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London Welsh 23, Saracens 28
GAVIN Henson scored 13 points on his debut, but it was not quite enough to save London Welsh from a narrow defeat at the hands of Saracens today.
Despite being outplayed for most of the game, a courageous fightback from the Exiles set-up a dramatic finish.
However, they fell just short, but did pick up another bonus point for their efforts.
The visitors completely dominated at Kassam Stadium and deserved the win.
But they only had themselves to blame for failing to wrap the game up long before a flash of brilliance from Henson set up a nail-biting finale.
Henson’s inclusion was one of six changes to the Exiles’ team that ran Gloucester close last week.
It was Charlie Hodgson, returning to the side at fly half, who would kick Saracens to victory.
And it also fell to the former England man to end his side’s try drought.
Always looking for the gap, Hodgson jinked through to run in from ten yards after 19 minutes and converted his own score.
Sustained Saracens pressure gave Hodgson the chance to add five penalties in the opening period.
But it was the Exiles who, against the run of play, had taken the lead through Canadian international Phil Mackenzie.
The winger capitalised on a loose pass after eight minutes and chased down his own kick to score.
Henson duly converted before showing that what he might lack in match fitness he could more than make up for in ambition.
Just ten minutes into his return to the Premiership, the former Wales international attempted, unsuccessfully, a penalty from two yards inside his own half.
The only other positive Welsh will have taken from the first half was the fact they were still within a score of the visitors.
In a much more even, and at times more open second half, Welsh held their own and when they were given a platform, the backs looked dangerous.
But Hodgson continued to keep Sarries’ noses in front with the boot before Henson showed why Welsh have shown faith in him.
His vision and looping pass with six minutes to go set the impressive centre Scott free inside his own half before Mackenzie showed his speed once more leaving Tom Arscott to finish a move that took the Exiles to 25-23 behind.
Perhaps, more importantly, it also gave Welsh another losing bonus point, their second in successive defeats.
In the dying minutes Hodgson again eased the pressure with penalty.
Exiles mounted a spirited final attack and Saracens required some resolute defence to come away with the points.
Welsh now have a two-week break from the Premiership to play in the Amlin Challenge Cup, giving them time to reflect on a tough start to life in the top flight.