Leicester, Northampton and Sale Sharks beat London Irish, Gloucester and Harlequins respectively in the Premiership on Saturday.
Leicester Tigers 19-15 London Irish
Leicester’s run of four straight defeats came to an end at Welford Road with a 19-15 win over London Irish.
One loss away from a record breaking five in the Premiership, Tigers went into this in a turgid run of form that threatened to mark their worst run of home defeats in more than 40 years. Thankfully, they came up against an Irish side who have been in even worse form, with just one win in 17. It was never destined to be a classic.
It was Irish who had the better of the first 20 minutes or so and they took the lead through a Joe Cokanasiga try. The hosts made a mess after regaining possession from a line-out, spilling the ball and Cokanasiga was given the thumbs up from the TMO, the conversion failing to follow.
But it was Tigers who took a lead into the break. It took them 35 minutes to trouble the scoreboard, with Matt Toomua finishing off a Brendon O’Connor pass to cross the line. George Ford gave them a slender 7-5 advantage at 40 minutes.
And they stretched that lead straight after half-time with a second try. Having gained a line-out inside the Irish 22, the ball was worked into Jonny May and he made it 12-5.
Greig Tonks reduced that lead back down to four in what was a very tight second half. But Tigers’ woes were about to come to an end when Manu Tuilagi sealed the win with a third try on 71 minutes.
They were given a scare with four minutes to go when Irish went over courtesy of Alex Lewington. But the hosts hung on for the 19-15 win.
Tries: Toomua, May, Tuilagi
Cons: Ford 2
For London Irish:
Tries: Cokanasiga, Lewington
Northampton Saints 22-19 Gloucester
Saints ended their woeful run of losses with a last gasp 22-19 win over Gloucester at Franklin’s Gardens.
Much like Tigers, Northampton came into this looking to avert a run of losses that stood at seven before kick-off. Gloucester on the other hand have lost just one in eight, and the points only looked like going one way before 3pm.
But five minutes into it, Saints caused a bit of a surprise and gave the Gardens faithful a bit of hope. Having created an overlap, Ken Pisi chose to go alone and opened the scoring on 10 minutes. Harry Mallinder saw his kick strike the post, and Gloucester soon bounced back with their first try. Having pushed for the line, Saints were unable to stop the charge and referee Ian Tempest awarded the penalty try, which was swiftly converted. He added extra woes to the hosts, showing yellow to Api Ratuniyarawa in the process.
The visitors couldn’t add to their lead and as Saints returned to 15, Mallinder sent a penalty through the posts for the hosts. But Gloucester continued to look the better side and James Hanson got away from the defence and over the line on the half hour, Owen Williams making it a 14-8 advantage at half-time.
They increased that advantage 13 minutes into the second half with another try. John Afoa got their second of the afternoon when Williams broke through the backline and found his teammate. Williams missed the kick though, and Saints quickly got themselves right back into it.
Nic Groom snuck his way through the Gloucester defence to reduce the deficit, Mallinder kicking through to put Saints within a score of the visitors.
Williams missed another penalty to keep the gap at just four points, Saints still well in the game going into the final stages. And they stole the points right at the death. The TMO was into the action to take a look at a possible try, and he ruled that he could award a penalty try on behalf of Saints to take the points in a 22-19 win.
Tries: Pisi, Groom, Penalty try
Yellow Card: Ratuniyarawa
Tries: Penalty try, Hanson, Afoa
Yellow Card: Symons
Sale Sharks 30-29 Harlequins
Sale left it late to beat 14 man Harlequins 30-29 at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Strong home form for Sale was met with a disappointing string of performances away from The Stoop for Harlequins, who have just one win away from home soil since March. And it all went to script with two early tries putting Sharks right into the ascendancy.
It took nine minutes for Byron McGuigan to get on the end of a move from the backs, crashing through and the two from AJ MacGinty making it a solid start. Two minutes after McGuigan’s try, Rohan Janse van Rensburg followed up. Sale turned possession over, passes were exchanged and the South African starlet added to the lead, with MacGinty again adding the conversion.
Quins gave themselves some hope with their opening try on 21 minutes. A driving maul saw Quins’ Alofa Alofa get over from just in front of the line, the conversion missing the sticks. MacGinty added a further three to the lead though with his next effort, Quins kept at arm’s length at a 17-5 scoreline.
They were improving though and when Mat Luamanu kicked downfield, Charlie Walker was first to it and the lead was cut to just five points. And against the expectations, they took a lead into half-time. Having dominated possession after their second try, Alofa danced around a challenge and fed Ross Chisholm who levelled. The conversion followed, as did a Marcus Smith penalty for a 22-17 half-time lead.
But if they were to hold the lead, they’d need to do it with a man less as Joe Marler saw red on 58 minutes. He left the referee with little choice after a dangerous challenge on TJ Ioane. MacGinty quickly narrowed the gap down to a couple of points, but Quins added to their lead against the odds.
The bonus point try was secured only six minutes after the dismissal of Marler, turning over possession and seeing Jamie Roberts break through for a converted try. It was always destined to be a thrilling finale, and it promised to be so 11 minutes from time when Janse van Rensburg nipped through a gap for a converted effort.
27-29 in favour of Quins as the clock ran down, they lost that lead as a penalty from Faf de Klerk with four minutes to play put Sale a point ahead. And 30-29 was the way it ended, although Quins did take two bonus points from the game.
Tries: McGuigan, Janse van Rensburg 2
Cons: MacGinty 2, De Klerk
Pens: MacGinty 2, De Klerk
Tries: Alofa, Walker, Chisholm, Roberts
Cons: Smith 3
Red Card: Marler