Aviva Premiership 2017-18

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Wasp, Saracens secure play-off spots

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It was a good day for both Wasps and Saracens in the Premiership as the former secured their play-off qualification, while the latter will have a home semi-final.

On Saturday Bath earned bragging rights over Gloucester, Exeter sealed top spot and Worcester battered Harlequins to ensure Premiership rugby next year.

Exeter Chiefs 34-19 Sale Sharks

With a home semi-final already secured Rob Baxter’s side secured the novelty of top spot a week ahead of schedule by ending Sale’s top four aspirations for at least 12 months.

A see-saw first 40 left the game in the balance and heading into the final stages it remained that way, but Exeter’s savvy know how saw them through and score a bonus point late on.

Joe Simmonds kicked the first points of the day with the boot but it was a former Exeter man Byron McGuigan who scored the first try of the day. Working off scrum ball the Sharks worked through several phases before AJ MacGinty chipped over for the Scotsman to score.

Exeter though quickly turned the contest in the space of five minutes with tries of an Australian flavour. First scrum-half Nic White was able to benefit from a prominent scrum and snipe over from close range. Shortly after Lachie Turner was given clear grass after the Chiefs had turned the ball over and the speedy full-back evaded all in front of him to go over.

Those quick scores put the home side 17-7 in front but five minutes before the interval Sale lock Andrei Ostrikov picked and went shortly after the Sharks had retained their own attacking lineout. MacGinty adding the extras.

The visitors’ score shortly before the break had reborn the contest but Exeter were quick to kill off any Sale momentum. Jack Yeandle scoring after Don Armand had sent him over via a good set-piece move.

The game went scoreless for 20 minutes before McGuigan, a man clearly performing like someone with a point to prove, scored his second after the TMO was consulted in regards to the grounding. MacGinty missed the conversion from out wide leaving the gap at five points with just over ten minutes remaining.

Exeter, knowing full well a win would secure them their place at the Premiership’s summit, played with their heads and a Gareth Steenson penalty pushed the gap out to beyond a converted try. But in true Exeter fashion they managed to earn the bonus point thanks to plenty of forward momentum eventually seeing Greg Holmes go over. Steenson added the extras to round off another fruitful day in Devon.

The scorers:

For Exeter:
Tries: White, Turner, Yeandle, Holmes
Cons: Simmonds 3, Steenson
Pens: Simmonds, Steenson

For Sale:
Tries: McGuigan 2, Ostrikov
Cons: MacGinty 2

 

Gloucester 20-43 Bath

Bath paid faith to the old cliche that form goes out of the window on derby day by delivering Gloucester just their second home defeat of the year.

A bonus point secured by half-time suggested Bath had been saving their best for their fiercest rivals following a miserable run of results. Gloucester’s top four ambitions were both hindered and helped by Newcastle’s late win at Welford Road on Friday but defeat in front of their own fans ended hopes of post season involvement.

Tom Dunn’s opening score came in the first minute when the soon-to-be Gloucester man Matt Banahan powered down the right and one phase later Dunn powered over from five metres out.

Gloucester thought they had an immediate response after the Shed watched Lewis Ludlow dot down but he was judged to have done so with a double movement. A double act then cut through the home defence when Rhys Priestland put Francois Louw through a hole before getting the ball back on the inside to dive over.

Good things supposedly come in threes and Bath’s first-half followed suit as, following a Charlie Ewels intercept and offload, Aled Brew was given the ball on halfway and raced clear despite the best efforts of Tom Marshall.

At 21-3 the game was beginning to get away from the Cherry and Whites but captain Ed Slater ran an excellent line to crash over with the ball on the Bath five metre line.

The door of hope appeared ajar but the visitors didn’t take long to slam it shut courtesy of a try of the season contender from Tom Homer. The 15 picking up on his own ten metre line, cutting inside the Gloucester defensive line and deciding to ignore his support to power over despite the best efforts of Jason Woodward on the cover.

Priestland kicked a penalty to register the first points of the second 40 but ten minutes in Gloucester scored the first try to again ignite a glimmer of hope. Ben Morgan made the initial break to send Gloucester up towards the Bath line. Working off quick ball replacement scrum-half Ben Vellacott threw a looping pass to Woodward who dived over in the corner.

That hope was again short lived and Bath scored number five of the afternoon. The forwards pushing them towards the whitewash and Priestland was able to spot Cooper Vuna one-on-one with Vellacott and the replacement was able to dot down in the corner.

Gloucester at 16 points down knew that had to play and territory was rendered irrelevant with the hosts often looking to play out from their own 22. A risky strategy eventually, and inevitably, counted against them when James Wilson intercepted with the try line five metres away and he gratefully scored.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Slater, Woodward
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Pens: Twelvetrees 2

For Bath:
Tries: Dunn, Priestland, Brew, Homer, Vuna, Wilson
Cons: Priestland 4, Burns
Pen: Priestland

 

Worcester Warriors 44-13 Harlequins

A miserable run for Harlequins shows no sign of letting up as Worcester’s late burst of form continued to put them in seventh heaven as they mathematically secured their Premiership status.

One win in their last eight has seen Quins’ season meander to a trivial ending and victory for the Warriors means they are level on points with the capital side following an inspired afternoon.

Dorian Jones and Marcus Smith initially traded penalties before Bryce Heem scored the first of Worcester’s four first-half tries. Working off lineout ball the powerful Ben Te’o found Chris Pennell and he sent his back three colleague over. Quins were swift to hit back though when Charlie Walker cut through the Warriors defence to dot down. Smith added the conversion to put the visitors 10-8 ahead.

Jackson Willison scored Worcester’s second to put them back into the lead after GJ van Velze made a break to put Worcester on the front foot. They were quickly able to recycle and with numbers over the inside centre scored.

Lock Darren Barry delivered the third score at Sixways after relentless attack and just after half an hour Te’o scored the bonus point securing fourth of the day. Heem was able to break before hitting Pennell in space. The full-back provided another assist to send the Lions centre over in the right hand corner.

