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RugbyU: Leaders Saracens sink Harlequins

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Saracens surged five points clear at the top of the English Premiership with an emphatic 27-12 win against title rivals Harlequins on Sunday.

Hooker Schalk Brits and flanker Will Fraser scored the tries for Saracens, with England fly-half Owen Farrell kicking the leaders' other 17 points.

Fly-half Nick Evans kept Harlequins in contention into the second half with four penalties from five attempts, but the reigning champions were unable to make much impact on Saracens' rock-solid defence.

Saracens went into the match one point ahead of Leicester, who had moved into second spot with their win over Exeter 24 hours earlier, and four clear of third-placed Harlequins, so this was a significant moment in their challenge to finish top of the table.

Both sides were bolstered by the return of their international stars from Six Nations duty.

England's Farrell, Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt and Mako Vunipola returned for Saracens, along with Scotland captain Kelly Brown.

Harlequins had Mike Brown, Danny Care, Joe Marler and captain Chris Robshaw back in their starting line-up, but it was the hosts who produced the dominant performance.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was impressed with the way his England players cast off the disappointment of their Six Nations defeat against Wales last weekend, which cost them the chance to win the Grand Slam.

"I've got to take my hat off to our English guys who had a difficult weekend last week. All of them, to a man, wanted to play today," McCall said.

"It says a lot about the the environment and the general group that they are so keen to come back and enjoy it so much, but some of our non-internationals were pretty good today as well.

"As a team we played really well. Our tackling game caused them some problems and we scored our tries at the right times."

McCall was also delighted with the performance of under-fire England winger Ashton.

"Chris had a really top game and got himself involved, for a guy who has taken his criticism over the last few weeks," McCall added.

"Two years ago we thought Chris Ashton was the best player in the world and he just needs to have the confidence that his coaches believe in him."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130324/rugbyu-leaders-saracens-sink-harlequins-0