By Ali Stokes
Saracens reaffirm their place as England's rightful champions with an all-encompassing victory over Gloucester, with the former's international stars standing to the fore.
The talk in the week surrounded Saracens' power game and head-to-head clash betwixt England fly-halves Owen Farrell and Danny Cipriani, with Saracens coming up trumps on both counts on game day.
An early lead for Saracens through tries for the returned David Strettle and a brace for England and Lions rockstar Maro Itoje, playing in his secondary position of blindside flanker at Allianz Park today.
A slicing break from Scottish wing Sean Maitland paved the way for Strettle's right corner finish, while one truly bizarre rebound off the underside of the crossbar and one driving maul allowed Itoje to cross for his two first-half scores.
The expansive game we have come to know from Gloucester so far this season was stunted by a rabid Saracens defence, with the Wolf Pack hunting turnovers like they were going out of style.
In the face of such pressure, Gloucester fans were restricted to glimpses of Cipriani's magic, popping up two or three times during the first 40 to spark threatening moves that invariably ended in Sarries' turnover ball or handling errors from the likes of exciting centre Henry Trinder and zestful fullback Jason Woodward, who were perhaps guilty of forcing their hand.
Gloucester headed to the changing rooms at the interval with a meagre three points to Saracens' 24, with Billy Twelvetrees sending over a 36th-minute penalty following a breakdown infringement from Itoje, three minutes prior to the latter's second score.
While Gloucester came out displaying plenty of endeavour during the opening phases of the second-half, the Cherry and Whites were met with a stout black defensive wall, ending once again in loss of possession.
After ten minutes of spirited defence from Johan Ackermann's charges, the dam finally burst following a Sean Maitland score down the left flank, securing Saracens' bonus point.
A procession of Saracens' dominance profited just one additional score from the home side when Owen Farrell, Liam Williams and Alex Lozowski combined to send the latter of the trio over for the champions' fifth and final try of the afternoon.
Consolation scores came from reserve centre Mark Atkinson in the 71st minute after slicing through his opponent's defence and the 79th minute for left wing Charlie Sharples in true finishers fashion, manipulating his way past Lozowski and Maitland, ensuring his side did not finish the day in single figures.
A landmark fixture for three of Saracens' number with hooker Jamie George racking up a 200th club appearance, scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth breaking the Premiership appearance record with 266 games - surpassing England forwards coach Steve Borthwick on 265 - and fly-half Owen Farrell drawing equal with referee and former Saracens standoff Glen Jackson for points scored, hitting the 1160 mark.
Tries: David Strettle (6) - Maro Itoje (27, 39) - Sean Maitland (53) - Alex Lozowski (69)
Conversions: Owen Farrell (7, 28, 40, 54, 70)
Penalties: Owen Farrell (4,
Tries: Mark Atkinson (72) - Charlie Sharples (79)
Conversions: Billy Twelvetrees (80)
Penalties: Billy Twelvetrees (36)
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