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Aviva Premiership Wrap




Sale Sharks 3 Exeter Chiefs 21

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Three first-half tries saw Exeter Chiefs move into the top four of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table after a scrappy win away at Sale Sharks.

A powerful start for the Chiefs earned them a penalty try before winger James Short crashed over in the corner.

Scrum-half Will Chudley scored their third before the break, suggesting the visitors could rack up another impressive total – after scoring 57 against Worcester Warriors last week.

But the second half was pointless, as Sale failed to find a way through a tight Chiefs defence.

There was good news before kickoff for Sale Sharks with former England hooker Rob Webber fit enough to return for the first time since he broke an arm on the opening day of the season.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs handed Don Armand a first start of the season and Italy international Michele Campagnaro made his first league appearance of the campaign from the bench.

The Chiefs, in hot form, made a fast start and scored the game’s first try in the eighth minute as a driving maul resulted in a penalty try and a yellow card for Sharks captain Josh Beaumont.

Sale responded through an AJ MacGinty penalty, but the Chiefs’ power was too much for them to handle and, after another maul, winger Short powered over in the corner for his second try in as many weeks.

In a physical contest, the Sharks struggled to get out of their half and the pressure told shortly before half-time as the Exeter moved close to a bonus point with a splendid try.

A break from Sam Hill opened up the Sharks’ defence and he released Short, who spotted the well-timed run of Chudley – who scored their third try of the night.

Sale introduced veteran Irish scrum-half Peter Stringer after the break to inject some urgency into their game, and the ball began to move to faster through their hands – testing Exeter’s defence.

But the Chiefs held firm, keeping their shape impressively and denying Sale space out wide.

The Sharks broke into Exeter’s 22 for the first time in the 64th minute and some slick passing almost saw them score but for some last-gasp defending from Exeter denied them.

Sale kept pushing forwards but Exeter managed to keep them out in an important victory.

Bath Rugby 14 Saracens 11


BATH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Maro Itoje of  Saracens is tackled by Max Lahiff of Bath during the Aviva Premiership match between Bath Rugby and Saracens at the Recreation Ground on December 3, 2016 in Bath, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Bath Rugby made their first-half dominance count at the Rec but only just as a dogged Saracens fell to defeat for just the second time in their last 17 Aviva Premiership Rugby matches.

The home side, who controlled much of the first half, entered the break with just a three-point advantage, as Sean Maitland struck back for Saracens after Max Clark’s try and two Tom Homer penalties.

In a mark of champions, however, Saracens refused to buckle and Alex Lozowski’s drop-goal got them back on level terms early in the second half.

Ultimately the superb Homer’s third penalty of the day settled the game as Bath’s defence handled everything a Saracens side, including a fit-again Maro Itoje, could throw at them.

But the Rec crowd had their hearts in their mouths at the death before watching Lozowski’s final penalty attempt fail to reach the posts.

Bath started the brightest and Homer slotted an early penalty after a rampaging run from Taulupe Faletau deep into Saracens territory.

The Wales No.8 continued to look like Bath’s biggest threat but Saracens’ line, bending rather than breaking, stopped the hosts from pressing home their advantage.

Indeed the reigning champions had done well to hang on until Lozowski levelled up the scores from the tee after Bath were pinged at the lineout.

Bath re-established their lead through Homer’s boot at the end of the first quarter – and then grabbed the try that their efforts had deserved.

Australia centre Ben Tapuai opened up the space with a superb dummy for his fellow midfield man Clark to score his first-ever try in Aviva Premiership Rugby.

Homer’s missed conversion left the score at 11-3, though Bath continued to look the most likely to score as Aled Brew looked clear before being called back for a knock-on, and Schalk Burger then won a key penalty for an under-pressure Saracens.

Tom Ellis then got his body in the way to prevent a certain Saracens try but the visitors struck back before the first half was out through Maitland – the 2013 Lion squeezing home in the corner.

Lozowski missed the conversion but made amends early in the second half with a sumptuous drop-goal to level it up at 11-11.

