English Premiership Rugby club Saracens beat South African Super Rugby franchise the Sharks 23-15 in a Super Rugby warm up friendly match at Allianz Park in London.
Although the visiting Sharks scored the first points of the match through a penalty Saracens powered into the lead and led 20-3 at half time.
The Sharks however were a vastly improved side in the second half as they outscored their hosts in London by 15 points to 3. Their first half points deficit proved to be too much and Saracens held on to win the match.
The match was the Sharks first this season and was against a Saracens without many of their stars but no shortage of South Africans.
The coastal franchise were given a proper test in their first pre-season match ahead of this year's Super Rugby competition.
Jake White's troops were denied possession and territory for most of the first half with Saracens doing most of the playing.
While the side did not come away with the victory, White will be pleased with some of the youngsters that showed some maturity against a top side.
The Sharks went into the match with a young back line that showed the potential that would come in handy when injuries take its toll midway through the season.
White would have taken note of the performance of standout inside centre Andre Esterhuizen, who constantly troubled Saracens' defence, while looseforward Jean Deysel put in a mammoth display.
Deysel constantly got over the gain line with his menacing runs with ball in hand while he stopped the opposition in their tracks with bone crushing tackles.
White will spend some time analyzing the scrums where his Springbok front row of Beast Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis and Bismarck had a difficult day at work.
The Sharks scored the first points on the board shortly after the start with flyhalf Tim Swiel kicked a penalty conversion before the hosts leveled the scores through a Charlie Hodgson three-pointer.
Saracens took the lead in the 22 minute when Hodgson made added another penalty.
Five minutes later Saracens were handed a double-barrelled advantage when Sharks lock Ettienne Oosthuizen was yellow carded for collapsing the maul metres from the line.
As Oosthuizen was making his way off the artificial playing pitch, Saracens wing David Strettle scored from a quick tap with Hodgson converting.
The Sharks suffered another blow from the restart when Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit also received his marching orders for taking the player in the air.
Despite the disadvantage the Sharks launched an encouraging salvo on the Saracens line reaching the 22 for the first time in the encounter.
Their efforts were to no avail though as the ball was fumbled on their way to the line and it was the hosts instead that scored on the 40 minute mark.
Hodgson intercepted a pass from Swiel meant for Paul Jordaan to score the try which he converted to extend their lead to 17 points going into the half-time break.
Shortly after the break White sent on fresh legs with a new-look pack of forwards having to do the donkey work and the advantage of the wind being behind them that Saracens had enjoyed in the first half.
This seemed to pay dividends as they managed to get greater gain line advantage, with replacement scrumhalf Charl McLeod providing the backline with sharper service from the base.
In the 60th minute Esterhuizen was rewarded with his stellar performance with a try that emanated from a linebreak by flanker Tera Mtembu.
Five minutes later the Sharks again crossed the whitewash with Heymar Williams doing the damage to bring them within five points of the home side.
Hodgson, however, took the wind out of the visitors' sails as he knocked over a penalty in the 68th minute to extend their lead to eight points.
Final Score Saracens 23 (20) Sharks 15 (3)
Tries: David Strettle, Charlie Hodgson.
Conversions: Hodgson (2).
Penalties: Hodgson (3).
Tries: Andre Esterhuizen, Heimar Williams.
Conversion: Tim Swiel.
15. Chris Wyles; 14. James Short, 13. Michael Tagicakibau, 12. Marcelo Bosch, 11. David Strettle; 10. Charlie Hodgson, 9. Neil de Kock; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. Mouritz Botha, 6. Justin Melck, 7. Jacques Burger, 8. Ernst Joubert.
Replacements:16. Scott Spurling, 17. Nick Auterac, 18. Petrus Du Plessis, 19. Tom Jubb, 20. Takashi Kikutani, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Duncan Taylor, 23. Sam Stanley.
1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Captain), 3. Jannie du Plessis, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 5. Pieter–Steph du Toit, 6. Tera Mtembu, 7. Jean Deysel, 8. Willem Alberts; 9. Cobus Reinach, 10. Tim Swiel; 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 14. Odwa Ndungane; 15. Tyler Fisher.
Replacements : 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Stephan Lewies, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Heimar Williams, 23. Jaco van Tonder.