Premiership: Saracens snatch late 16-13 win against London Irish
|Saracens (8) 16|
|Tries: Lamositele, Earl Pens: Lozowski, Vunipola|
|London Irish (6) 13|
|Try: Tuisue Con: Myler Pens: Myler 2|
Saracens edged to a narrow win over promoted London Irish in dreadful conditions at Allianz Park.
The Premiership champions trailed 13-8 with four minutes left but, after Allan Dell was yellow carded, the hosts cashed in on the extra man.
Ben Earl crossed to level at 13-13 and, although teenager Manu Vunipola twice missed with a retaken conversion, he then slotted a last-minute penalty.
That was champions Sarries' seventh straight victory over the Exiles.
Having not beaten Sarries since February 2014, Irish had cause for optimism about meeting a home side missing their eight England World Cup players, including captain Owen Farrell and late injury replacement Ben Spencer, as well as South African Vincent Koch. But the home fans did see fit-again Scotland centre Duncan Taylor make his first Sarries start since January 2018.
And, after losing their first game at home to early leaders Northampton, having got back to winning ways at Leicester last Sunday, this time on a highly unpleasant day, on a tricky wet surface, the champions again found a way to win.
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In a tight, tough tussle, it was 8-6 to the hosts at the interval after Irish centre Stephen Myler and Sarries centre Rob Lozowski had swapped early penalties.
The hosts then led on 25 minutes when US international prop Titi Lamositele crashed over from two yards out, but Lozowski missed the conversion and Myler added a second penalty to reduce Irish's arrears to just two points at the break.
Number eight Albert Tuisue's try - his second in successive away matches for Irish since their return to the Premiership - put the visitors back in front and Myler kicked the goal for a five-point lead.
But Sarries' late pressure finally told when, first, Dell was sent to the bin and then the man advantage told as another rolling maul led to a third try in two games for flanker Earl.
In tough kicking conditions, Sarries had already let slip penalty attempts by Lozowski and Vunipola, who then missed again with the conversion attempt from wide out.
Encroachment from Irish, who left their line too quickly, led to the kick being retaken but Vunipola missed again. However, when he got one more chance, from that late penalty call, on the day his cousins Billy and Mako suffered World Cup final heartbreak in Tokyo, this time the 19-year-old kept his nerve to slot the decisive kick.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
"We gave ourselves that one opportunity we needed. It was a great moment for Manu as a young player. Having missed the one before, it increases the pressure, but he has a very good temperament, and to step up to kick the winning penalty shows quite a lot of it.
"We're relieved but we experienced the opposite emotion a couple of weeks ago when Northampton kicked a penalty in the last second. We should enjoy what happened in the last five minutes.
"This was always going to be a testing period for us with so many players at the World Cup. This group have shown some real grit and to have nine points from three games is pretty decent.
"We need to let the dust settle after the World Cup final, give them some space, talk to the players individually and see how they feel before we make any decisions."
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney:
"Any time we lose a game like that, you're always going to be extremely disappointed at the end of it.
"Saracens are a club that are used to winning, and it takes a while to get that. What we're trying to do is be is the best team we can.
"Every opposing team brings a different type of challenge, so it's very hard to compare one with the other.
"There was a list of lessons we learnt from the Sale match. But we will learn lessons from this and we will be better again in the next match."
Saracens: Gallagher; Maitland, Lozowski, Taylor, Segun; Manu Vunipola, Wigglesworth; Barrington, Woolstencroft, Lamositele, Skelton, Hunter-Hill, Isiekwe, Earl, Wray (capt).
Replacements: Gray, Adams-Hale, Wainwright, Kpoku, Reffell, Whiteley, Tompkins, Lewington.
London Irish: Jackson; Williams, Rona, Stephenson, Loader; Myler, Meehan; Hobbs-Awoyemi, Fainga'a, Hoskins, Botha, Van der Merwe (capt), Cowan, Ioane, Tuisue.
Replacements: Matu'u, Dell, Cilliers, Nott, Rogerson, Steele, Macken, Hassell-Collins.
Sin-bin: Dell (86).
Referee: Adam Leal (RFU).