At 25-13 the contest wasn’t quite over but Quins were in need of the next score. Instead, in keeping with the afternoon’s pattern, Worcester notched their fifth courtesy of Francois Hougaard. The South African running the ball off an attacking maul before side stepping and powering over.

The Sixways crowd were treated to try number six of the day when replacement Jamie Shillcock ran an excellent line to score under the posts and allow himself the easiest of conversions. With the clock in the red things got even better for Worcester as Willison scored his brace and the visitors ensured top tier status with aplomb.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
Tries: Heem, Willison 2, Barry, Te’o, Hougaard, Shillcock
Cons: Jones, Shillcock 2
Pen: Jones

For Harlequins:
Try: Walker
Con: Smith
Pens: Smith 2

London Irish 14-51 Saracens
Madejski Stadium

Saracens secured a home semi-final, scoring seven tries in a dominant 51-14 victory over already-relegated London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.

The Londoners were made to work in the first half, despite initially taking a 13-0 lead, but eventually pulled away in the second period.

Mark McCall’s men went ahead via an Owen Farrell penalty, after Josh McNally had been sin-binned for the Exiles, before Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor went over.

Irish could have folded but they got back into the contest as Joe Cokanasiga touched down and, although Farrell added a second three-pointer, Maro Itoje’s yellow card for a deliberate knock-on provided the hosts with a further boost.

They duly took advantage of the extra man when Johnny Williams barged across the whitewash. It failed to last, however, and Michael Rhodes regained Sarries’ nine-point buffer by going over from close range.

Saracens were now well in control and their win was rubberstamped by Marcelo Bosch, Richard Barrington, Alex Goode and Schalk Brits tries.

McCall’s charges will head back to Allianz Park next weekend where they will take on Gloucester, knowing that they are safe in second position.

The scorers:

For London Irish:
Tries: Cokanasiga, Williams
Cons: Tonks 2
Yellow Cards: McNally, Cowan

For Saracens:
Tries: Barritt, Taylor, Rhodes, Bosch, Barrington, Goode, Brits
Cons: Farrell 5
Pens: Farrell 2
Yellow Card: Itoje

Wasps 36-29 Northampton Saints
Ricoh Arena

Wasps secured their position in the Premiership semi-finals following a tense 36-29 victory over Northampton Saints.

They move up to third position, above Newcastle Falcons, but the Coventry-based outfit were pressurised throughout by a resilient Saints.

Dai Young’s men began impressively and touched down when Willie le Roux’s long pass was finished by Christian Wade out wide.

To Northampton’s credit, they hit back via Teimana Harrison’s barnstorming run, but Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty and Elliot Daly’s try, after another slick attack, took the hosts 15-7 clear.

Api Ratuniyarawa reduced the arrears from close range but successive Gopperth three-pointers re-established the Coventry outfit’s dominance.

Although Stephen Myler kept the Saints in the contest from the tee, they suffered a setback at the start of the second period when Luther Burrell was sin-binned for a needless trip.

Wasps duly benefited from the centre’s absence and Wade and Juan de Jongh appeared to have sealed the win and their place in the last four by touching down.

However, Alex Mitchell and Ahsee Tuala crossed the whitewash to put it back in the balance going into the final 10 minutes, but Gopperth’s effort off the tee settled the nerves late on.

The scorers:

For Wasps:
Tries: Wade 2, Daly, De Jongh
Cons: Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth 4

For Northampton:
Tries: Harrison, Ratuniyarawa, Mitchell, Tuala
Cons: Myler 2, Grayson
Pen: Myler
Yellow Card: Burrell

Ashley Johnson suspended after failing drugs test

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Wasps forward Ashley Johnson has been provisionally suspended by the RFU after he tested positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition drugs test.

A statement from the club read: “The club is aware that a prohibited substance was reportedly found in an out-of-competition doping control sample provided by Ashley Johnson on February 7, 2018.

“He has been provisionally suspended by the RFU pending final determination of the matter and is therefore currently unavailable for selection.

“Ashley is currently investigating the possible source of the substance and both he and the club are co-operating fully with the RFU in this respect.

“We are fully supportive of him in this process but are unable to comment any further at this stage due to the confidentiality of legal proceedings.”

Premiership Wrap

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A late Lewis Ludlow try was not enough to help Gloucester to beat Newcastle whilst a Denny Solomona inspired Sale left Northampton with all five points. 

Gloucester 20-21 Newcastle Falcons 
Kingsholm 

Newcastle became the first side to leave Kingsholm with a win in the Premiership this season after a late Billy Twelvetrees conversion slipped narrowly wide.

The Falcons occupied the final play-off position before the start of play and they maintained that thanks to a workmanlike performance and some moments of magic – especially from Michael Young.

The scrum-half cutting through the Gloucester defence in the first 40 to send Ally Hogg over before going over himself in the second half. A late Lewis Ludlow try looked to have potentially turned the contest in the favour of Johan Ackermann’s men but the kick was sent wide.

Three Joel Hodgson penalties alongside Hogg’s try had put Newcastle 16-5 up at the interval, although Jason Woodward’s magical try was the standout moment of he match. The full-back kicked through before collecting and diving over.

David Halaifonua scored the first try of the second half when he powered over in the corner. The try owing much to an excellent in and out by Woodward before he managed to pass wide. Young then deservedly scored his try to push the gap out in favour of Dean Richards’ side.

Mark Atkinson crossed to cut the deficit to six points heading into the game’s final chapter and Lewis Ludlow’s try came after some sustained pressure to set up the grandstand finish but the last unbeaten record in the land is finally ended and Newcastle’s play-off push is firmly on track.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: 
Woodward, Halaifonua, Atkinson, Ludlow

For Newcastle:
Tries: 
Hogg, Young
Cons: Hodgson
Pens: Hodgson 3

 

Northampton 25-34 Sale
Franklin’s Gardens

Sale Sharks just about kept themselves in touch of a play-off spot after an inspired first 40 minutes saw them romp home against a lethargic Northampton side.

No doubt still hurting after last weekend’s narrow loss at the Rec after Bath’s late late show; Steve Diamond’s men wrapped up the bonus point before half-time owing much to a Denny Solomona hat-trick.

