Aviva Premiership Round 2

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Worcester Warriors 23 Gloucester Rugby 23

Greig Laidlaw’s late pressure kick helped Gloucester Rugby produce a stirring comeback and snatch a 23-23 draw at Sixways in the M5 derby with Worcester Warriors.

Worcester looked set to claim a first Aviva Premiership Rugby victory of the season but Laidlaw’s flawless kicking performance combined with late scores from Henry Purdy and Matt Scott turned the game in Gloucester’s favour.

David Humphreys’ men piled the pressure on in the final minutes of the game and were camped on Worcester’s try line but they were unable to force their way over to claim a first win of the season.

Ryan Lamb kicked five points and was also instrumental in a score for Cooper Vuna as Worcester bounced back from last week’s heavy defeat by defending champions Saracens at Twickenham.

Worcester new recruit Ben Te’o was also impressive for the Warriors before being replaced at the break, with a barnstorming display that produced a first-half score, while Perry Humphreys added a fantastic solo third score.

Gloucester Rugby started like an express train at Sixways, picking up early penalties as Worcester were continually penalised at the breakdown.

The Cherry and Whites threw away a winning position last weekend against Leicester Tigers in their Aviva Premiership opener and in the early stages against Worcester looked like a team determined to right their previous wrongs.

Gloucester went ahead after only two minutes as Scotland international Laidlaw fired over a penalty, continuing his recent impressive run off the tee that has seen him score 28 of last 29 shots at goal.

Worcester’s fixture with the Cherry and Whites saw the club trial their new state-of-the-art 4G playing surface and the Warriors looked as tentative as the visitors in the early stages.

Worcester Warriors had slipped to five straight defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby prior to kick-off and in the opening ten minutes against Gloucester they struggled to get their hands on the ball.

Gloucester thought they had scored the game’s opening try on 11 minutes – Billy Twelvetrees created the opportunity with a tackle, Gloucester and pounced on the loose ball and Charlie Sharples touched down only to have the try disallowed.

Worcester had a five-metre scrum deep into Gloucester territory on 15 minutes after Jackson Willison bundled a Cherry and Whites defender over his own line following a lengthy foot race – but the Warriors were unable to take advantage.

For all of their early dominance, it was Gloucester who conceded the game’s first try – England newboy Te’o crashed over the Worcester try-line after a clever inside pass. Lamb was unable to add the extras from the kicking tee.

Laidlaw pulled Gloucester back into the game with his second penalty of the evening on 25 minutes but the lead was short-lived.

Worcester scored their second try of the evening just five minutes later as Vuna raced in unopposed into the corner after a clever pass from Lamb engineered the opportunity. The Warriors No.10 then added the extras to make the score 12-6.

Lamb then extended Worcester’s lead with a smartly taken penalty to give Gloucester a mountain to climb as the game approached half-time.

Veteran Irish lock Donncha O’Callaghan was penalised for not rolling away within a minute of the restart for Worcester and Laidlaw took full advantage to move Gloucester back to within six points.

Lamb should have added to Worcester’s lead on 47 minutes but his long range penalty struck the woodwork.

Alafoti Fa’osiliva was sent off on 50 minutes, but Worcester continued to threaten with 14 men and raced through to score their third try of the game just before the hour.

Replacement wing Perry Humphreys received the ball with a lot to do but the Worcester wing beat three men to score in the corner to extend the lead to 20-9 – Lamb was unable to add the extras.

Gloucester were handed a lifeline just after the hour mark as Cherry and Whites newboy Scott produced a smart finish to bundle his way over, with the ever-reliable Laidlaw adding the extras.

Worcester extended their lead to 23-16 as Tom Heathcote fired over a penalty for the Warriors on 68 minutes but Gloucester refused to lie down.

Henry Purdy went over for Gloucester’s second score of the night just a minute later, dotting down in the corner, while Laidlaw nailed a hugely difficult conversion to level the scores at 23-23.

For all their late pressure, Gloucester were unable to add to their haul and were forced to settle for a hard-earned draw.

Sale Sharks 19 Harlequins 10

Dan Mugford was the hero for Sale Sharks as he kicked 14 points on his home Aviva Premiership Rugby debut to seal a 19-10 victory over Harlequins.

It was Sale’s first win of the Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign and continues their formidable record at the AJ Bell Stadium, while John Kingston fell to his first league defeat at the Quins helm.

Mugford had missed a match-winning penalty in a loss to Newcastle Falcons last Friday, but there was no erring from the tee this time around as he knocked over four penalties and converted David Seymour’s try.

