Premiership: London Irish 14-51 Saracens

Billy Vunipola
Billy Vunipola (right) was back for Saracens after missing four months with a broken arm
Aviva Premiership
London Irish (14) 14
Tries: Cokanasiga, Williams Cons: Tonks 2
Saracens (16) 51
Tries: Barritt, Taylor, Rhodes, Bosch, Barrington, Goode, Brits Cons: Farrell 5 Pens: Farrell 2

Saracens made sure of a home semi-final in the Premiership play-offs with a resounding bonus-point victory at already relegated London Irish.

The visitors only led 16-14 at the break, with Joe Cokanasiga and Johnny Williams responding to Saracens tries from Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor.

But Mike Rhodes, Marcelo Bosch, Richard Barrington, Alex Goode and Schalk Brits all crossed as Sarries' class told.

The away side were also boosted by the return of Billy Vunipola from injury.

The England number eight came on for the final 20 minutes having been absent since January with a broken arm.

Although Sarries were already in control by the time the 25-year-old was introduced, they had been made to work hard by Irish - before 35 unanswered points in the second half added gloss to the scoreline.

The Exiles' immediate return to the Championship was confirmed following Worcester Warriors' win over Harlequins on Saturday.

It is the second time in three years Irish have been relegated, with just three wins from 20 games in 2017-18.

Saracens are guaranteed to finish second behind leaders Exeter Chiefs, with either Wasps, Newcastle Falcons or Leicester Tigers set to be their opponents in the semi-finals.

London Irish technical consultant Declan Kidney told BBC Radio Berkshire:

"Saracens have a lot of power and they certainly took their opportunities during the game in the closing quarters. We (him and head coach Les Kiss) have been trying to add value to this squad since we've been here.

"We obviously didn't manage to add enough value to allow us to stay up, but we now know the lie of the land and we can work on that going forward. We will gather together a group of lads who want to take on that challenge and work towards it.

"We've fought tooth and nail just to stay in the Premiership, that hasn't worked out. We've had one or two conversations with the coaches, I think that the future is bright on that front. There will be comings and goings with the players, but we want players who want to be there.

"There's a lot of good things that happen at this club that don't necessarily show on the pitch, but they're things in my experience that you can't just go out and buy.

"So, we need to build on those and get ourselves ready for next season in what's going to be a very tough Championship."

Saracens boss Mark McCall:

"It's good to get him [Billy Vunipola] back on the park. We'll try to give him as much game time as we can next week, start him I'm sure against Gloucester next weekend, all being well. It's a shame it's a fallow weekend after that.

"He'll be a bit nervous next week, he's only played three games in total this year. He's done a hell of a lot of rehab, so it's good to get some of the walking wounded back.

"I don't think anyone sees it, but it was really tough when he broke his arm. He was very emotional straight after that.

"But he just believes that whatever will be will be, things happen for a reason but now he's back and doing what he likes best. We've got a training week the week after Gloucester and we'll make that week as tough as it needs to be."

London Irish: Tonks; Cokanasiga, Fowlie, J. Williams, Lewington; Brophy Clews, Van Zyl; Franks, Paice (capt), Hoskins, McNally, Van der Merwe, Schatz, Cowan, Treviranus.

Replacements: Porecki, Elrington, Du Plessis, De Chaves, Basham, Steele, McLean, Tokoirotuma.

Saracens: Goode; Williams, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Maitland; Farrell, Spencer; M. Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Kruis, Rhodes, Burger, Wray.

Replacements: Brits, Barrington, Figallo, Isiekwe, B. Vunipola, Wigglesworth, Lozowski, Bosch.

Referee: Ian Tempest.

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