A trademark Semesa Rokoduguni break returned Bath to the ascendancy and though they were stopped a whisker from the try-line, Lozowski was yellow carded for a high tackle on Dan Bowden in the build-up.

Homer smashed through the resultant penalty but a tenacious Saracens came back again, Alex Goode missing a shot at goal before Jim Hamilton and then Vincent Koch were held up just short of the try-line.

Much of the last ten minutes was played in Bath’s territory, though full-back Homer – who had also put in a tireless defensive shift – released the pressure with a break.

There was time for Lozowski to have another pot at goal in the dying seconds but to the relief of the Rec, his penalty fell short.

Gloucester Rugby 26 Bristol Rugby 18



Gloucester Rugby racked up four second-half tries to come from behind and beat local rivals Bristol Rugby at Kingsholm.

The visitors looked on track for their first Aviva Premiership Rugby league win of the season after a promising first-half performance and two Jason Woodward penalties saw them hold a six-point advantage over an out-of-sorts Gloucester.

But the Cherry and Whites came out invigorated after the restart with tries from Matt Scott, Willi Heinz and Henry Purdy, plus a penalty try, putting them in the driving seat for the win despite late efforts for Jack Wallace and Luke Arscott for the spirited visitors in the closing minutes.

After narrowly losing out to Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Saracens last weekend, it was hosts Gloucester who looked to start strongly, with Mark Atkinson finding himself some space before failing to find a teammate while Ben Morgan enjoyed some early successful carries.

But it was Bristol who got the first points on the scoreboard on eight minutes when Gloucester were pinged for not rolling away at the ruck and Woodward dissected the posts.

The visitors had their tails up and, after enjoying sustained possession, opted to kick for the corner after being awarded a penalty.

But despite peppering their opponents’ line, they had to make do with just a second Woodward penalty on 17 minutes after Jacob Rowan was caught offside right in front of the posts.

Both teams were guilty of letting errors creep into their game and when play was bought back for an earlier infringement, James Hook had the chance to reduce the deficit with a penalty just outside the Bristol 22 but he shanked it wide.

To compound his misery he then spilled a relatively simple pass out wide right but fortunately for the Gloucester man, Bristol were unable to capitalise.

The hosts tried to rally again before half-time, winning a penalty and opting to kick for the corner but the impressive Bristol defence held firm before clearing the danger as the half-time whistle blew.

Whatever was said by David Humphreys at half-time however seemed to work as Gloucester came out firing in the second-half, scoring a try within two minutes of the restart.

It came from a stolen lineout close to Bristol’s own line with the ball eventually recycled out to half-time replacement Billy Twelvetrees who slipped in Scott to dart is way over the line. Hook converted and the hosts were 7-6 ahead.

One try soon became two as Gloucester went through the gears and after winning a scrum in front of the posts, Heinz capitalised on a crumbling Bristol defence to dive over, with Hook’s conversion making it 14-6.

All the pressure was now coming from the hosts and Gloucester’s power and strength told on 57 minutes when they were awarded a penalty try after Jamal Ford-Robinson was adjudged to have illegally dragged down the maul.

The Bristol prop was also handed a yellow card for his troubles with Hook adding the extras for 21-6.

The visitors were stunned but looked to have got a try themselves shortly after the hour mark when Billy Searle finished off a Jon Fisher break but the TMO ruled the Gloucester defence had been unfairly blocked and it was wiped out.

And their misery was compounded on 68 minutes when Purdy skipped through the challenges before reaching for the line and bringing up Gloucester’s bonus-point fourth try.

Bristol continued to fight until the final whistle and Arscott sent a cross field kick over for Wallace to gather for Bristol’s first try of the match on 79 minutes.

The clock was almost up but there was still time for the restart with Bristol’s late flurry continuing with a play out wide seeing Arscott dot down, with Woodward’s conversion taking the final score to 26-18.


Leicester Tigers 19 Northampton Saints 11


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Heroic defensive efforts from both sides meant the boot was king in the second half at Welford Road and a last-gasp Owen Williams penalty denied Northampton Saints a losing bonus point against Leicester Tigers.