Former England captain Chris Robshaw did score a first Harlequins try in over two years, with Nick Evans kicking the conversion and a penalty, but Kingston’s men struggled to get out of second gear in a fragmented game.

A heavy collision early-on between Kyle Sinckler and Joe Marler saw TJ Ioane leave the field early on, but Mugford snaffled the first points for Sale when Mike Phillip’s high kick was fumbled and young lock Sam Twomey was penalised at the breakdown.

Debutant Paolo Odogwu impressed the home crowd early on, twice skipping through tackles to get Sale good territory, but twice it came to nothing.

They did not have to wait long for their next points though, the pressure from a rolling maul telling on 14 minutes, allowing Mugford to make it two kicks from two.

Indiscipline at the breakdown continued to hurt Quins, and Mugford took full advantage from the tee as Sale opened up a nine-point lead in the 21st minute.

Harlequins responded well though, and after a series of penalties deep in Sale territory – all of which they kicked to touch – Robshaw barged over from close-range, with Evans picking up where he left off last week against Bristol by knocking over the conversion.

With the visitors looking sharp, Jonathan Mills was sin-binned on 32 minutes but there was no further change to the score before half-time.

Sale brought on forward reinforcements shortly after the restart, and the changes paid off almost immediately.

Owen Evans was sin-binned when a big rolling maul was stopped illegally, and when Mugford kicked to touch from the resultant penalty, another big drive ended with Seymour going over on 51 minutes.

Mugford kicked the tricky conversion and, though Evans’ long-range penalty pulled three points back for Harlequins, the visitors were then down to 14 men when Sinckler was sinbinned.

Mugford slotted the resultant penalty over to once again open up a nine-point lead, before Mat Luamanu’s sending off cost Harlequins as they chased a way back into the match.

 

Leicester Tigers 22 Wasps 34

Wasps resisted a second Leicester Tigers comeback in two weeks to win 34-22 and secure their first win at Welford Road since September 2008 and go second in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.

Dai Young’s side looked to have the game won when they led 27-8 after 47 minutes thanks to tries from Christian Wade, Guy Thompson and Sam Jones, as well as Jimmy Gopperth’s boot but Tigers stirred again.

Lachlan McCaffrey had gone over in the first half, but Ed Slater finished off a sumptuous team try before Freddie Burns knocked over three penalties to bring Tigers to 27-22 with just under 15 minutes left.

But Ellis Genge and Peter Betham were both sent to the bin in the dying stages with Gopperth getting over at the end to seal victory.

Jimmy Gopperth picked up where he left off against Exeter Chiefs, kicking a penalty after four minutes to put Wasps ahead at Welford Road.

Burns pulled Leicester level after 20 minutes after strong scrummaging from Tigers’ all-international front-row, but Gopperth restored Wasps’ advantage the hosts were pinged for a maul infringement.

Gopperth and Wade then combined with 27 minutes gone to slice Tigers open, the experienced Kiwi exploiting weak blindside defence and racing up the touchline before dabbing a perfectly-weighted kick which Wade collected after outstripping the covering Leicester defence.

It didn’t take long for Leicester to force a reply as No.8 McCaffrey created and finished his own try.

McCaffrey looked up and saw space and Wasps winger Josh Bassett struggled to control the bobbling ball, when Leicester piled into the resultant ruck the ball popped up McCaffrey bounced over from close-range, but Burns missed the conversion attempt.

Gopperth had another penalty chance just before half-time but pushed it wide, leaving Tigers 13-8 adrift.

Wasps were the next to profit from a bouncing ball as Peter Betham fumbled and Tommy Taylor was on the ball quick as a flash.

It did take a bit of Thompson magic to finish off, a strong fend took him through the Leicester line before he accelerated under the posts.

Young’s men started moving through the gears and when Joe Simpson seared through the Tigers’ defence and it took a Matthew Tait cover tackle to stop him getting over himself, but that was only a delay as Jones barrelled through weak Leicester defence for a converted try.

Though it had been all Wasps, Tigers came back with a length-of-the-field team try started off by fly-half Burns.

The former Gloucester Rugby man chipped over Wasps’ defence and collected, dancing through two tackles before kicking ahead again and with JP Pietersen haring in on it, the South African controlled superbly with his shins, before collecting the bouncing ball and shifting for Slater to dive over.

Burns missed the conversion, but was on target with a penalty three minutes later before reducing the deficit to eight points with 25 minutes remaining and then badly missing another shot on 60 minutes.

Thompson then found himself in the sinbin for a late hit on Burns, with the Tigers outside-half banging over the resultant penalty to take the hosts within five.

