Saracens 27 Northampton Saints 12
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall admitted that Northampton Saints had been the better side in the first half at Allianz Park before they eventually came back for a third win of the season.
The defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions had the wind at their backs in the first half, but turned around 9-9, and trailed early in the second half after a fourth Stephen Myler penalty.
But Alex Waller’s yellow card, followed by Jamie George’s opening try, turned the tide and from their Saracens never looked back in a 27-12 success, much to McCall’s delight.
McCall said: “We were second-best in the first half. We allowed some things to get under our skin a little bit. Their line speed was tremendous, and we couldn’t get any quick ball.
“We weren’t quite ourselves in the first half, but I thought in the second half we did a phenomenal job. The most encouraging thing was that we found a way to win while not being at our best.”
It was a frustrating result for Northampton, who have a good record at Saracens and performed well in the first half with France No.8 Louis Picamoles particularly prominent with ball in hand.
But they paid the price for indiscipline, with Waller followed by Sam Dickinson into the bin, and Jim Mallinder admitted they couldn’t afford to do that against a team of the calibre of Saracens.
He said: “They (Saracens) are tough enough to beat when you have got 15 men, but when you are down to 14 for 20 minutes (Dickinson was sin-binned later in the game), you are really up against it.
“I thought we did pretty well for 55 minutes, or so. We put them under pressure, and we defended with the passion and intensity that we needed to.
“They were spilling ball and we were beginning to get into them, and then a moment of madness, really, from Alex Waller started our downfall.”
Tries: George, Penalty
Pen: Lozowski 5
Pen: Myler 4
Bath Rugby 37 Worcester Warriors 22
Leroy Houston praised the support he received as he enjoyed a memorable return to The Rec with a try and a 37-22 victory for Bath Rugby over Worcester Warriors.
The Australian back rower left the club to rejoin Queensland Reds at the end of last year but was recalled to the West Country as injury cover and his name received a huge response from the Bath faithful prior to kick-off.
And despite trailing 17-6 at half-time, Houston was one of four Bath try scorers in the second half as Anthony Watson, Matt Banahan and Semesa Rokoduguni all crossed for the win.
“It felt like I had never left. I was just happy to be back with the boys,” said Houston.
“The support here is unbelievable. I’m still on a high because they show me so much love. I didn’t expect to score a try at all.
“I’m here for six weeks, just covering for Taulupe Faletau, until he gets back from injury. Then I’m back to Australia with the Reds.
“I’m hoping to get back into contention for the Wallaby autumn tour coming up.”
The Warriors had started well with Niall Annett and Dean Hammond crossing in the first half as they outplayed their hosts for the first 40.
Perry Humphreys also crossed the whitewash to put Worcester within touching distance of a try bonus point but they left The Rec completely empty-handed.
Worcester head coach Carl Hogg praised the endeavour his side showed in the first half and George Ford’s quality in capitalising on Warriors mistakes after the break.
“I thought in the first half we were excellent. Ball in hand, we showed real enterprise and caused Bath some issues defensively,” he said.
“The game obviously swung on a 10-minute window in the second half when we made back-to-back errors and someone of George Ford’s quality exploited it.
“We showed great endeavour in our first two games against Sale and Gloucester, predominantly defensively.
“But ball in hand we showed real threat and looked very lively. In the second half we didn’t get so many opportunities. I think we did enough to get something out of the game.
“We did have teenagers out there like Jamie Shillcock and Dean Hammond. Unfortunately, we lost Dean to injury but we brought on another teenager in Josh Adams.
“It’s great experience for them to play here at the Rec against a side with so many international players. It will stand them in good stead.”
Tries: Watson, Banahan, Rokoduguni, Houston
Cons: Ford 4
Pens: Ford 3
Tries: Annett, Hammond, Humphreys
Cons: Heathcote 2
Exeter Chiefs 36 Harlequins 25
Head coach Rob Baxter admits a weight has been lifted off Exeter Chiefs’ shoulders after they clinched their first Aviva Premiership Rugby win of the season in emphatic style.
Chiefs were simply irresistible in the opening 40 as Lachie Turner and England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie ran in doubles to leave Harlequins stunned.