The England winger the first to bother the scoreboard when an overlap out wide was exposed by Sam James to send the rugby league covert over. He owed much to the supporting cast for his second after an excellent team move put the visitors 17-3 up following a Piers Francis penalty.

Solomona’s hat-trick was complete in the 34th minute when he dotted down out wide before Faf se Klerk kicked the conversion. Eager not to be shown up three minutes later Solomona’s wing colleague Marland Yarde scored an excellent individual try after De Klerk hacked on only to see the bounce sit up perfectly for the Sale man.

A further Francis penalty left the score 31-6 at the Gardens when the whistle blew and the contest looked as good as done. Saints knew they had to come out firing and they did exactly that when Michael Paterson crossed over from the back of a ruck.

Francis converted and then provided the final pass for Rob Horne to cut the deficit further. The initial good work done by Nafi Tuitavake allowing the Australian to score for the second consecutive week.

A De Klerk penalty pushed the gap out to 16 points and calm any potential Northampton storm that was brewing. With nine minutes remaining South African Heinrich Brussow stretched out to scored Saints third try out the afternoon with Francis again kicking the extras but the damage had already been done.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries: 
Paterson, Horne, Brussow
Cons: Francis 2
Pens: Francis 2

For Sale:
Tries: Solomona 3, Yarde
Cons: De Klerk 4
Pens: De Klerk 2

Thanks to

English Premiership Wrap

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Leicester shocked Saracens 28-20 while London Irish claimed an important 22-9 win over Worcester in the Premiership on Sunday.

London Irish 22-9 Worcester Warriors

London Irish picked up only their second win of the Premiership season as they beat closest relegation rivals Worcester 22-9 on Sunday.

This result at the Madejski Stadium moves the Exiles 12 points behind the Warriors, but their escape from the trapdoor remains unlikely.

Just one try was scored in the tense game as the boot of Greig Tonks proved vital to London Irish as he slotted five penalties in total.

Tonks’ first came in the seventh minute before he doubled up in the 19th, both coming after centre Chris Pennell had opened the scoring.

London Irish would then cross through Piet van Zyl on 27 minutes after he collected his own chip for a try that was converted by Tonks.

And despite a penalty either side of the break from Pennell, Tonks made sure Irish would pick up a much-needed four points at home.

The scorers:

For London Irish:
Try: Van Zyl
Con: Tonks
Pens: Tonks 5
Yellow Card: Paulo

For Worcester:
Pens: Pennell 3

 

Saracens 20-28 Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers picked up a deserved 28-20 victory over an out-of-sorts Saracens in their Premiership clash at Allianz Park on Sunday.

Leicester enjoyed a dream first period as they went in 21-6 to the good after scoring three tries, leaving Saracens struggling for answers.

Their first came after 10 minutes and it was Manu Tuilagi who got it, breaking from the fringe of the ruck for a walkover that made it 7-0.

Tigers fly-half Matt Toomua missed a chance to make it 10-0 soon after but Saracens scrum-half Ben Spencer made no mistake for 7-3.

But again weak fringe defence from Saracens led to Tigers’ second try, this time Greg Bateman racing in for 14-3 with 33 minutes played.

Spencer cut the gap to eight points two minutes before the break but Leicester weren’t done, Telusa Veainu evading tackles for a key try.

Saracens had it all to do in the second 40 and wing Nathan Earle failing to ground over the line and then dropping one before the whitewash one minute later summed up their afternoon. It looked like Leicester were now nailed on for a victory as Sarries were blowing opportunities.

Salt was rubbed into their wounds too when loose ball was gathered by Tuilagi, who handed to Jonah Holmes for a try that made it 28-6.

And despite a try double from impressive replacement fly-half Max Malins, both via slalom runs, amid a strong finish from Sarries, they finished outside losing bonus-point territory on a dismal day for Mark McCall’s charges.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: Malins 2
Cons: Lozowski 2
Pens: Spencer 2

For Leicester:
Tries: Tuilagi, Bateman, Veainu, Holmes
Cons: Toomua 4
Yellow Card: Rizzo

Also three last minute tries gave Exeter and Bath victories at home whilst Wasps earned a credible draw at Gloucester. Harlequins poor recent form continued as they were thumped at home by Newcastle.

Exeter Chiefs 31-30 Northampton Saints

A late Thomas Waldrom try with the clock in the red ended Exeter’s recent run of defeats and sent Northampton home deflated as they suffered defeat by a solitary point.

Exeter surrendered top spot recently and Rob Horne’s early try looked to set the tone for what appeared to be another frustrating afternoon for the Chiefs. The Australian benefitted from a swift break down the left for Saints.

The home side hit back in typical fashion when a driving maul was hauled down illegally by the visitors resulting in a penalty try. Stephen Myler, a brief replacement for Piers Francis, kicked a penalty to briefly out Saints back in front before Alec Hepburn scored after consulting the TMO.

Ben Foden then pushed Northampton back into the ascendancy before the break when some excellent play saw the former England back score from a move that started in their own half.

Harry Mallinder gave the visitors the perfect start to the second period when he extended the lead to 24-14. Owing much to an excellent show and go from Francis who found Horne and then Mallinder.

Steenson and Francis exchanged penalties briefly with the latter of the two notching six points to Steenson’s three. A Don Armand try, courtesy of some fluid play between both forwards and backs, reduced the gap to six and set up a tense finish.

That finish certainly came as the home side peppered the Saints try line and, with time up, Waldrom was the man to crash over thus allowing Joe Simmonds to kick the winning points.

The scorers:

For Exeter:
Tries: Penalty, Hepburn, Armand, Waldrom
Cons: Steenson, Simmonds 2
Pen: Steenson

For Northampton:
Tries: Horne, Foden, Mallinder
Cons: Francis 3
Pens: Francis 2, Myler

 

Gloucester 25-25 Wasps

A highly entertaining encounter between two sides with serious top four ambitions ended all square as Jimmy Gopperth’s 81st minute conversion earned Wasps a 25-25 draw in the West Country.