But Wasps refused to be consumed by the Tigers fightback and after Genge and Betham were both yellow carded, Gopperth sealed the historic win.

 

Bath Rugby 58 Newcastle Falcons 5

Bath Rugby produced a ruthless display against Newcastle Falcons, running in eight tries for a 58-5 win that ensured director of rugby Todd Blackadder’s first Aviva Premiership Rugby fixture at the Rec will be one to remember.

Semesa Rokoduguni and Dave Attwood both scored twice, while a penalty try and further scores from Kane Palma-Newport, Matt Banahan and Elliott Stooke completed the rout.

Ally Hogg scored Newcastle’s only points of the afternoon, crossing three minutes from time in what was a forgettable display from the visitors.

Mike Delany passed up the chance to give Newcastle an early lead as he pulled a sixth-minute penalty – awarded for a high tackle of Sinoti Sinoti – wide of the posts from 40 metres out.

The visitors enjoyed some early territory but despite having a strong attacking platform inside Bath’s 22 on nine minutes, Zach Mercer produced a fantastic turnover to alleviate the pressure.

At the other end a knock-on from the Falcons in their own 22 saw Bath win a penalty at the scrum, allowing George Ford to get the game’s first points with a penalty.

A well-taken drop goal followed on 22 minutes from the England fly-half, who ignored numbers out wide to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Opting for the scrum with a free-kick the hosts earned another penalty, although this time Ford – who scored 18 points in total – was wayward with his effort.

The first try of the afternoon was not long in coming though, courtesy of some magic from Rokoduguni.

The wing broke from his own 22 before chipping forward and although covering defender Vereniki Goneva denied him the score, referee Ian Tempest awarded a penalty try with Goneva adjudged to have impeded Rokoduguni illegally.

Goneva also received a yellow card for his troubles and Bath duly made their man advantage count as they ran in three further tries before the break.

A superb interchange between Kahn Fotuali’i and Banahan out wide saw the latter break away out wide to score, Ford converting.

Rokoduguni was then in the thick of the action again, finishing off a great team try as Charlie Ewels drew the defender on the right wing before putting his teammate in to score.

And he had his second on half-time as this time Fotuali’i provided the assists – Ford missing the conversion though as Bath held a 32-0 lead after a dominant 40 minutes.

Bath picked up where they left off four minutes into the second half as Fotuali’i’s quick thinking after Newcastle had collapsed a driving maul saw the scrum-half feed Palma-Newport for the score.

Lock Attwood added Bath’s sixth try after Fotuali’i had found Mercer, who in turn provided the assist for Attwood – Ford missing the conversion.

And after Bath won a penalty from 5 metres out, Attwood was in the right place at the right time to grab his second of the game just after the hour – Ford’s conversion taking the score to 51-0.

Hogg scored in the corner to give Newcastle a small consolation score but birthday boy and debutant Stooke finished the scoring in the game’s final play.

 

Bristol Rugby 10 Northampton Saints 32

Northampton promised to right the wrongs of their Aviva Premiership Rugby opening day loss against Bath Rugby this weekend and they did just that with an emphatic 32-10 win against newly promoted Bristol Rugby.

Andy Robinson’s men struggled with discipline as the Saints ran in four tries to secure the bonus point through George North, Louis Picamoles, Ken Pisi and Mike Haywood.

It was the penalty count that cost Bristol against Harlequins in week one during the London Double Header and it was more of the same this week against Northampton.

In the week Robinson warned his Bristol team to be aware of a wounded Northampton following their loss to Bath and in the opening exchanges it seemed they had failed to heed his warnings.

During the London Double Header Bristol’s penalty count was poor in their first Aviva Premiership Rugby outing of the season at home; they carried on their unwanted trend.

On four minutes ill-discipline handed Stephen Myler the opportunity to put Northampton ahead with a penalty.

While just four minutes later things got worse for Bristol as Welsh international North strolled over in the corner following an offload from England skipper Dylan Hartley for the game’s opening try – Myler was unable to add the extras.

Tusi Pisi reduced the arrears for Bristol to 8-3 with a penalty for the home side as Robinson’s men started to get a foothold in the game.

Bristol have played five previous Aviva Premiership Rugby matches at Ashton Gate, winning three and losing two but in the opening stages it looked unlikely that statistic would be added to.

Picamoles was next to go over for Northampton on 18 minutes as the Saints rumbled over from close range – the decision was referred to the TMO and after a delay the try was awarded – Myler this time adding the extras.