Harlequins – who had two Tim Swiel penalties and a Rob Buchanan try to show for their first-half efforts – were then left staring at a 36-13 scoreline early in the second half as Cowan-Dickie rumbled over for his hat-trick try.
To their credit they came roaring back through Danny Care and Charlie Walker efforts, while Tomas Francis was red carded for Exeter eight minutes before time, but the damage had been done.
“We have been under a bit of pressure after two losses but it was fantastic to win and get a bonus point as well,” Baxter said.
“We did enough and scored some good tries but we are frustrated by our second-half performance. We should have controlled territory a bit better than we did but I am pleased with the character shown by us.
“We were far from being at our best but I am not that upset that Quins came back into it. They are a successful Premiership side and they have got some dangerous players, who can score some good tries.”
The opening-day victory over Bristol Rugby remains Harlequins’ only success this season and director of rugby John Kingston concedes his side did not help themselves by committing avoidable errors before the break.
“We gave away two soft tries in the middle of the first half when we were 6-5 up,” he said.
“One of them was a simple overthrow and the second came from poor tackling from the first phase.
“It was very difficult to come back from there and we didn’t start the second half as well as we would have wanted. It was a question of too little, too late and the bottom line is that we were punished for too many errors at key points.
“We have to alienate those errors, and it is not about work ethic, but Exeter did take every opportunity that came their way.”
Tries: Turner 2, Cowan-Dickie 3
Conversions: Steenson 4
Tries: Buchanan, Care, Walker
Conversions: Swiel 2
Penalties: Swiel 2
Sale Sharks 13 Gloucester Rugby 26
Gloucester Rugby skipper Greig Laidlaw insists his side now have the necessary resolve to challenge at the top end of the table after securing their first win of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season.
Scrum-half Laidlaw took home the man of the match award as he kicked 16 points in his side’s 26-13 win over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Charlie Sharples and John Afoa got the tries for the visitors while Cameron Neild and Sam James crossed for the home side.
The Sharks have only lost twice in their last 14 home games but it was the Cherry & Whites that beat them both times.
And Laidlaw admits his side must kick on from this victory after agonising defeat at home to Leicester Tigers was followed up by a draw with Worcester Warriors in the first two rounds.
“It’s always a bit unnerving when you don’t win either of the first two but we believe in ourselves this year,” said Laidlaw.
“Two weekends on the road and we got two points last week and are absolutely delighted to win here.
“It was a bit about keeping our nerve, when you play in the Premiership you are always going to be under pressure at times in the game and we kept our cool, stayed in our defensive system and we were able to stay alive for the most part.
“We rode the storm just after half-time, managed to grab a bit of field position and pick up a few penalties.
“I think some of our attacking game in that first half was brilliant and that is something we have been working on.
“We want to go out and win games, we don’t want to play not to get beat, we are testing ourselves so there are going to be mistakes but we have to keep backing ourselves.
“We were disappointed as a playing group last season, after we cross the line it’s up to the players –there’s only so much the coaches can do.
“And as players we just feel we don’t want to finish that far down the table this season. Is it going to be tough? Yes it is. But we showed tonight that we can win tough games.”
Sale have now won one and lost two of their three games this season, a fine victory over Harlequins sandwiched between losses to Newcastle Falcons and Gloucester.
And Steve Diamond has warned his side that they must improve if they are to repeat their top-six finish of last season.
“Gloucester played very well, they scored two very good tries and they capitalised on our ill discipline,” said Diamond.
“We were a poor second so credit to Gloucester. We tried to play a bit too much rugby against a good side like Gloucester, you just can’t do that especially with a world-class goalkicker like Greig Laidlaw.
“We got into those defensive positions, we offended and he kicked the goals. It’s a hard night’s punishment but if you do that against sides like that you lose.
“We certainly have to be a lot better than that – our endeavour as a side can never be questioned but certainly we weren’t very street-wise.”
Tries: James, Neild
Tries: Afoa, Sharples
Conversions: Laidlaw 2
Penalties: Laidlaw 4
Referee: Ian Tempest
more to follow….