Newcastle Falcons 24-22 Bath Rugby
Two late tries from Mark Wilson and Ben Harris gave Newcastle Falcons a dramatic late victory against Bath Rugby at Kingston Park on Friday night.
The home side had the perfect start when Vereniki Goneva crossed inside five minutes but 17 unanswered points from Bath – through George Ford and Semesa Rokoduguni tries – had given them the advantage.
And although Rokoduguni added a third try, to take him second on Bath’s all-time try scorers list, a late rally from the Falcons saw Wilson and Harris cross and snatch the victory.
The Falcons had their first try of the evening with just three minutes gone as winger Vereniki Goneva picked up from the base of a ruck and strolled through a gap in Bath’s defence to dot down.
Fly-half Joel Hodgson, who had made the initial break in the build-up, added the extras to give the home side a 7-0 lead inside the opening five minutes.
With both defences standing strong throughout the first half, Ford missed two penalties to get Bath back into the game.
And as the half came to a close, Ford went for the corner with a third kickable penalty and with phases racking up, the Falcons were penalised in front of the posts and the Bath fly-half made the score 7-3.
And it was the England international who turned the game on its head minutes into the second half as he collected the ball and jogged underneath the posts for Bath’s first try.
With the conversion successful, Bath had the lead in the match for the first time at 10-7 with 43 minutes gone.
And Rokoduguni extended their lead with an excellent finish on 52 minutes as he went over in the corner after being fed by fellow wing Anthony Watson who had made the initial half break.
Despite the close attention of Goneva, Rokoduguni forced himself over the line and with Ford adding the extras from the touchline, the visitors led 17-7.
Hodgson temporarily stemmed the flow with three points for the Falcons on the hour mark but the visitors’ momentum wasn’t halted as Rokoduguni had his second try of the evening.
It was the winger’s 37th Bath try to move him ahead of Iain Balshaw on the club’s all-time list with only Matt Banahan ahead of him.
But with ten minutes to play, the Falcons found their form once more though as Wilson forced himself over from close range after a number of pick and drives from the Newcastle forwards.
And trailing by five points with the minutes ticking by, Harris repeated the trick to bring the hosts level and man-of-the-match Hodgson held his nerve to slot the vital conversion.
Saracens 13 Exeter Chiefs 13
Titi Lamositele’s late try earned Saracens the most unlikely of draws as they secured a 13-13 result at home to Exeter Chiefs despite playing 70 minutes down a man.
Saracens had got the better of the Chiefs in each of the last four meetings between the sides including a victory at Sandy Park and of course their success in last season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby final.
But they were up against it early on when Richard Barrington was dismissed for a high tackle, and Jack Nowell’s try put the visitors 10-0 up.
But Saracens aren’t champions for nothing and they showed their never-say-die attitude to frustrate Exeter at every turn and slowly work their way back into the game.
Even after Steenson had made it 13-6 to Chiefs, Saracens came back, with Lamositele forcing his way over from a rolling maul and Alex Lozowski converting from out wide to seal the draw.
Exeter started the game on the front foot and found themselves a man up after ten minutes when Barrington was sent off.
The prop caught Geoff Parling with his shoulder and was red-carded as a result, with Gareth Steenson knocking over a penalty to give his side the lead.
With Barrington off, Saracens replaced Sean Maitland with Lamositele, and Chiefs took advantage of the extra space out wide. Steenson, who had missed an early penalty, produced a delightful cross-kick and Nowell brilliantly caught it and dotted down.
Steenson nailed the conversion from out wide and Chiefs led 10-0 with quarter of an hour gone.
Saracens could have cut the deficit only for Alex Lozowski to pull a drop goal attempt wide but he made up for it with a penalty on 23 minutes.
However with their man advantage Exeter continued to press, and it required a desperate last-ditch tackle from Michael Rhodes to stop Don Armand as he looked set to score.
Saracens produced another huge defensive stand to close out the half, forcing a penalty with Exeter pressing to go in just seven points down at 10-3.
The second half was a tight affair, and Saracens cut the deficit to four points, Lozowski slotting a second penalty after a scrum infringement.
Saracens had the chance to grab the lead for the first time when Alex Goode played a grubber through but Chris Wyles couldn’t get there and in the end conceded a penalty for an intentional knock-on as he stretched for the ball.