Then on 21 minutes as Northampton scored their third try of the game – this time Pisi going over in the corner.

To make matters worse Myler added the conversion to move Northampton into a comfortable 25-3 lead before the break.

Northampton had not lost both of their opening two encounters in Aviva Premiership Rugby since the inaugural season in 1997 and after their electric start against Bristol this statistic never looked like being repeated.

Bristol started the second half strongly and nearly scored within minutes of the restart as Tom Varndell flew down the line but he was bundled into touch just two metres short of the Northampton line.

The home side got back into the game 11 minutes into the second half – Ross McMillan going over under the posts to reward their dominance after the break, with Pisi adding the extras to leave the score at 25-10.

The penalty count improved after the break, with Bristol enjoying the bulk of possession and territory but they were unable to bridge the scoreboard gap.

Northampton added the bonus point score in the final minute of the game as Mike Haywood went over for the Saints, with Harry Mallinder adding the extras to leave the final score at 32-10.

 

Exeter Chiefs 13 Saracens 34

Defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Saracens continued their 100 percent start to the new season as Alex Lozowski inspired his side to a hard-fought 34-13 bonus-point win at Exeter.

All of the talk at Saracens this week has been about the fitness of England fly-half Owen Farrell ahead of the autumn internationals but in his absence stand-in Lozowski is sparkling for his new club.

After playing the chief role of architect of victory over Worcester in Saracens’ opener at the London Double Header last weekend; Lozowski was up to his old tricks again in the West Country.

The two clubs met three times last season – including the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final itself in May – and on each occasion it was Mark McCall’s Saracens that triumphed.

It was more of the same for Saracens against Exeter as tries from Lozowski, a double from Sean Maitland, Jackson Wray and Ben Spencer sealed the win for McCall’s men.

And after Lozowski opened the scoring for Saracens with a solo try that included a powerful hand-off against Exeter fly-half Henry Slade on four minutes – the defending champions never looked back. Alex Goode added the extras for McCall’s men.

Slade missed a penalty on 11 minutes to reduce the arrears, adding to an earlier miss for Saracens on two minutes from Marcelo Bosch.

From a driving maul after a line-out just before the 20 minute mark, things got even worse for Exeter.

After Jamie George was held up just short of the line, the ball was recycled quickly and wing Maitland went over in the corner, with Goode this time missing the conversion, to make the score 12-0.

Having kicked off their latest Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign with a 25-20 loss at Wasps last weekend, Exeter were hoping for an immediate riposte against the star-studded Londoners but they struggled to get going early on.

Exeter finally got on the scoreboard just before the half hour mark – Slade scoring a penalty from bang in front of the posts to make the score 12-3.

Despite reducing the deficit, it was frustrating for Exeter they didn’t get more of their appearance in the Sarries 22 after a series of attacks were just held up short by Saracens.

Richard Wigglesworth was sin-binned on 33 minutes for a reckless tackle on Slade – the England scrum-half using his legs to trip the Exeter fly-half.

And the error was further punished as Slade knocked over the long-range penalty to drag Exeter back to within six points of McCall’s Saracens.

With the numerical advantage, Exeter suddenly sprang into life in the final minutes of the half and replacement Max Bodilly thought he had scored in the corner for the Chiefs but Lozowski somehow got back to make a try-saving tackle.

Saracens started the second half strongly with Billy Vunipola particularly prominent with a series of carries but the visitors were unable to captialise on their dominance, with a kick through by Brad Barritt dealt with expertly by Exeter.

Sarries thought they had extended their lead on 48 minutes but England prop Mako Vunipola was bundled into touch as he dived over in the corner.

The champions stretched their lead on 53 minutes as Goode launched a long range penalty to make the score 15-6, while it could have been worse had the England full-back not missed another shot at goal just minutes later.

Saracens scored their try of the game on 58 minutes as Maitland went over in the corner.

A series of powerful drives by the Sarries forward pack, followed by quick hands and a clever off load by Lozowski created the opening for Maitland, with Goode adding the extras off the tee.

And Saracens added their fourth try of the afternoon just minutes later as Vunipola powered off the base of the scrum, steamrollered two Exeter defenders but offloading to Wray to score in the corner – Goode missed with the conversion.

Exeter got their first try of the afternoon on 69 minutes as Luke Cowan-Dickie bundled his way over for a score after a series of short drives, with replacement Gareth Steenson adding the extras for the Chiefs.

And Saracens added the gloss to their performance with a fifth score as a wayward pass found its way to Ben Spencer in added time, with Goode adding the extras for a 34-13 win.

 

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