New York – Alex Goode scored a try and kicked four second-half penalties to power Saracens over London Irish 26-16 Saturday and back to the top of the English Premiership in the league’s first match in the United States.
Rock-bottom London Irish, who led 13-7 at half-time, missed a chance to close their relegation gap at the home stadium for Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls in suburban Harrison, New Jersey.
“We always knew it was going to be a very tough game,” Goode said. “They came at us in the first half. I thought in the second half we came back well and showed a lot of grit.
“That second half showed a lot more what our defence is all about.”
Saracens improved to 12-3 with one drawn on 57 points, two ahead of Exeter at the top of the table. London Irish slid to 3-13 on 13 points, unable to close an eight-point gap on 11th-place Newcastle.
Goode kicked his fourth and longest penalty of the second half in the 68th minute to give Saracens a 19-16 edge.
Grieg Tonks missed a penalty just beyond the right upright in the 72nd minute that would have pulled London Irish level again.
Saracens’ Nick Tompkins smothered a late Irish kick and took the ball in for a 78th minute try that Goode converted for the final margin, denying Irish even a bonus point in the standings.
Goode said he was not disappointed to be omitted from the England side playing in the Six Nations.
“For me it’s all about playing rugby,” he said. “It’s always fun to come back with the boys and it’s great to be in New York and growing the game.”
Tonks, who departed Pro 12 side Edinburgh two weeks ago for London Irish, opened the scoring with a penalty kick in the eighth minute, the first overseas points ever scored in English Premiership rugby.
Goode scored a try in the 15th minute and Ben Spencer, who missed two first-half penalty kick attempts, made the conversion.
But Alex Lewington answered with a try for Irish in the 18th minute and Tonks added a conversion plus a penalty kick in the 24th minute that gave London Irish a 13-7 half-time edge.
Goode put the ball between the uprights on penalty kicks in the 45th, 48th and 54th minutes to lift Saracens back in front 16-13 but Tonks responded with a penalty kick in the 58th minute to equalize.