A second chance then went begging as Lozowski’s kick through just beat Wyles into touch once again.
Instead it was Steenson who pushed Exeter’s lead back to seven points with a penalty as Saracens were penalised for not rolling away.
But still Saracens would not give up, and replacement prop Lamositele was the man to emerge after an unstoppable driving maul. Lozowski knocked over the extras to level the scores.
Exeter threw everything at their hosts in the final stages, but Steenson’s late drop goal attempt from 45 metres out was well wide
Maro Itoje was then pinged at a lineout but Steenson pulled his shot at goal to the left and the nerves went on for the visitors.
Northampton Saints 32 Bristol Rugby 26
Northampton Saints brought an end to Bristol Rugby’s recent winning run after edging an entertaining Aviva Premiership Rugby clash at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Saints outscored their opponents by four tries to two but an impressive all round performance from fly-half Jason Woodward – who scored 21 of his side’s points – kept Bristol in the game with the scores level heading into the last 20 minutes.
However Stephen Myler’s penalty and Harry Mallinder’s late drop goal settled matters as the Saints won a third successive Aviva Premiership Rugby in a row for the first time since March – with tries from Louis Picamoles, Mike Haywood, Tom Wood and JJ Hanrahan earning the try bonus point.
Bristol started brightly and Varndell, chasing the record for the most Aviva Premiership tries, got his first sniff of the try line after a strong break by Woodward but he was bundled into touch five metres out before Woodward dragged a penalty wide.
After that miss, it turned out to be the Saints who got the first points of the afternoon on 13 minutes with George North setting it all up with an impressive 60 metre break up field before the hosts eventually won a scrum and Picamoles powered over after the Bristol defence crumbled.
Myler converted for 7-0 but Bristol were able to respond with a 16th-minute Woodward penalty to cut the deficit.
And it got better for the visitors on 20 minutes when Varndell made space before putting in Olly Robinson. He was stopped but Bristol managed to keep the ball alive with Mitch Eadie crossing from close range for his third try of the season with Woodward’s conversion making it 10-7.
Bristol’s confidence was plain to see, with Woodward opting for the posts rather than territory with his penalty on 29 minutes and duly dissected the posts on the angle from 45 metres out for 13-7.
But Northampton were proving equally dangerous in attack and piled the pressure on the Bristol try line with Alex Waller appearing to go over before the TMO ruled it out on the ground of no clear grounding over the line.
Play was brought back to an earlier penalty and Saints went again, with Mike Haywood eventually crossing the whitewash from close range on 35 minutes. Myler converted and the hosts were back in front by a point.
That was the way the score stayed heading into the break but it only took five minutes for Saints to add their third try of the afternoon as Bristol’s scrum was bullied again.
Picamoles then shrugged off several tackles before offloading to captain Wood to run in from 15 metres out with Myler’s extras making the score 21-13.
Bristol’s Varndell continued to look dangerous with ball in hand before then winning a penalty which Adrian Jarvis kicked to touch and from the resulting set piece, Bristol were able to win themselves another penalty which Woodward dispatched to bring the deficit down to five.
The fly-half was involved again just minutes later as an impressive counter attacking move from close to Bristol’s try line saw Varndell pick up on a defensive kick forward before Woodward claimed the offload to go over before then converting for 23-21.
But Saints hit back immediately to mute the celebrating Bristol fans as straight from the restart, Myler kicked deep with JJ Hanrahan charging down and catching the Bristol clearance to score on 56 minutes for the bonus point try.
The conversion was missed however and Bristol were able to draw level at 26-26 just three minutes through Woodward’s penalty.
But it was Saints who nudged ahead as they broke in numbers and won a penalty after Bristol were pinged for holding on, leaving Myler to dissect the posts with eight minutes left.
Mallinder then added a late drop goal but Bristol did manage to pick up a losing bonus point to move within a point of second-bottom Worcester Warriors.
Harlequins 29 Sale Sharks 26
Harlequins made it ten wins from ten home matches this season, but were made to work hard at Twickenham Stoop for their 29-26 Aviva Premiership Rugby triumph by a determined Sale Sharks.
Two quickfire scores shortly before the interval from Charlie Walker and Tim Swiel saw the hosts turn the game on its head, after Denny Solomona had notched up his third try in as many weeks.
