Sarries condemn Leeds to third defeat
September 19, 2010
Leeds' James Tincknell is tackled
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David Strettle marked his first start for Saracens with a try as Brendan Venter's side condemned bottom side Leeds to a 26-14 defeat at Headingley - the hosts' third-successive Aviva Premiership loss.
Strettle, 27, touched down in the 26th minute with a clinical effort to register his second try for the club following his summer move from rivals Harlequins. Replacement hooker Schalk Brits added a late second and fly-half Derick Hougaard weighed in with 16 points with the boot in a largely uninspiring encounter.
England hooker Steve Thompson was handed his first start for Leeds and Christian Lewis-Pratt retained the fly-half berth after his 16-point haul against Gloucester last weekend. Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick returned for the visitors and George Kruis, Justin Melck, Neil de Kock and Kameli Ratuvou also made the starting line-up.
A penalty from Hougaard put Saracens ahead in the third minute but the initial response from Leeds was impressive. They fashioned a promising move down the left flank and, after Semi Tadulala's progress was halted, Lewis-Pratt sent a penalty wide of the posts.
Yet the teenager looked full of confidence with the ball in hand despite taking a heavy knock and looked to orchestrate Leeds' attacks at every opportunity. However, the hosts could not make their dominance pay and were hit with a vicious sucker-punch in the 26th minute when Saracens claimed the only try of the first half.
Hougaard collected a pass from De Kock and flighted a teasing grubber kick into the right corner, where Strettle arrived to touch down. Hougaard added the extras and converted another penalty before half-time to give his side an interval lead of 13-0.
That advantage could have been greater had Hougaard not missed another penalty and a drop-goal attempt, but Saracens still looked well in control at half-time. Yet Leeds hit back six minutes after the break through a penalty from Lewis-Pratt to at least put some points on the board.
However, he finally succumbed to injury in the 53rd minute and was replaced by Leigh Hinton. Hinton kicked a penalty to cut the gap to seven points shortly before the hour mark but Hougaard gave Saracens further breathing space moments later with a long-range three-pointer. Four minutes later, Leeds had an outstanding opportunity to breach the visiting rearguard when Scott Mathie and Hinton combined to send number eight Dan Browne bustling clear. Browne was just yards from the line but lost control of the ball and the opportunity was lost.
Four minutes later another penalty from Hinton got Leeds back into the game at 16-9 but Saracens grabbed a killer second try in the closing stages when Brits touched down after the visiting pack drove him over the line. Hougaard converted and although centre James Tincknell replied for Leeds in the left corner, Hinton failed to add the conversion before Hougaard added another penalty for Saracens.
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