The contest at Kingsholm appeared to be getting away from Wasps after Richard Hibbard and Charlie Sharples both score in the opening 40. The first came courtesy of a maul coming from a lineout and the second owing much to some great work from Jason Woodward.

Eight points from the boot of Billy Twelvetrees and six from Wasps centre Jimmy Gopperth made the score 18-6 at the break.

Two former Gloucester players now applying their trade in Coventry bought Dai Young’s men straight back into the contest when first Dan Robson, and then Thomas Young both crossed to bring the scores level after Gopperth missed the second conversion.

Gloucester’s Henry Trinder, playing today on the wing, then put the Cherry and Whites back in front by seven points with ten minutes remaining when Twlevetrees scored his second conversion of the day.

Johan Ackermann’s side’s impressive home record looked set to claim another scalp with time running out but Wasps, without many of their star individuals, refused to be beaten and when Christian Wade went over out wide Gopperth had an Exeter-like kick to tie the game.

As he did that day and as he did late in Toulouse last year, the New Zealander lashed it through the posts to earn Wasps a share of the spoils.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Hibbard, Sharples, Trinder
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Pens: Twelvetrees 2

For Wasps:
Tries: Robson, Young, Wade
Cons: Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth 2

 

Bath 33-32 Sale Sharks

A see-saw encounter in Somerset eventually saw Bath win 33-32 after James Wilson scored a conversion with a minute on the clock after Zach Mercer had gone over.

Wilson kicked two early penalties to put Bath 6-0 up before Denny Solomona was sent under the posts by scrum-half Faf de Klerk who notched the conversion to put Sale on top.

Solomona’s wing colleague Marland Yarde scored shortly after thanks to some great play off a Sharks lineout to increase the gap to six points. Wilson and South African De Klerk traded penalties before Mercer put Todd Blackadder’s side into the lead by a point.

Wilson kicked the conversion after some great work by Taulupe Faletau had sent the England apprentice over the whitewash. De Klerk then kicked two penalties to put Sale 21-16 up. Bath responded with another try when Josh Bayliss’ effort was given after consultation with the TMO.

De Klerk kicked a further six points to Wilson’s three to five Sale a narrow 27-26 lead heading into the final ten minutes. Solomona ensured that the visitors had their lead extended when he scored an excellent try.

With 79 minutes on the clock though, after some sustained pressure, Mercer scored his second of the contest to set up a grand stand finish for Wilson. The fly-half notched the conversion to give Bath the victory by one point and send the Sharks home with only a losing bonus point.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries: Mercer 2, Bayliss
Cons: Wilson 3
Pens: Wilson 4

For Sale:
Tries: Solomona 2, Yarde
Con: De Klerk
Pens: De Klerk 5

 

Harlequins 10-28 Newcastle Falcons

Harlequins’ poor recent run continued as they were beaten at home for the second time in a fortnight as Newcastle recorded a bonus point triumph.

With Dean Richards’ side reigniting their play-off ambitions following a mid-season blip it was somewhat surprising when James Horwill scored early on to give Quins a 7-0 lead after Marcus Smith converted.

The away side bounced back through Callum Chick who eventually scored after several phases of pick and go. Flood, who kicked three conversions out of three, notched his first to bring the scores level.

A Marcus Smith penalty early in the second-half put the home side back into the lead before three Newcastle tries in 15 minutes decided the contest. Kyle Cooper was again the beneficiary of some forwards possession as he crossed from close range.

Chris Harris scored the Falcons third after a lineout turnover saw him score down the right and it was Sinoti Sinoti who landed the bonus point score when he was presented with a one-on-one contest that he dully appreciated. Joel Hodgson, on for the excellent Flood, slotted the conversion to make it a very worthwhile journey south for Newcastle.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Try: Horwill
Con: Smith
Pen: Smith

For Newcastle:
Tries: Chick, Cooper, Harris, Sinoti
Cons: Flood 3, Hodgson

Wasp secure crucial win

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Jimmy Gopperth kicked two second half penalties to help Wasps move to within four points of Exeter in the Premiership after a 13-7 triumph over the Chiefs.

The Midlanders played some excellent rugby on occasions but perhaps didn’t get the reward they deserved. Despite having a number of openings, they only touched down once when Marcus Watson scampered over.

Gopperth then extended their lead in the second period before Luke Cowan-Dickie gave the Chiefs hope going into the final quarter.

Ashley Johnson was also serving time off the field for a yellow card but the hosts handled it well and Gopperth secured the win from the tee.

It extended Exeter’s Premiership losing streak to three as, despite a positive opening where they put the opposition defence under pressure, Wasps deserved their win.

Dai Young’s men created a number of opportunities in the first half, but they could only take one of those when excellent hands out wide sent Watson across the whitewash.

Jonny Hill was sin-binned for a tip-tackle on Willie le Roux in the build up to that try and the West Countrymen were put under further duress.

Rob Baxter’s team almost responded through Will Chudley, when the Chiefs broke away after a turnover inside their own 22, but that was the closest they got before the break.

Wasps duly held a seven-point buffer going into the interval and they were on the front foot at the start of the final 40 minutes, but the Chiefs’ defence was much more resilient.

The departure of Danny Cipriani to injury also helped their cause and a Gopperth three-pointer was the hosts’ only reward for their pressure.

Young’s men then suffered further concerns when Watson and Alex Rieder went off injured before Johnson was sin-binned for a swinging arm into Don Armand.

With the Coventry-based outfit down to 14, Exeter benefited immediately and Cowan-Dickie set up a tense finale.

Wasps controlled matters, however, and Gopperth’s three-pointer helped them to secure the win.

The scorers:

For Wasps:
Try: Watson
Con: Cipriani
Pens: Gopperth 2
Yellow Card: Johnson

For Exeter:
Try: Cowan-Dickie
Con: Steenson
Yellow Card: Hill

Round 15 results:

Wasps 13 Exeter Chiefs 7
Newcastle Falcons 29 Bath 12
Sale Sharks 3 Saracens 13
Leicester Tigers 33 Harlequins 18
Northampton Saints 25 London Irish 17
Worcester Warriors 25 Gloucester 15

Aviva Premiership Wrap

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There were three home wins in the Premiership on Saturday as Leicester, Northampton and Worcester all secured crucial victories.

