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Saracens suffer third league defeat of the season as they lose 29-16 to London Irish at the Madejski Stadium
Saracens missed the chance to go top of the Aviva Premiership for a few hours at least as a disappointing performance saw the Men in Black suffer a shock 29-16 defeat away to London Irish.
Mark McCall's side were missing a handful of their regular stars who were away on Six Nations duty, and it showed, as the team were unusually rudderless and prone to sloppy errors throughout.
A thrilling second half saw three tries scored in 13 minutes as David Strettle's score looked to have pulled the Men in Black back into the contest after Shane Geraghty had already run through for Irish.
But the hosts halted any comeback almost immediately as Ofisa Treviranus put the game beyond doubt with a second Irish try.
Charlie Hodgson, starting at fly-half in place of Farrell, was first to trouble the scoreboard, driving home an ambitious penalty kick from just inside Saracens' half to give the visitors the lead within two minutes.
A scrum penalty allowed Irish's Tom Homer the chance to level things up before Hodgson dispatched another impressive long-distance effort from the tee.
Matt Stevens was perhaps fortunate not to be punished further when he spear tackled his opposite number Halani Aulika. But Sarries paid the price in points as Homer kicked his second successful penalty to make it 6-6 after a quarter of an hour.
Irish continued to probe the Sarries back line and the hosts came close to a try after 31 minutes when Hodgson dallied and George Skivington pounced to hack the ball through. Hodgson won the chase but was unable to secure possession and Pat Phibbs should have put the ball over the line but managed to spill at the crucial moment.
The home crowd drew encouragement from the chance however and with their tails up Irish were handed another opportunity to take the lead, this time from the tee, but Homer's third penalty drifted just wide of the posts.
The 23-year-old though was more precise minutes later as he kicked his third penalty from four.
Irish deserved their lead but the advantage was short-lived as Hodgson quickly returned the favour with another three points, his long-range effort popping up off the cross bar before dropping just through.
Saracens would probably have been relieved to be level at the break having been inferior for much of the first half and after the restart they began to exert some control on proceedings, enjoying their best spell of the match but unable to penetrate a resolute Irish defence.
Just as the visitors appeared to be cranking up the pressure though, a misjudged pass in the 54th minute by Nils Mordt on halfway allowed Geraghty to intercept and the Irish number 12 duly ran the ball home for the first try of the game.
Homer added the extras to increase the home side's lead to 19-9 with 26 minutes left on the clock.
Saracens continued to foray forward but desperation saw too many offloads spilled loose and as the Men in Black's frustration led to indiscipline the impressive Homer was again on-hand to put the ball through the posts to make it 22-9.
Sarries weren't finished yet though and a Hodgson pass allowed Strettle to dance through the Irish defence to put the Men in Black back in the contest. Hodgson added the extras to make it 22-16 and the comeback was on.
But just as it looked like McCall's side might be gaining some momentum another handling error set Sarries back.
Joubert failed to collect the ball off the floor and Topsy Ojo was first to it sprinting ahead before improvising brilliantly with a pass over his head to Treviranus who sneaked through to score Irish's second.
Homer kicked the conversion and Saracens' efforts had been cancelled out as Irish once again led by 13 points with just over 10 minutes left.
The Irish number 15 - with 19 points to his name for the match - was unable to add his sixth penalty with five minutes to go as the ball dropped short but the damage had already been done and Saracens were left to rue their third Premiership loss of the season.
The Men in Black will be hoping to get back to winning ways next Saturday when play their first league match at Allianz Park against Exeter Chiefs.
Saracens: 15. Chris Wyles 14. Joe Maddock (Short, 57) 13. Joel Tomkins 12. Duncan Taylor (Mordt, 47) 11. David Strettle 10. Charlie Hodgson 9. Neil de Kock (Wigglesworth, 51) 1. Nick Auterac 2. John Smit (Brits, 47) 3. Matt Stevens 4. Steve Borthwick (c) 5. Alistair Hargreaves (Botha, 55) 6. George Kruis 7. Nick Fenton-Wells (Wray, 55) 8. Ernst Joubert
Replacements: 16. Schalk Brits 17. Jamie George 18. Petrus du Plessis 19. Mouritz Botha 20. Jackson Wray 21. Richard Wigglesworth 22. Nils Mordt 23. James Short
London Irish: 15. Tom Homer 14. Topsy Ojo 13. Guy Armitage 12. Shane Geraghty 11. Marland Yarde 10. Ian Humphreys (Shingler, 72) 9. Pat Phibbs (Moates, 62) 1. Max Lahiff (Yanuyanutawa, 70) 2. Scott Lawson (Mayhew, 62) 3. Halani Aulika (Halavatau, 71) 4. George Skivington 5. Bryn Evans (capt) 6. Matt Garvey (Kieran Low, 75) 7. Jebb Sinclair (Gibson, 55) 8. Chris Hala’ufia (Treviranus, 20)
Replacements: 16. Mike Mayhew 17. Jerry Yanuyanutawa 18. Leo Halavatau 19.Jamie Gibson 20. Ofisa Treviranus 21. Kieran Low 22. Steven Shingler 23. Jack Moates