|London Irish (19) 29|
|Try: Hassell-Collins, South Cunningham The inconvenients: Jackson 2 Pens: Jackson 5|
|Saracens (10) 20|
|Try: Pifeleti, Maitland The inconvenients: Farrell 2 Pens: Farrell 2|
London Irish survived a spell with just 12 men to hand Saracens their first Premiership defeat of the campaign in a thrilling contest.
Ollie Hassell-Collins and Chandler Cunningham-South crossed for the Irishman and Paddy Jackson scored 19 points, with both teams seeing red for high tackles.
Jackson landed five penalties to punish an unruly Sarries and converted both scores as the Irish held on.
Scrappy Sarries went through Kapeli Pifeleti and Sean Maitland.
Exiles captain Adam Coleman entered the top 40 when his shoulder touched hooker Tom Woolstencroft’s head, while Saracens fullback Ben Earl’s failure to wrap and make contact with the head lagged him. also saw off in a roughly hour-long first half.
Woolstencroft was sent off after the blow but after Rugby match manager McCall said he was “up”.
Despite being beaten, Sarries remains 10 points clear in the lead as second Sale was beaten at Newcastle.
After being narrowly edged in defeats by Leicester, Exeter, Harlequins and Gloucester by less than five points, Declan Kidney will have been delighted to see the Irish come out on the right side of the scoreboard.
It was only their third win of the season, and it was the product of a huge heart and determination to knock out the league leaders and deny them a losing bonus point.
Not only did they have Coleman’s red card, but Rory Jennings and Rob Simmons were down to 12 minutes apart in the second half – and they also overcame the loss of Will Joseph to injury, which left them left a short back for much of the game.
They dominated the free-kick, harassing the visitors’ line-up and forcing a host of free-kicks from the scrum, with fly-half Jackson buzzing off the back of their supremacy with incisive runs.
The Hassell-Collins bump and spin went wide thanks to pointy hands to the back of the pitch created by a teasing kick from Ben Loader, while Tom Pearson’s raging run late in the race allowed Cunningham -South to take over.
Yet it was the defensive mindset, in the face of a relentless attack, that helped the hosts over the line and frustrated a Saracens side who had won their first nine Premiership games of the season.
Despite it being their first league game since November, Mark McCall’s Sarries had passed their European exams against Edinburgh and Lyon in recent weeks.
At Brentford however, set-piece problems hurt them, while the stellar division backs of Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell and Alex Goode were unable to provide sufficient threat when the power play was with them. them.
Pifeleti fought his way through after an Exiles penalty offered position on the pitch just before the break, while Daly’s grubber was wasted by Lucio Sinti for Maitland’s score.
In the end, despite being close at hand, the Irish held them off for a priceless victory.
London Irish rugby manager Declan Kidney told BBC Radio London:
“It was a game to watch, a lot of ebb and flow, what happened there actually surprised me. We knocked on the door, but we got a bit of reward tonight. You can watch a few crucial points in a game and there were a lot of them tonight, that’s what made it so entertaining.
“It’s such a pleasure to work with the guys. Tonight we held them over the line, lost a goal line and gave up an attacking position. But it’s those little things that make a big difference.
“You have to learn how to win, Saracens know how to win. We learn how to win, and we showed a lot of our learnings tonight. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but I’m just delighted for everyone in the organization because that there was a bit of adversity. Everyone’s collective effort was fantastic.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BBC Radio London:
“Hats off to the London Irish, they were by far the better side and deserved to win.
“We seemed out of place from the start, we never played with the energy and clear-headedness that we normally do. We seemed shaken and distracted.
“We were on their goal line, they were down to 12 men and you have to find a way to score in that situation – for some reason we didn’t.”
London Irish: Charger; Cinti, Joseph, van Rensburg, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, white; Goodrick-Clarke, Willemse, Hoskins, Ratuniyarawa, Coleman (captain), Gonzalez, Pearson, Fa’aso’o.
Replacements: Ruiz, Fischetti, Parker, Munga, Simmons, South Cunningham, Englefield, Jennings.
Sinbin: Jennings (60), Simmons (61)
Red card: Colman (15)
Saracens: Good ; Lewington, Daly, Tompkins, Maitland; Farrell (captain), Van Zyl; M Vunipola, Woolstencroft, Riccioni, Isiekwe, Tizard, Christie, Earl, B Vunipola
Replacements: Pifeleti, Hislop, Bello, Kitchener, Wray, Davies, Howlett, Malins
Red card: Count (29)
Arbitrator: Matthew Carley