Leicester Tigers 33-18 Harlequins

Matt Toomua was the star as Leicester Tigers kept their Premiership play-off hopes alive with a 33-18 triumph over Harlequins.

Both these sides have struggled for form in the Premiership recently and that was evident in the first half performances.

To the visitors’ credit, they started the game brightly and scored a fine try when Aaron Morris sent Alofa Alofa clear to touch down.

Leicester hit back, however, and pressurised the opposition 22 but they lacked creativity and the hosts had to make do with a pair of Toomua penalties.

Marcus Smith responded with a three-pointer of his own but the fly-half was yellow carded for being offside and Toomua regained the Tigers’ advantage at the break.

Despite being a man short, the Londoners began the second 40 minutes on the front foot and were rewarded by Luke Wallace’s effort.

That score almost revitalised the hosts and two quick-fire tries moved Matt O’Connor’s men clear when Toomua and Graham Kitchener crossed the whitewash.

Quins responded via Charlie Matthews but Adam Thompstone confirmed the win after intercepting a stray pass in the final minute.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Tries: Toomua, Kitchener, Thompstone
Cons: Toomua 3
Pens: Toomua 4

For Harlequins:
Tries: Alofa, Wallace, Matthews
Pen: Smith
Yellow Card: Smith

 

Northampton Saints 25-17 London Irish

Northampton launched a superb second half fightback to claim a hard-fought 25-17 win over London Irish at Franklin’s Gardens.

In a tight encounter between two of the Premiership’s also rans, Northampton outscored the Exiles three tries to two although the visitors dominated the early exchanges and held a deserved 14-3 lead at half-time.

Irish made a superb start and took the lead in the sixth minute courtesy of an Alex Lewington try. Lewington initially hacked the ball ahead and regathered before crossing the whitewash.

Greig Tonks added the extras but there was more joy for the visitors, and Lewington in particular, in the 25th minute when he pounced on a grubber kick from Tonks and beat George North in a footrace before diving onto the ball behind Saints’ try-line.

Tonks converted again before Piers Francis opened the home side’s account via a penalty in the 28th minute.

The home side made a superb start after the interval and a minute into the half, North crossed for their opening try after initially doing well to regather the ball from the kick-off.

Francis slotted the conversion attempt, which narrowed the gap to four points, and five minutes later Saints took the lead for the first time when Rob Horne went over for their second try.

With their tails up, Northampton continued to dominate and in the 50th minute, they were rewarded again when Mikey Haywood scored off the back of a driving maul deep inside the Exiles’ half.

With the score now 22-17 to the hosts, the rest of the half was an arm wrestle and Saints eventually secured the result when Francis landed a drop goal in the 72nd minute.

The scorers:

For Northampton Saints:
Tries: North, Horne, Haywood
Cons: Francis 2
Pen: Francis
Drop goal: Francis

For London Irish:
Tries: Lewington 2
Cons: Tonks 2
Pen: Tonks

 

Worcester Warriors 25-15 Gloucester

Worcester Warriors produced another impressive display to defeat Gloucester and go further clear of basement-dwellers London Irish.

Alan Solomons’ men may have struggled for most of this season, but they have gradually improved over the last few Premiership rounds and the previous week has shown why.

Following their superb triumph over defending champions Exeter Chiefs, the Midlanders defeated another play-off challenger.

They began quickly and were 14-3 up in the opening 10 minutes through Jonny Arr and Jamie Shillcock. Although Matt Scott responded for the Cherry and Whites – adding to Billy Twelvetrees’ earlier penalty – Worcester led 19-10 through Josh Adams.

Chris Pennell then kicked a penalty as they ended the half 12 points in front, but the hosts were on the back foot at the start of the second period.

Gloucester began to play some good rugby and Henry Trinder made up for his indiscretion in the first half – where he was yellow carded – to get Johan Ackermann’s team back into the contest.

The Warriors regained their composure, though, and Pennell kicked them two scores ahead to complete the win.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
Tries: Arr, Shillcock, Adams
Cons: Pennell 2
Pens: Pennell 2

For Gloucester:
Tries: Scott, Trinder
Cons: Burns
Pens: Twelvetrees
Yellow Card: Trinder

Thanks to

Newcastle and Sarries take wins

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Newcastle Falcons strengthened their play-off hopes when they beat Bath and Saracens moved provisionally top of the table thanks to victory at Sale Sharks.

Newcastle Falcons 29-12 Bath

The Falcons proved too strong for their more fancied visitors when they secured a deserved bonus-point victory at Kingston Park on Friday.

Newcastle were dominant for large periods especially during the opening half and they held a comfortable 21-0 lead at the interval after converted tries from Sinoti Sinoti, Toby Flood and Kyle Cooper, which were all converted by Flood.

Sinoti dotted down as early as the fifth minute after Josh Matavesi did the bulk of the groundwork with a superb line break in the build-up. Ten minutes later, the home side added their second try when Flood slipped out of a tackle before crossing the whitewash.

The rest of the half was more subdued although the Falcons finished stronger and four minutes before half-time, Cooper barged over from close quarters after the hosts launched a driving maul deep inside Bath’s half.

To their credit, Bath came out swinging after the break and six minutes into the half Cooper Vuna went over in the left-hand corner for their opening try which was converted by Freddie Burns.

That did not deter Newcastle though and five minutes later, Vereniki Goneva crossed for their bonus-point try after gathering a perfectly-weighted pass from Nili Latu.

Flood added a penalty in the 76th minute before Anthony Perenise scored a consolation try for the visitors in the game’s closing stages.

The scorers:

For Newcastle Falcons:
Tries: 
Sinoti, Flood, Cooper, Goneva
Cons: Flood 3
Pen: Flood

For Bath:
Tries: 
Vuna, Perenise
Con: Burns

 

Sale Sharks 3-13 Saracens

Saracens were made to graft for this result but they eventually secured victory against a spirted Sale Sharks side who were unlucky not to score any tries as they had plenty of possession.