The kick ensured Tigers move onto seven wins from their ten games this Aviva Premiership Rugby season, while Saints sank to their fourth successive East Midlands derby defeat in a row, and remain on four wins for the campaign.

Adam Thompstone and Mike Haywood exchanged first half tries, with the boot of Freddie Burns handing his side a narrow half time lead.

And with neither side able to cross the whitewash in the second period, two more Tigers penalties were enough to secure the win.

Saints put themselves under early pressure when Luther Burrell was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackled in the second minute.

And Burns gave his side an early advantage with an eighth-minute penalty after Saints infringed at the lineout.

A three points advantage soon became ten as Burns fed Thompstone for his fifth try of the season in the 14th minute, before adding the conversion.

Burrell was then re-introduced and it was Tigers’ turn to go down to 14, with try-scorer Thompstone being sent to the bin for playing George North in the air.

And Saints took full advantage, Haywood stretching out an arm from the bottom of a rolling maul that went to ground a yard short of the line in the 17th minute – Stephen Myler was wayward with the conversion, though.

But the fly-half made amends less than ten minutes later, reducing the deficit to two points with a 47m penalty.

Burns returned the favour though, on the half hour mark, when Saints were penalised for a high tackle on Williams.

But Myler had the final say in the first half, kicking a second penalty after Alex Waller’s fine scrummaging forced Tigers to handle and suffer the consequences – the sides going into the break split by just two points in a thrilling East Midlands derby.

The early stages of the second half were characterised by a succession of turnovers, with Harry Thacker – a late replacement for Tom Youngs just hours before kick-off – in particular catching the eye.

With 30 minutes to play Manu Tuilagi made his latest comeback from injury as he replaced Peter Betham, as Tigers’ Richard Cockerill looked for some extra impact from the bench.

The home side dominated the following ten minutes, running through the phases and inching ever closer to the Saints tryline as they looked to get Tuilagi into the game, but the visitors were eventually able to clear after the ball squirted free, resulting in a Northampton scrum.

Superb tactical kicking from Burns set up another period of Tigers possession on the Saints tryline, but the visiting defence continued to stand firm.

Until, that is, Saints were penalised for infringing at a scrum and the Leicester fly-half kicked the first points of the second half with just ten minutes remaining.

The pattern of the second half was reversed for its final ten minutes, with Saints growing into the game and sniping away at the Tigers tryline.

But an Ed Slater-orchestrated defence kept them at bay and when the Tigers captained turned the ball over, the game was one.

The only action left was for Williams, with the clock in the red, to kick a penalty and ensure Saints missed out on the losing bonus point.


Newcastle Falcons 38 Harlequins 32


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Newcastle Falcons ran in six tries in a thriller of a game at Kingston Park with Juan Pablo Socino starring in a black shirt to down Harlequins.

Ten tries kept the crowd enthralled as Socino grabbed two, while Marcus Watson, Michael Young, Mark Wilson and Evan Olmstead completed the Falcons try scorers.

But Harlequins did not leave empty handed as Tim Visser’s last-gasp try, and Ruaridh Jackson’s conversion gave them a try bonus point, as well as a losing bonus point.

Harlequins, without a win – or even a point – on the road in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season before kick-off, enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges.

And a period of return kicking from 22 to 22, led to an opening for Visser whose kick forward put Luke Wallace clean through, but he could not gather and the opportunity was gone.

The visitors did open the scoring, though, with Tim Swiel kicking a penalty in the eighth minute after Falcons infringed at the breakdown.

But the home side hit back five minutes later as Michael Young stepped inside Aaron Morris, leaving the full-back for dead, to cross under the posts – with Joel Hodgson adding the extras.

Harlequins hit back though, in the 19th minute, with Rob Buchanan barrelling over in the corner after the visitors switched play swiftly from left to right.

And in an end-to-end game Falcons almost responded immediately, but Will Witty did not quite have the legs to make the line, and spilled the ball when felled five yards from glory.

But they did score on the half hour mark, as Socino made a darting run from the base of a ruck to put Falcons ahead – with Hodgson stretching the lead.

And two tries soon became three, as Mark Wilson sniped over two minutes later, after a devastating run from Alex Tait – Hodgson again unerring from the tee.

