by the excellent Will Fraser, who the England selectors will be delighted to see back in action. His turnover on his own line just before the half was out of the top drawer. Here’s hoping he manages to stay injury-free for an extended period of time.
Saracens can sleep much easier tonight after a strong performance. Charlie Hodgson was having a glory day, and what a luxury to have Owen Farrell come off the bench. The defensive line speed and commitment was superb, even when Quins were camped on their line they refused to concede a try. That’s the kind of effort that puts trophies on shelves.
The biggest difference was in the tight five, where Saracens completely dominated their opposites. Longbottom has fit in seamlessly while Alistair Hargreaves and George Kruis put in a serious shift in the engine room. Saints put down a marker last week against Gloucester, and Sarries have responded with one of their own.