As the scoreline suggests, this was a slugfest and the game’s only try was scored in the 13th minute when Liam Williams glided through a gap in Sale’s defence before showing a superb turn of speed on his way over the try-line.

Ben Spencer slotted the conversion but there was little interesting to report for the next 15 minutes. The game came alive in the 31st minute when Williams and Rob Webber were involved in an off-the-ball scuffle which resulted in both players being sent to the sin bin.

Shortly afterwards, Faf de Klerk slotted a penalty for the hosts but that was the only time they would score points in this match. On the stroke of half-time, Spencer added a penalty and the teams changed sides at half-time with Sarries leading 10-3.

The second half was a tight tussle with the only points of the half scored by Spencer when he slotted his second penalty in the 51st minute.

The scorers:

For Sale Sharks:
Pen: 
De Klerk
Yellow Card: Webber

For Saracens:
Try: 
Williams
Con: Spencer
Pens: Spencer 2
Yellow Card: Williams

Thanks to

Brüssow join Saints

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Northampton Saints have confirmed that new signing Heinrich Brüssow has joined up with the first team squad after touching down in the UK.

The 31-year-old South Africa international put pen to paper on a deal to bring him to Franklin’s Gardens back in September and, following the conclusion of the Top League in Japan, is immediately available for selection.

Brüssow, equally comfortable at flanker or number eight, had been playing his club rugby for Japanese side NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes after eight years in Super Rugby playing for the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs.

He brings considerable experience with him to Franklin’s Gardens, having also been capped 23 times by the Springboks – three of those appearances coming against the British & Irish Lions in 2009.

And Brüssow is now relishing the prospect of a new challenge in the Premiership and linking up with his new Saints teammates.

“It’s great to be here,” he said. “It’s been a few months now that I’ve been waiting to come, and I’m very excited to get to work on the training field and get involved with the squad.

“I really enjoyed my time in Japan but I am at a stage in my career where I need a new challenge, and coming to Europe and playing in some of the best competitions in club rugby is something that is very special.

“The Saints is a fantastic club with big traditions and I’m really excited to get to know all the English cultures and learn what the Aviva Premiership is all about.

“There is a lot of talent in the squad and I can’t wait to get out and start playing with them.”

A former SA Rugby Young Player of the Year, Brüssow twice won the Currie Cup with the Free State Cheetahs, but it was during the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2009 that he really burst into the limelight.

After a barnstorming performance for his franchise against the Lions, Brüssow featured for the Springboks in all three Tests, with South Africa winning the series 2-1.

His international debut came on English soil at Twickenham back in 2008, where he came off the bench to lock horns with Saints skipper Dylan Hartley in an emphatic 42-6 win for South Africa.

“We’re delighted that Heinz is now finally at Franklin’s Gardens and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the black, green and gold,” said Saints’ technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney.

“He is a player with heaps of experience who has shown his class year in, year out.

“He will be an invaluable asset for us as we look to move up the Aviva Premiership table in the second half of the season, and our younger players will look to learn a lot from him – especially from his play at the breakdown.”

Premiership Wrap – Saracens thrash Wasps

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All of the top three were in action on Sunday in the Premiership as Saracens won the big clash of the day, while Newcastle Falcons impressively defeated leaders Exeter Chiefs.

Wasps 15-38 Saracens
Ricoh Arena

Alex Goode touched down twice as Saracens made it three successive Premiership victories following a 38-15 win over Wasps.

Mark McCall’s men were absolutely superb in the opening half-an-hour, touching down three times via Chris Wyles, Goode and Schalk Burger.

Owen Farrell surprisingly struggled from the tee, however, and missed all three conversions, but did kick a penalty to take Sarries 18-3 in front.

Danny Cipriani responded for the hosts from the tee before the match turned on its head five minutes shy of the interval.

With Dai Young’s side rumbling towards the line from a driving maul, Burger came in from an offside position, which led to a yellow card and penalty try.

Farrell was also sin-binned for a high shot on Dan Robson and, with the visitors down to 13, Wasps immediately benefited as Willie le Roux touched down.

To their credit, despite the two-man disadvantage, Saracens initially maintained their lead and then increased their buffer when the players returned through a second three-pointer by Farrell.

The Londoners had regained their composure and Goode and Ben Spencer completed the win with late tries.

The scorers:

For Wasps:
Tries: Penalty try, Le Roux
Pen: Cipriani

For Saracens:
Tries: Wyles, Goode 2, Burger, Spencer
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 3
Yellow Cards: Burger, Farrell

Newcastle Falcons 28-20 Exeter Chiefs
Kingston Park

Exeter Chiefs’ lead at the top of the Premiership was cut after Newcastle Falcons produced an outstanding display to earn a 28-20 triumph.

Although Toby Flood and Gareth Steenson traded early penalties, the first half was all about the Falcons as they went into the break with a 22-point buffer.

Exeter, usually so assured, were put under pressure and they struggled to retain the ball. Turnovers significantly hampered the visitors and, with Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti on the wings, the Tynesiders were always going to be a threat.

The Pacific Island duo both touched down to move Newcastle 15-3 in front before Joel Hodgson added a penalty and Kyle Cooper scored their third try.

Rob Baxter’s men improved in the second period and reduced the arrears via Sam Simmonds’ close range burst.

They continued to press and closed the gap further via Olly Woodburn and Toby Salmon, but Hodgson’s late three-pointer completed the win for the Falcons and denied the Chiefs a losing-point.

The scorers:

For Newcastle:
Tries: Sinoti, Goneva, Cooper
Cons: Hodgson 2
Pens: Flood, Hodgson 2

For Exeter:
Tries: S Simmonds, Woodburn, Salmon
Con: Steenson
Pen: Steenson

Saturday Premiership Wrap – Saints finally gets a win

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Leicester, Northampton and Sale Sharks beat London Irish, Gloucester and Harlequins respectively in the Premiership on Saturday.

