Exiles bring Saracens’ march to an end

Saracens boss Brendan Venter said his side had “beaten themselves” after the English Premiership leaders lost for the first time in the league this season in a 23-19 away reverse to London Irish.

Sarries were leading until 10 minutes from the end of Sunday’s match at the Madejksi Stadium and they would have increased their six-point advantage if just one of several failed drop-goal attempts had been on target.

Instead Irish hit back with a try from Elvis Seveali’i and Chris Malone’s conversion set the seal on a win for the home side that saw the second-placed Exiles close to within three points of Saracens.

“The boys are very disappointed,” said former South Africa international Venter after a defeat that left Saracens with a record of nine wins, one draw and one loss from 11 league matches this season.

“They (London Irish) played well, but we will learn from this experience and become a better team because in the end we beat ourselves.”

Elsewhere, Danny Cipriani started for the first time since October after recovering from a hairline leg fracture as his Wasps side edged London rivals Harlequins 21-20 in front of a league record crowd of 76,716 at Twickenham.

Fly-half Cipriani, who missed five of his seven shots at goal but still kicked what turned out to be two important penalties, had fallen out of favour with England manager Martin Johnson long before his injury setback.

But the 22-year-old still believes he can force his way back into the Test side with a series of consistent displays at club level.

“I’ll hopefully put a string of games together for Wasps,” Cipriani said.

“If England come calling then that would be amazing because I’d love to be involved.”

Media reports in France have suggested Cipriani has already held talks with Stade Francais over a move to the Paris-based club when his London Wasps contract expires at the end of the current European season.

But Cipriani, who started on Sunday ahead of in-form stand-off Dave Walder, said: “I’m just focused on my rugby at the moment. I’m happy here.”

As for his own form Cipriani, who won the last of his seven caps against the All Blacks last year, said: “I was disappointed with my goalkicking but I was pretty pleased with the rest of my game.”

In Sunday’s other matches, basement club Leeds gave themselves hope of avoiding the drop with a 16-15 win away to Newcastle while fellow strugglers Bath claimed their first home victory since April with a 24-8 west country derby defeat of Gloucester.

Meanwhile Leicester Tigers extended their unbeaten home record to 24 matches with a 32-6 win against Sale at Welford Road.

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