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Aviva Premiership Round 8

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Worcester Warriors 17 Northampton Saints 18

 

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Stephen Myler’s six successful penalties and a stubborn defensive effort saw Northampton Saints inflict a narrow defeat on Worcester Warriors, their first home loss of the season.

Dean Hammond’s early score had helped the Warriors to a 10-3 lead, but frequent penalties allowed the metronomic boot of Myler to chip away at the deficit.

And it eventually saw the Saints into the lead, but there was late drama as Bryce Heem touched down and after nailing the conversion Jamie Shillcock had a 50m penalty to win the game, but his effort drifted wide of the posts.

Fly-half Shillcock had put the hosts in front from the tee on just three minutes, after Calum Clark was penalised at an early ruck.

Myler levelled the scores five minutes later, though, after the Warriors brought down a Saints maul which was marching toward the try line.

Hammond re-established the Warriors lead with his second try of the season, after Wynand Olivier broke through the Saints defensive line and gave the winger an easy run in.

Shillcock added the extras to put Worcester 10-3 to the good with 12 minutes played in the first half.

Lee Dickson’s quick penalty nearly brought Saints level almost immediately, but he knocked on as he attempted to offload.

It wasn’t until the 33rd minute that Myler would get another shot at goal, where he made the score 10-6 after Warriors were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle.

And Myler’s third penalty reduced the deficit to just a single point prior to the half-time whistle.

Five minutes into the second half Myler put the Saints into the lead with his fourth penalty after Ryan Mills was shown a yellow card for hands in the ruck.

And the fly-half benefited from further Warriors ill-discipline, with his fifth penalty of the night coming with just less than half an hour to go.

Worcester thought they had fought their way back into the match on the half hour mark, but were held up over the line by the resilient Saints defence.

Ben Foden, on his 200th appearance for the Saints, was then needed to make a try-saving tackle as Hammond burst through, but the visiting defence once again held firm.

And after a period of intense pressure Saints eventually cleared, and after earning a penalty from a scrum in the Warriors half Myler added his sixth successful kick to give the visitors an 18-10 lead.

Heem secured a late losing bonus point with a 78th-minute score, which Shillcock converted, before Clark was sent to the sin bin for an aggressive reaction towards the Warriors after the try.

The resulting penalty gave Shillcock a 50m kick at goal to earn a dramatic late victory, but his effort drifted just wide despite appearing to have the distance.

Bath Rugby 16 Bristol Rugby 9

 

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Jack Wilson’s first-half try sealed the bragging rights for Bath Rugby as they won the first Aviva Premiership Rugby West Country derby for seven years, and go top of the table in the process.

In a game dominated by the boot, Tom Homer’s two penalties were outdone by Billy Searle’s three for Bristol Rugby, but Wilson’s try, converted by the Bath full-back, sealed the win for the home side.

Both sides came into the game with something to prove as Bath looked to bounce back from last weekend’s Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat to Scarlets, while Bristol wanted to show their cup win against Sale Sharks was not a one-off.

A scoreless opening 15 minutes was characterised by the visitors dominating possession, but unable to produce anything from their advantage despite an abundance of attacking intent.

And the home fans were understandably nervous just before the 20-minute mark as Bristol’s Olly Robinson tackled Rhys Priestland – making his first Aviva Premiership Rugby start of the season – and forcing the Wales international from the field with a leg injury.

But Homer soon had the home side ahead with a 40-metre penalty, only for Searle to hit back with a kick of his own, moments later.

The lead was re-established before the half-hour though, with Wilson crossing the whitewash after Tom Ellis broke through the Bristol defence before offloading to the waiting Kiwi, who ran it in for a simple finish – Homer adding the extras.

Searle kept the visiting fans interested though with another long-range penalty in the 34th minute, to reduce the Bristol deficit to just four points.

It did not last though and, when the referee brought play back for a Bath penalty after play had broken down following a neat Matt Banahan kick through the Bristol defence, Homer extended the lead to seven.

Bristol clawed it back to just four points at the break, though, with Searle continuing his impressive kicking display – just making the distance with the last kick of the half.

And the visitors began the second period just as they did the first with Rhodri Williams making a clean break before Bath eventually wrapped him up and cleared their lines through an Adam Hastings kick.

Bath’s second-half tactics were clear as both Banahan and Darren Allinson kicked for the left corner in the first ten minutes, allowing their forwards to exert pressure on the Bristol line-out.

And it paid dividends on 50 minutes as the visitors were penalised and Homer kicked to stretch the lead back to seven points.

Five minutes later Todd Blackadder removed the returning Taulupe Faletau from the action, just moments before Bristol enjoyed their best period of the second half.

Jack Tovey launched a blistering run down the left wing and from the recycled ball play was switched inside, only for the Bath defence to turn it over and push Bristol back into their own half.

Things got tougher for the visitors in the 65th minute as Jason Woodward was sin-binned for illegally holding up Guy Mercer as the Bath man dashed for the line.