Byron McGuigan and Solomona scored the only tries of the second period for the Sharks, but Swiel’s boot did not waver and the 23-year-old fly-half took his personal tally to 24 points with three penalties after half-time to edge Quins home.
Harlequins were dealt an early blow when England International Joe Marler was ruled out during the warm-up, with Owen Evans coming into the side and Adam Jones moving onto the bench.
And after a scrappy start to the game from the hosts, the sides were level at 3-3 after ten minutes with Swiel cancelling out Will Addison’s early penalty after Cameron Neild was pinged.
But straight away Quins were guilty of obstruction on Mike Haley to allow Addison another shot at goal, before a high tackle from Josh Beaumont on Mike Brown saw Swiel level arrears once more after 16 minutes.
Once the game settled down however it was Sale who fashioned the first real try-scoring opportunity on the 20-minute mark, putting huge pressure on a Quins lineout on their own ten-metre line.
But while Denny Solomona eventually crossed the whitewash, referee JP Doyle ruled out the try for a forward pass by Rob Webber in the build-up.
Former Wales international Jones was then required off the bench after only 21 minutes as both Will Collier and Evans became the second and third front-row casualties of the afternoon, with Kyle Sinckler the other replacement.
And things soon went from bad to worse for the hosts. Solomona was not to be denied for a second time as the Sharks – with a penalty advantage – sliced through the middle of the park.
The score was confirmed by the TMO and Addison made no mistake with the conversion to make the scoreline 13-6 after 30 minutes.
A quick tap-and-go from Danny Care looked to have unlocked the Sharks as Marland Yarde barged his way over, but the England wing was held up.
The momentum was finally with the hosts however and they took full advantage; first Walker finishing off a wonderful try after Ross Chisholm burst through the midfield and offloaded to Brown, before Swiel pounced on a loose ball on halfway and flew across the line untouched to make it 20-13 at the break.
Quins picked up where they left off on the resumption as the Sharks were penalised for holding on and Swiel extended the lead to ten points from the tee.
But McGuigan brought the visitors right back into the contest on 49 minutes after Sale kicked to the corner from a penalty, Johnny Leota’s sublime pass setting him up.
Addison’s boot however was wayward for the first time in the afternoon with the conversion, and when Care won another penalty shortly after with a defender not retreating fast enough, Swiel could once again give John Kingston’s side some breathing room at 26-18.
But Sale flew forwards after Addison punished Swiel’s dangerous tackle with another penalty, and only determined defence from Quins kept them at bay – Chisholm turning the ball over at the breakdown right in front of his own posts.
And despite their front-row injury problems, the hosts scrum was on fire in the final ten minutes to win yet another penalty for Swiel to knock over, meaning Solomona’s second score of the afternoon late on from TJ Ioane’s crossfield kick was in vain.
Gloucester Rugby 55 Worcester Warriors 19
Gloucester Rugby were in seventh heaven at Kingsholm after demolishing Worcester Warriors to increase the gap between the two West Country sides in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
Matt Scott grabbed a try double as Jonny May, Jacob Rowan, John Afoa, Charlie Sharples and Josh Hohneck each touched down once to earn the home side a try bonus point.
Cooper Vuna, Tevita Cavubati and Alafoti Fa’osiliva all scored for Warriors, but with Bristol Rugby recording a losing bonus point against Northampton Saints, Worcester slipped to within a point of the bottom of the table.
In a lively atmosphere as Kingsholm with the crowd knowing how vital a win would be, Gloucester got off to a quick start as Greig Laidlaw kicked a fourth-minute penalty.
And after a period of pressure in the opening 15 minutes the Cherry and Whites eventually got their reward when May crashed over in the 14th minute.
Billy Burns broke from a scrum to get the home side within five metres, and when the ball was thrown wide, May ran it in – with Laidlaw adding the extras.
Five minutes later Gloucester made it two as Hohneck turned the ball over and fed May, who in turn found Scott, who ambled over for the score – Laidlaw again accurate from the tee.
With nearly 15,000 packed into Kingsholm they were enjoying seeing their side take the game to Warriors.
But it was Worcester who hit back shortly after the half hour mark, with Vuna wriggling away from a tackle to go over – Ryan Mills kicking the conversion.
The comeback did not last long, though, and Rowan made the most of quick ball from the top of a lineout and broke a tackle to sprint over the line – Laidlaw again kicking the extras to give his side a 24-7 half-time advantage.
