There were three home wins in the Premiership on Saturday as Leicester, Northampton and Worcester all secured crucial victories.
Leicester Tigers 33-18 Harlequins
Matt Toomua was the star as Leicester Tigers kept their Premiership play-off hopes alive with a 33-18 triumph over Harlequins.
Both these sides have struggled for form in the Premiership recently and that was evident in the first half performances.
To the visitors’ credit, they started the game brightly and scored a fine try when Aaron Morris sent Alofa Alofa clear to touch down.
Leicester hit back, however, and pressurised the opposition 22 but they lacked creativity and the hosts had to make do with a pair of Toomua penalties.
Marcus Smith responded with a three-pointer of his own but the fly-half was yellow carded for being offside and Toomua regained the Tigers’ advantage at the break.
Despite being a man short, the Londoners began the second 40 minutes on the front foot and were rewarded by Luke Wallace’s effort.
That score almost revitalised the hosts and two quick-fire tries moved Matt O’Connor’s men clear when Toomua and Graham Kitchener crossed the whitewash.
Quins responded via Charlie Matthews but Adam Thompstone confirmed the win after intercepting a stray pass in the final minute.
Tries: Toomua, Kitchener, Thompstone
Cons: Toomua 3
Pens: Toomua 4
Tries: Alofa, Wallace, Matthews
Yellow Card: Smith
Northampton Saints 25-17 London Irish
Northampton launched a superb second half fightback to claim a hard-fought 25-17 win over London Irish at Franklin’s Gardens.
In a tight encounter between two of the Premiership’s also rans, Northampton outscored the Exiles three tries to two although the visitors dominated the early exchanges and held a deserved 14-3 lead at half-time.
Irish made a superb start and took the lead in the sixth minute courtesy of an Alex Lewington try. Lewington initially hacked the ball ahead and regathered before crossing the whitewash.
Greig Tonks added the extras but there was more joy for the visitors, and Lewington in particular, in the 25th minute when he pounced on a grubber kick from Tonks and beat George North in a footrace before diving onto the ball behind Saints’ try-line.
Tonks converted again before Piers Francis opened the home side’s account via a penalty in the 28th minute.
The home side made a superb start after the interval and a minute into the half, North crossed for their opening try after initially doing well to regather the ball from the kick-off.
Francis slotted the conversion attempt, which narrowed the gap to four points, and five minutes later Saints took the lead for the first time when Rob Horne went over for their second try.
With their tails up, Northampton continued to dominate and in the 50th minute, they were rewarded again when Mikey Haywood scored off the back of a driving maul deep inside the Exiles’ half.
With the score now 22-17 to the hosts, the rest of the half was an arm wrestle and Saints eventually secured the result when Francis landed a drop goal in the 72nd minute.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: North, Horne, Haywood
Cons: Francis 2
Drop goal: Francis
For London Irish:
Tries: Lewington 2
Cons: Tonks 2
Worcester Warriors 25-15 Gloucester
Worcester Warriors produced another impressive display to defeat Gloucester and go further clear of basement-dwellers London Irish.
Alan Solomons’ men may have struggled for most of this season, but they have gradually improved over the last few Premiership rounds and the previous week has shown why.
Following their superb triumph over defending champions Exeter Chiefs, the Midlanders defeated another play-off challenger.
They began quickly and were 14-3 up in the opening 10 minutes through Jonny Arr and Jamie Shillcock. Although Matt Scott responded for the Cherry and Whites – adding to Billy Twelvetrees’ earlier penalty – Worcester led 19-10 through Josh Adams.
Chris Pennell then kicked a penalty as they ended the half 12 points in front, but the hosts were on the back foot at the start of the second period.
Gloucester began to play some good rugby and Henry Trinder made up for his indiscretion in the first half – where he was yellow carded – to get Johan Ackermann’s team back into the contest.
The Warriors regained their composure, though, and Pennell kicked them two scores ahead to complete the win.
Tries: Arr, Shillcock, Adams
Cons: Pennell 2
Pens: Pennell 2
Tries: Scott, Trinder
Yellow Card: Trinder