Leicester Tigers 19-15 London Irish

Leicester’s run of four straight defeats came to an end at Welford Road with a 19-15 win over London Irish.

One loss away from a record breaking five in the Premiership, Tigers went into this in a turgid run of form that threatened to mark their worst run of home defeats in more than 40 years. Thankfully, they came up against an Irish side who have been in even worse form, with just one win in 17. It was never destined to be a classic.

It was Irish who had the better of the first 20 minutes or so and they took the lead through a Joe Cokanasiga try. The hosts made a mess after regaining possession from a line-out, spilling the ball and Cokanasiga was given the thumbs up from the TMO, the conversion failing to follow.

But it was Tigers who took a lead into the break. It took them 35 minutes to trouble the scoreboard, with Matt Toomua finishing off a Brendon O’Connor pass to cross the line. George Ford gave them a slender 7-5 advantage at 40 minutes.

And they stretched that lead straight after half-time with a second try. Having gained a line-out inside the Irish 22, the ball was worked into Jonny May and he made it 12-5.

Greig Tonks reduced that lead back down to four in what was a very tight second half. But Tigers’ woes were about to come to an end when Manu Tuilagi sealed the win with a third try on 71 minutes.

They were given a scare with four minutes to go when Irish went over courtesy of Alex Lewington. But the hosts hung on for the 19-15 win.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Tries: Toomua, May, Tuilagi
Cons: Ford 2

For London Irish:
Tries: Cokanasiga, Lewington
Con: Tonks
Pen: Tonks

 

Northampton Saints 22-19 Gloucester

Saints ended their woeful run of losses with a last gasp 22-19 win over Gloucester at Franklin’s Gardens.

Much like Tigers, Northampton came into this looking to avert a run of losses that stood at seven before kick-off. Gloucester on the other hand have lost just one in eight, and the points only looked like going one way before 3pm.

But five minutes into it, Saints caused a bit of a surprise and gave the Gardens faithful a bit of hope. Having created an overlap, Ken Pisi chose to go alone and opened the scoring on 10 minutes. Harry Mallinder saw his kick strike the post, and Gloucester soon bounced back with their first try. Having pushed for the line, Saints were unable to stop the charge and referee Ian Tempest awarded the penalty try, which was swiftly converted. He added extra woes to the hosts, showing yellow to Api Ratuniyarawa in the process.

The visitors couldn’t add to their lead and as Saints returned to 15, Mallinder sent a penalty through the posts for the hosts. But Gloucester continued to look the better side and James Hanson got away from the defence and over the line on the half hour, Owen Williams making it a 14-8 advantage at half-time.

They increased that advantage 13 minutes into the second half with another try. John Afoa got their second of the afternoon when Williams broke through the backline and found his teammate. Williams missed the kick though, and Saints quickly got themselves right back into it.

Nic Groom snuck his way through the Gloucester defence to reduce the deficit, Mallinder kicking through to put Saints within a score of the visitors.

Williams missed another penalty to keep the gap at just four points, Saints still well in the game going into the final stages. And they stole the points right at the death. The TMO was into the action to take a look at a possible try, and he ruled that he could award a penalty try on behalf of Saints to take the points in a 22-19 win.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries: Pisi, Groom, Penalty try
Con: Mallinder
Pen: Mallinder
Yellow Card: Ratuniyarawa

For Gloucester:
Tries: Penalty try, Hanson, Afoa
Con: Williams
Yellow Card: Symons

 

Sale Sharks 30-29 Harlequins

Sale left it late to beat 14 man Harlequins 30-29 at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Strong home form for Sale was met with a disappointing string of performances away from The Stoop for Harlequins, who have just one win away from home soil since March. And it all went to script with two early tries putting Sharks right into the ascendancy.

It took nine minutes for Byron McGuigan to get on the end of a move from the backs, crashing through and the two from AJ MacGinty making it a solid start. Two minutes after McGuigan’s try, Rohan Janse van Rensburg followed up. Sale turned possession over, passes were exchanged and the South African starlet added to the lead, with MacGinty again adding the conversion.

Quins gave themselves some hope with their opening try on 21 minutes. A driving maul saw Quins’ Alofa Alofa get over from just in front of the line, the conversion missing the sticks. MacGinty added a further three to the lead though with his next effort, Quins kept at arm’s length at a 17-5 scoreline.

They were improving though and when Mat Luamanu kicked downfield, Charlie Walker was first to it and the lead was cut to just five points. And against the expectations, they took a lead into half-time. Having dominated possession after their second try, Alofa danced around a challenge and fed Ross Chisholm who levelled. The conversion followed, as did a Marcus Smith penalty for a 22-17 half-time lead.

But if they were to hold the lead, they’d need to do it with a man less as Joe Marler saw red on 58 minutes. He left the referee with little choice after a dangerous challenge on TJ Ioane. MacGinty quickly narrowed the gap down to a couple of points, but Quins added to their lead against the odds.

The bonus point try was secured only six minutes after the dismissal of Marler, turning over possession and seeing Jamie Roberts break through for a converted try. It was always destined to be a thrilling finale, and it promised to be so 11 minutes from time when Janse van Rensburg nipped through a gap for a converted effort.

27-29 in favour of Quins as the clock ran down, they lost that lead as a penalty from Faf de Klerk with four minutes to play put Sale a point ahead. And 30-29 was the way it ended, although Quins did take two bonus points from the game.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Tries: McGuigan, Janse van Rensburg 2
Cons: MacGinty 2, De Klerk
Pens: MacGinty 2, De Klerk

For Harlequins:
Tries: Alofa, Walker, Chisholm, Roberts
Cons: Smith 3
Pen: Smith
Red Card: Marler

Bath back to winning ways

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Bath put their disappointing run of Premiership form behind them to inflict a chastening 46-25 defeat on Worcester Warriors and maintain their play-off push.

The West Country outfit had suffered three consecutive league defeats but they controlled this match from start to finish.

They wore the hosts down in the first half, maintaining control of the ball and going 13-6 up via Paul Grant’s try and two Rhys Priestland penalties.