And after tempers threatened to flare up following a neat Hastings chip into the Bristol in-goal area, Banahan failed to make the most of a neat passage of play down the Bath right, choosing to pass inside to Mercer when the flanker wanted a kick to run onto, with the pass not finding its intended target.

Time was running out but Bristol did not give up, and in the dying minutes they camped on the Bath line before the ball came to Searle, but he was wrapped up five yards from the line.

The Bath defence infringed though and, with just two minutes to play Bristol kicked for the corner.

Six phases of possession followed from the line-out but a stray pass gifted possession to Bath, who simply had to gather the ball and kick into touch to seal the win.

A win that, temporarily at least, sees them top the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, with Bristol picking up a losing bonus point to move onto three from their eight games.

 

Newcastle Falcons 19 Exeter Chiefs 32

 

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Exeter Chiefs scored four tries as they edged an intriguing Aviva Premiership Rugby battle at Newcastle Falcons to secure their third win of the season.

Ollie Devoto raced 60 metres to score the visitors’ first try in the opening period, before Scott Lawson crossed for the hosts.

Thomas Waldrom restored the Chiefs the lead with a typical finish following a line-out but the Falcons showed plenty of spirit as Alex Tait got them to within striking distance.

But James Short and Will Chudley killed off any hopes of a comeback as they crossed to score Exeter’s third and fourth tries in the second half, condemning Newcastle to their fifth defeat of the campaign.
Exeter may not have enjoyed the start to the season they wanted but director of rugby Rob Baxter was able to call upon full-back Phil Dollman and scrum-half Chudley after injury.

But it was England centre Devoto who made an immediate impact as he intercepted a loose pass in midfield and sprinted 60 metres to score.

The Chiefs tried to use their momentum and add a quick second, but it was the Falcons who got on the score sheet next through a Mike Delany penalty.

Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson was happy kicking the ball into touch with regularity as they put the Falcons set-piece under pressure, but it was the hosts who scored next.

Strong work from Will Witty and Sam Lockwood pushed the Chiefs back and it was finished off by hooker Lawson from close range, but, undeterred, the Chiefs regained their composure and made their line-out pressure count as Waldrom’s try put them back ahead.

Steenson extended that less than a minute after half-time with a penalty, but Delany responded with his own effort from 40 metres.

Steenson added another minutes later before the Falcons were reduced to 14 men as Calum Green was sent to the sin-bin.

They responded in style as full-back Tait burst through for a try, but Exeter wrestled the initiative back right away as Short finished a well-constructed, flowing team move.

They thought they had secured a bonus point with five minutes left to play as Dollman crossed to score, only for play to be bought back and the try chalked off.

But they scored a fourth try minutes later as scrum-half Chudley crossed late on.

 

Gloucester Rugby 36 Wasps 18

 

Charlie Sharples struck late for Gloucester Rugby

Charlie Sharples’ late score and the boot of James Hook fired Gloucester Rugby to an impressive bonus-point victory over high-flying Wasps at Kingsholm.

Hook had given Gloucester the lead after six minutes, but Wasps fought back through a Thomas Young try, before Richard Hibbard’s score kept the Cherry and Whites ahead.

After Jimmy Gopperth had moved Wasps ahead from the tee, Mark Atkinson capitalised on a Danny Cipriani mistake to reclaim the lead before Matt Scott extended their advantage.

Wasps threatened to come from behind when Young grabbed his second try, but Sharples wrapped up the bonus-point win after superb work from Willi Heinz before Henry Purdy added further gloss at the death.

Hook opened the scoring with a penalty on six minutes after Wasps were pinged for not releasing in the tackle after brilliant defensive work from Welsh hooker Hibbard.

It was the visitors who grabbed the game’s first try, Tommy Taylor finding his man at the lineout and Young was the one to cross, but Gopperth pushed his kick wide.

Gloucester produced a carbon copy ten minutes later after penalty took Gloucester Rugby deep into Wasps territory and Hibbard touched down thanks to a superb driving maul.

Wasps started the brighter after the break, Young carrying well and providing go-forward, but could not quite break down Gloucester’s gritty defence – Henry Purdy and Willi Heinz making crucial interventions to deny Young’s side.

Gopperth made a breakthrough from the tee after Gloucester were penalised at the scrum with ten minutes gone in the second period before giving Wasps with a second moments later.

Hook missed a chance to restore Gloucester’s lead from the tee, but a series of errors from Cipriani then handed the initiative back to the Cherry and Whites.

Wasps’ fly-half failed to collect a bobbling ball and John Afoa was able to hack on his miscued clearance attempt handing Atkinson an easy score.

Welsh playmaker Hook then fired over the conversion before Scott crashed over for a converted try following excellent Gloucester work at the lineout.

Substitute Ashley Johnson – carrying superbly since his introduction – made a bust with five minutes remaining to set up Young for his second try of the afternoon.

But Sharples used his electric pace to claim Heinz’ fine kick before Purdy grabbed the fifth after Scott hacked the ball through Wasps’ line and the young three-quarter outstripped Johnson to score.

