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Alex Lozowski helps champions Saracens stretch their lead at the top

The Guardian logo The Guardian 01/12/2018 Michael Aylwin at Allianz Park

Saracens' Nick Isiekwe celebrates after scoring a try during the Gallagher Premiership match at Allianz Park, London © PA Saracens' Nick Isiekwe celebrates after scoring a try during the Gallagher Premiership match at Allianz Park, London One of the Premiership’s runaway leaders falters, the other strides out with a certain inevitability. Saracens were a long way from their best, a somewhat makeshift lineup in this awkward weekend between the autumn internationals and Europe, but they had too much for a similarly unfamiliar Wasps team.

Their unbeaten run in all competitions extends to 20, their last defeat being to Leinster in the quarter-finals of Europe in April. This was not the try fest of last season’s Premiership play-off between these two but the dominance of the one side over the other was very much the same.

Alex Lozowski, who won the kicking audition over Alex Goode in the absence of Owen Farrell and Ben Spencer, collected 19 points, landing seven from seven. Having excelled on the wing last week, he moved into the centre this. England will surely not have ruled him out of further involvement just yet. He was not the only international to shine. Jamie George won man of the match but Maro Itoje cannot have been far off.

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Meanwhile Nathan Hughes was making his first appearance for Wasps since his ill-fated punch-tweet combination. It looked as if he had a few issues to work through his system. Alas, he left the field late on, apparently nursing his rib. He had been Saracens’ chief concern. After a few looseners, his carrying started to punish them but the champions’ line held.

Wasps’ only points of the first half came courtesy of a remarkable Elliot Daly penalty, which flew over the bar, clearing it by several metres from 55 out. That was one of only two penalties they were awarded in the opening period, both at scrums. Alas, they conceded nine in the same time, three of them from scrums too. Lozowski landed three penalties to establish a 9-3 lead.

The game deserved a try. Hughes had a threatening gallop, as did Itoje (who also ruled the lineout), Goode and Richard Wigglesworth, who combined beautifully with Sean Maitland down the right. Each resulted in either a penalty or a handling error, of which there were a few.

Jamie George crashes over for his try at Allianz Park. © PA Jamie George crashes over for his try at Allianz Park. Still the lines held, even when Saracens drove a lineout to the corner. Hughes’s enormous arms were under the pile to deny George, then it was Wasps’ turn to win a penalty at the scrum. Daly pulled Wasps back to within three with a penalty, this time from a mere 45 metres, only for Lozowski to slot his fourth from an eighth penalty at a scrum, this one decisively won by the newly introduced Juan Figallo.

The game by then deserved a try a little less but needed one desperately. It came on the hour. Lima Sopoago kicked straight out and Saracens mounted the decisive assault from the lineout. Lozowski and Matt Gallagher made breaks, Saracens could smell the tryline and Goode worked George over it, into the corner.

Lozowski’s fifth penalty followed, before the game was finally put out of its misery with Saracens’ second, handed to them not only by Wasps captain but by the man many consider England’s answer at full-back.

Daly scampered back to collect a wicked Lozowski clearance, most of the length of the field. He stepped the first chaser but then flung the ball into the path of the next, Nick Isiekwe, who merely had to catch and flop over the line. A masterclass in full-back play this was not. Lozowski’s seventh success rounded off another routine win for the champions.

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