Premiership Rugby Cup: Harlequins 40-31 Saracens – Six Player Picks from London Derby


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Harlequins and Saracens were once again the Premiership’s entertainers, in this 11 try spectacle at the Twickenham Stoop. This match took place in the Premiership Rugby Cup, which frequently features those on the fringe of the first team, to gain valuable experience for their sides.

Tonight was no different, with numerous debutants from both respective academies providing their families with proud moments, as well as returning players out to prove a point once again. So, with the dust settled on tonight’s London derby, here are the six most notable performances, as Harlequins defeated Saracens 40 points to 31.


Nathan Jibulu

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The stand-out debutant to run out in the quarters today, Nathan Jibulu impressed in all elements of his game at hooker. Surprising many with his elusive athleticism, Jibulu often seeked to evade defenders when with the ball in hand, rather than force the tackle. The hooker even executed a neat chip and chase after breaking the Saracens defensive line, to give his side a strong territorial advantage.

With quick hands, Jibulu kept his head up and looked unfazed by the bright lights of the Stoop. He distributed the ball across the pitch, as well as any Quins back did today. The highlight of his game was his debut try. The first of the day for Harlequins, Jibulu’s efficient scrummaging forced a penalty, and Quins opted for a line-out. He throws accurately, regathers the ball at the tail of the maul, and drives the pack over to score.

Jibulu made way for fellow debutant Jack Doorey-Palmer with two minutes left on the clock, and he received an impressive ovation from the Harlequins supporters.


Aaron Morris

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Returning to the Stoop after a prolonged injury absence, Morris is set on re-gaining his place in the Quins squad. Putting in the hard graft in the Premiership Cup is an effective reminder to Tabai Matson as to why Morris has remained at the Stoop for six seasons.

A known face in a relatively academy orientated Quins outfit, Morris was targeted when making attacking breaks. The Saracens coaches had certainly highlighted Morris in training, as he was double tackled numerous times throughout the game. The threat was rightly issued, as when the 27-year-old got the ball he ran searching lines along the left wing.

An injury scare after 25 minutes saw Morris clutching his arm in some discomfort. He soldiered on for the remainder of the half, but was withdrawn at the break, with Conor Oresanya playing the second 40 minutes.


Viliami Taulani

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A bruising ball carrier with untapped potential, Viliami Taulani has yet to make his mark in Quins colours since arriving from the Chiefs in Super Rugby. The Tongan has made sporadic appearances for Harlequins, and their partnership club London Scottish in the RFU Championship.

Today may have marked a change in his career, as Taulani was a serious threat with ball in hand. He was the first-choice receiver every time he ran for the ball, and for good reason. He crashed through the Saracens defenders and caused numerous tacklers to team up, in order to ground him.

He couples this strength in attack with an impressive work rate, and a want to get involved in defence. Taulani effectively utilised his presence at the scrum, and frequently picked from the back to trundle over the scrum half or flanker who stood in his way.


Ethan Lewis

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A textbook performance from Lewis at hooker, as the two technicians of the scrum shone under the floodlights. Impressing most of all at the set-piece, Lewis threw the ball with an archer’s accuracy, and on two occasions grounded the following rolling maul.

The rolling maul was Saracens’ set-piece of choice today and provided their coaching staff with praise-worthy performances. Neatly compact and marching like a Sherman tank down into the red zone, the away side demonstrated a clinic in mauling, with Lewis effectively leading his unit.

Around the park, Lewis was not as expressive as his opposite man, yet presented an old-school ‘tuck it up your jumper’ mentality, whenever he crashed into contact. Digging his heels into the artificial turf, Lewis trucked up the pitch and made whoever was unfortunate enough to tackle him, know that he was there.


Manu Vunipola

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Saracens captain today, Vunipola led from the front, and led by example. A couple of misplaced conversions kicks did not sway his confidence, as Vunipola kept Harlequins guessing in defence. Opting for the boot to exploit any space in the backfield, Vunipola meticulously crafted the Saracens attack, in what looked like a chaotic evening of end-to-end rugby.

He seemed experienced beyond his years, confidently shipping the ball left and right, and utilising his outside backs with aplomb. In a style akin to Harlequins’ own Marcus Smith, the fly half carries the ball very high to the line, before popping the ball outside to a charging receiver. This typically saw Vunipola be the victim of a big hit, which had even more intent behind them, as the young Quins tried to impress their coaches.

But Vunipola stiffed out the collisions and continued to establish himself as more than just Billy and Mako’s cousin. Despite finding his shooting boots a little later than he would have hoped, he managed to keep the Sarries’ scoreboard ticking over, for the last hour of the match.


Brandon Jackson

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A versatile outside centre who complemented Vunipola’s attacking flair, Brandon Jackson is certainly a player to keep an eye on for a promising future in a black shirt. Demonstrating an exciting combination of powerful line breaks and tricky footwork, Jackson had a stand-out showing in the centre today.

Jackson was a key player in the silencing of Aaron Morris, he drifted across in defence, and made a good hit on the experienced winger on a handful of occasions. His try was a unique one, as he charged down a kick but instead of the ball spilling, and a frantic rush to be first to react, he caught the clearance kick at point blank range, and jogged in unopposed, to nonchalantly score an impressive try against the run of play.

Evidently keen to impress, Jackson let his actions do the talking tonight. Mark McCall was in attendance for this Premiership Rugby Cup fixture, and it should not be surprising to see the 21-year-old making more first team appearances, before too long.


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