Falcons continued to dominate in the closing stages of the first half, turning defence into attack at the drop of a hat, but failed to find the killer pass to cross for a fourth time.

And the domination continued in the second half as Socino grabbed his second, feeding Fred Burdon before receiving again on the wrap-around support run to go over in the right corner – Hodgson wayward with the conversion.

But Dickson gave the visitors hope ten minutes later, sniping from the bottom of a ruck to spin his defender and ground the ball at the second time of asking – with Jackson adding the extras.

And Quins, 11 points behind with 25 minutes to play, continued to press forwards but when Visser – returning to Kingston Park ten years after making his Falcons debut – offloaded, Morris was not able to gather and the chance went begging.

The pressure did eventually pay, though, as Visser and Morris combined well to feed Dickson for an easy run in – Jackson converting.

The comeback did not last for long, though, as Socino was wrapped up but still managed to offload to Vereniki Goneva, who fed Evan Olmstead to finish well in the left corner – giving Hodgson too much to do with the conversion.

Falcons were now nine points ahead, with just ten minutes remaining, and could have further increased that lead but Wilson’s charging run down the right touchline was brought to a halt by Morris.

Jackson then made for a tense finish after Falcons infringed, giving Harlequins the opportunity to reduce the deficit to six points – a chance the Scot happily took.

But a moment of genius from Sonatane Takulua, with three minutes to play, saw his deft, outside-of-the-boot, grubber kick collected by replacement Watson to touch down in the left corner – with Mike Delaney adding the conversion to secure the win.

The action was not complete though, and with the clock already in the red Visser ran clear to touch down and secure Harlequins’ first point on the road this season, with Jackson kicking the conversion to add the losing bonus point.

Worcester Warriors 12 Wasps 26


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Wasps moved to within one point of the Aviva Premiership Rugby summit but missed out on a bonus point in their 26-12 victory at Worcester Warriors.

Brendan Macken’s first-minute intercept score, the fastest in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season, got the visitors underway in perfect style, with Rob Miller’s five kicks helping them to a 19-12 first-half lead.

But the Warriors were far from cut adrift, a quartet of Jamie Shillcock penalties their influence on the scoreboard.

Man-of-the-match Dan Robson’s touch of second-half class earned a second try as Wasps held their own, back within touching distance of league leaders Saracens in their two-try success.

And they wasted little time getting underway at Sixways, with Macken at his usual, sharp best to break the line at the right time and intercept from Shillcock, running under the posts with less than a minute played.

Wasps boasted much of the early ball, but a trade in penalties from Shillcock and Miller – both looking deadly from the tee – kept the game on a knife-edge.

But a far from perfect line-out derailed Worcester attacks, losing three in a row before a bustling 18-phase attack saw the attack coming back for a penalty, allowing Shillcock cut the deficit to one point at 10-9.

It could have been better for the hosts, Cooper Vuna marauding his way down the left before running out of legs, only for fly-half Miller – in for the injured Danny Cipriani – to extend Wasps’ lead heading into the break at 19-12.

Knowing a bonus-point win could take them back to Aviva Premiership Rugby top-spot, Dai Young’s team came out firing in the second period, scrum-half Robson the architect.

He profited from a gap in the Warriors’ backline, bursting his way through for the second score of the afternoon, the only points after the interval.

Despite the two-score advantage, Wasps were far of assured of the spoils as the hosts piled forward heading into the closing quarter, Vuna coming within inches of the line before a fumble broke down the opportunity.

With both sides sensing the next, key score, the running rugby ramped up at Sixways, Worcester in particular lapping up the phases with ball in hand.

But with the fluency unable to translate into points, the running became desperate towards the last ten minutes.

Still Worcester came however, keen to get their first points of the half, regularly thwarted by a resolute Wasps defence showing their experience in the latter stages.

They were not without their new heads though, Ben Harris coming on his first Wasps appearance in Aviva Premiership Rugby, while Piers O’Conor started for his debut.

But the Warriors were unable to break through, forced to register their smallest home haul in defeat this season.