 

Sale Sharks 13-28 Saracens

 

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Saracens returned to the top of the table with their fourth successive Aviva Premiership Rugby victory.

Though they briefly fell behind to Sale Sharks midway through the first half, tries from Marcelo Bosch, Matt Gallagher and Ben Spencer saw them move back ahead of Bath Rugby, who had beaten Bristol Rugby 16-9 on Friday night.

Saracens were on the board on four minutes with a successful Alex Lozowski penalty after Sale Sharks were penalised for not releasing at the breakdown.

Sale though, who held Saracens to a thrilling 36-36 draw on their last trip to the AJ Bell Stadium, were more than a match for their visitors.

In search of a way back into the match wing Paolo Odogwu was pushed into touch as he sprinted for the line midway through the first half.

The pressure was intensifying and on 22 minutes Sale ran in the first try of the afternoon.

After turning down the chance to kick for goal several times, Cameron Neild led a driving mau l from the line-out and Josh Beaumont crossed for close range. Alan MacGinty added the extras.

Saracens were in front though, four minutes later when Schalk Brits found Marcelo Bosch in space to score. Lozowski converted.

The momentum was with the champions though MacGinty missed a chance to level the contest on 34 minutes when MacGinty’s penalty from long range fell wide of the uprights.

The half ended with Lozowski extending Saracens’ lead to six points following Bryn Evans’s knock-on.

Four minutes after the restart, half-time substitute Matt Gallagher bagged his first Saracens try.

On for wing Chris Wyles, Gallagher took no time to settle, going over in the corner after Brits had intercepted at the lineout. This time Lozowski was off target with his conversion attempt.

MacGinty and Lozowski again traded penalties, leaving an 11-point gap on the scoreboard when Halani Aulika was sent to the sin bin for the home side on the hour.

Yet it was the home side, depleted in numbers, who got the next score of the game. MacGinty once more successful from the tee.

Saracens’ Michael Rhodes was the next man shown a yellow card by Andrew Jackson, officiating in Aviva Premiership Rugby for the first time.

Despite Sale’s numerical advantage for the final ten minutes, Saracens ran in their third try of the match on 72 minutes.

Sam James, under heavy pressure, conceded possession to Lozowski and the ball was worked out to Ben Spencer on the right flank who sprinted to the corner.

Lozowski proving extremely reliable in the absence of Owen Farrell put the game beyond Sale with a fine conversion from the touchline.

 

Leicester Tigers 25 Harlequins 6

 

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Freddie Burns produced a virtuoso display to lead Leicester Tigers back into the top four of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with a 25-6 win over Harlequins.

The fly-half scored 10 points, also creating the opening try for Owen Williams, as Tigers moved back ahead of Exeter Chiefs.

The home side edged the first half, leading 9-6 but after the break they really started to take control, as Burns added two penalties, a drop goal and as well as putting Williams over for the try.

Harlequins had battled hard in the first half, but struggled to create chances in the second and never really threatened a win on the road.

It was a tight start with both teams showing intent to move the ball, but Harlequins broke the deadlock through a Nick Evans penalty.

Leicester responded in kind though, Freddie Burns’ effort from the right just sneaking inside the post to level the scores.

And when Charlie Matthews stuck a boot into a ruck after quick hands had put Leicester in a great position, Burns knocked over his second penalty of the afternoon.

They weren’t in front for long though, with Evans slotting his second soon after as both teams struggled to create clear try-scoring opportunities in the first quarter of the game.

The visitors were starting to make some ground with ball in hand, with James Chisholm particularly prominent, but one good attacking opportunity bit the dust when they pushed early at a scrum just outside the 22.

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Instead it was Leicester who moved back in front, Mabath-rugby/tthews isolated after Alofa Alofa had claimed a high ball and Burns making no mistake from 40 metres out.

If conditions were making attacking play difficult, there was no shortage of physicality, with Evans on the receiving end of one huge Genge hit. At the other end Karl Dickson made a crucial turnover to earn a penalty as Leicester attacked down the blindside from a lineout in the 22.

Leading 9-6 at half-time, Leicester began the second half on the front foot and thought they’d scored the first try when Burns took a quick tap and dived over. Unfortunately for the Tigers fly-half, he’d taken the tap from the wrong spot and instead had to settle for a simple penalty.

And soon after Burns showed another side to his skillset with a sharp drop goal after dropping back into the pocket.

Burns was enjoying a dream afternoon, and played creator for the opening try of the game. At a scrum five metres out Burns spotted space in behind the visitors’ defensive line, with Williams racing onto it to score. The fly-half converted once more to stretch the lead to 22-6.

A further penalty from Burns stretched the lead to 19 points, although he came off for a short spell after a heavy collision with Charlie Walker.

Leicester lost second row Mike Fitzgerald with ten minutes remaining to a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Chisholm, with the Harlequins player joining him in the bin for retaliation.

 

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