After a scrappy opening to the second period it was Burns who added to Gloucester’s lead, kicking a 46th-minute penalty.
And it took another 12 minutes for the home side to add to their score, but add to it they did when prop Afoa profited from May’s fine charge down and run, to earn Glos their try bonus point.
Billy Twelvetrees then added the conversion to put his side 27 points ahead, with 20 minutes still to play.
And five minutes later Sharples extended their advantage after Ross Moriarty secured a lineout and Gloucester got their rolling maul going.
The drive got them within reach of the line and when Ben Vellacott fed Sharples, the winger side-stepped his man to touch down for try number five – Twelvetrees adding the extras.
And the sixth came soon after, with Scott grabbing his second by showing great pace to run in a loose ball and set up a simple Twelvetrees conversion.
The visitors were not going out without a fight, though, and Cavubati dived over after stealing the ball.
But Gloucester were not done, either, with Hohneck getting in on the act as he bundled over at the base of a rolling maul – Twelvetrees again successful from the tee.
The Warriors lived up to their name, and had the last word as Fa’osiliva dotted down in the 80th minute, but it was in vain as the home fans cheered in delight at the final whistle.
Wasps 22 Leicester Tigers 16
Wasps were forced to withstand a ferocious Leicester Tigers comeback but hung on for a 22-16 victory at the Ricoh Arena to return to the summit of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
First-half tries from Christian Wade, Tommy Taylor and Dan Robson looked to have sewn up the game with the home side 19-0 up.
But Leicester worked their way back into it, and with a try from Peter Betham and the boots of Owen Williams and Freddie Burns, they got back to within three.
That was as good as it got however and Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty late on sealed the win for the home side, who move back ahead of Saracens at the top of the table.
Wasps made the perfect start as Wade went over after just four minutes. Elliot Daly was the provider, playing a delicate grubber that caught out Williams, and the opportunistic Wade was able to beat Freddie Burns to the ball and dot down. Jimmy Gopperth slotted the conversion to make it 7-0.
Leicester were struggling to impose themselves with Wasps forwards and backs combining brilliantly to put them under regular pressure.
And the pack took their chance on ten minutes, showing plenty of patience with a rolling maul to send Taylor over for a second try.
Despite Gopperth’s missed conversion, Wasps were still in control, and it almost got even better when Beale got away down the left, but this time the covering defence held.
The left wing was providing Wasps with plenty of joy however, and a break on that side set up their third. Thomas Young started it, racing away from a ruck before finding Josh Bassett inside him. The winger was stopped about 15 metres out, but the Wasps support was there quickest, and Robson, spotting Dan Cole in front of him, sniped straight over. Gopperth’s conversion stretched the lead to 19-0.
Leicester needed a spark, and almost got it when Burns played a little chip over the defence and collected, but his pass to Mike Fitzgerald outside him was batted down by Kurtley Beale. Williams slotted the resulting penalty, with the Tigers going in 16 points down at the break.
Williams added a second penalty early in the second half as Guy Thompson was penalised at the breakdown, with Leicester looking to edge their way back into the contest.
Their comeback attempt was almost thwarted when Adam Thompstone’s kick was caught by Beale who looked to be away. Unfortunately for the Australian, Leicester had knock-on advantage and got the ball back.
They made the most of that reprieve, scoring a first try of the game through centre Peter Betham. It wasn’t a typical backs try, rather power from close range after Tom Brady had been stopped just short of the line. Burns slotted the conversion to get the visitors back to within a score with half an hour remaining.
Leicester almost had a second try a couple of minutes later when Matt Smith thought he was over on the left, but his foot had just strayed into touch before he could dot down.
Still, Wasps were under pressure having seen their lead evaporate, and weren’t helped by losing James Haskell within a minute of coming on as he got his head on the wrong side while making a tackle and had to come off.
However Leicester’s comeback attempt took a hit when they lost Cole for ten minutes in the bin as he knocked the ball away from Joe Simpson. Gopperth slotted the resulting penalty to ease Wasps nerves.
Bassett almost got their bonus point when he was just beaten to a kick through from Beale by Will Evans and they were again denied from a rolling maul which Leicester managed to hold up over the line.
There was still time for Leicester to come back, but successive knock-ons from Evans and then Betham cost them a last chance of
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