Chris Pennell had kept the Warriors in the game at the break, kicking a brace of three-pointers, but efforts in the second period from Matt Garvey, Anthony Watson, James Phillips and Kahn Fotuali’i (twice) eased Bath to victory.

Worcester have enjoyed a resurgence over recent times but, although David Denton, Joe Taufete’e and Perry Humphreys got consolation scores, they were outplayed by Todd Blackadder’s men throughout.

The visitors controlled possession and territory, showing patience by going through the phases, and they earned a penalty which Priestland kicked for an early 3-0 advantage.

Watson, continuing his fine form from last year, was particularly spritely and his mazy run almost led to the first try, but they had to be content with another three-pointer by their fly-half.

Alan Solomons’ side had barely touched down the ball but they finally got themselves into the game and Bath infringed as a result of the pressure.

Pennell, usually so assured off the tee, initially failed to convert before the full-back was finally successful, kicking a long-range effort to reduce the arrears after half-an-hour.

Unperturbed, Bath simply regained their composure and put together their most incisive move of the match. Once again, they went through the phases and Chris Cook displayed excellent dexterity to draw a defender and offload for Grant to power over.

Although the Warriors hit back via Pennell just shy of the interval, the Midlanders were surprisingly lacklustre and they failed to impose their style early in the second period.

The West Countrymen duly controlled matters and a free-flowing move, which went through several pairs of hands, ended in their fly-half feeding Garvey to cross the whitewash.

Worcester then briefly threatened but their five-metre scrum came to nothing and the visitors effectively sealed the win when Cook broke two tackles and sent Watson over unopposed.

To their credit, the home team hit back as Denton scored but Bath soon had the bonus-point when Phillips went crashing over the line.

Two opportunistic touchdowns from Fotuali’i added to the Warriors’ embarrassment but a Taufete’e effort, which was sandwiched in between those tries from the replacement scrum-half, gave Solomons’ men a chance of a bonus-point.

However, Worcester fell short, despite Humphreys’ try, as they went away with yet another defeat, while Bath moved level on points with local rivals Gloucester.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
Tries: Denton, Taufete’e, Humphreys
Cons: Pennell 2
Pens: Pennell 2

For Bath:
Tries: Grant, Garvey, Watson, Phillips, Fotuali’i 2
Cons: Priestland 3, Burns 2
Pens: Priestland 2
Yellow Card: Phillips

Saracens sign Tongan loose forward

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Saracens have announced the signing of Tonga international back-row Sione Vailanu, who will join them until the end of the 2018/19 season.

Vailanu operates primarily as a number eight and joins the squad following his Test debut for Tonga against Japan in November 2017. He also appeared against Romania to make his second Test appearance before joining Saracens.

The 22-year-old is a strong ball carrying forward and with a background of having played sevens during the previous four years of his rugby career, spent in Japan, he represents a strong addition to the Sarries setup.

Speaking of his confirmation as a Saracens player, he told the club website: “It’s a really good environment for me, it’s a really good place for me to start my career in England.

“For the last four years I was playing in Japan so as a jump up this is a really good step for me; there’s a lot of experience and the people around here are very good, it feels like a family to me already.

“Hopefully while I’m at Saracens I can do my best and make some memories!”

Thanks to 

Wins for Quins, Gloucester, Saracens and Newcastle

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Harlequins, Gloucester, Saracens and Newcastle secured wins over Northampton, Sale, Worcester and London Irish respectively in Premiership action on Saturday

Quins battered Northampton in the “Big Game 10” at Twickenham whilst Saracens won a high scoring affair against Worcester. Gloucester returned to winning ways at Kingsholm with London Irish still without a win since round one after Newcastle left Berkshire victorious.

Gloucester 20-16 Sale Sharks
Kingsholm

16 points from Sale Sharks fly-half AJ MacGinty wasn’t enough to earn the visitors back-to-back wins as it was Gloucester who returned to winning ways.

Having had they winning run ended at the Ricoh Arena last weekend, Gloucester, back in front of their Kingsholm faithful, emerged victorious thanks for tries from David Halaifonua and Ben Vellacott.

Sale had led for much of the contest with three MacGinty penalties putting them 9-7 up at half-time after Halaifonua’s try was converted by Billy Twelvetrees.

Gloucester put themselves back the ascendancy shortly after the interval when Vellacott scored an opportunistic try courtesy of his forwards efforts. However Sale’s number 10 then scored a try to accompany his earlier penalties thanks to some quick thinking by Faf de Klerk.

A little over 10 minutes later though and the lead changed hands once again after two Twelvetrees penalties in the space of seven minutes put Johan Ackermann’s men in the lead by four points handing them the win and Sale a losing bonus point.

The scorers:

For Gloucester 
Tries: Halaifonua, Vellacott
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Pens: Twelvetrees 2

For Sale:
Try: MacGinty
Con: MacGinty
Pens: MacGinty 3

 

London Irish 15-20 Newcastle
Madejski Stadium

London Irish’s surge to the Premiership’s exit door is gathering momentum after Newcastle left Reading with victory thanks to three first-half tries.

Last weekend’s loss to fellow strugglers Worcester Warriors meant things at the Madejski were look precarious and this loss does little to change the mood.

Greig Tonks’ boot had initially put London Irish three points up after he notched two penalties to Toby Flood’s one, but two tries in three minutes from Falcons wing Alex Tait turned the contest on its head.

The first courtesy of a charge down which allowed him to dot down and the second owing much to Juan Pablo Socino who teed the winger up courtesy of a cross field kick that allowed him to race over unopposed.

Shortly before the interval Vereniki Goneva was able to walk over the try line when a Newcastle driving maul had the Irish defence going backwards.

That was where the point scoring ended for the visitors, but fortunately for them the hosts could only muster a further two Tonks penalties. The boot of the fullback did earn London Irish a losing bonus point but it does little to help their cause.

The scorers:

For London Irish:
Pens: Tonks 5

For Newcastle:
Tries: Tait 2, Goneva
Con: Flood
Pen: Flood

 

Saracens 46-31 Worcester Warriors
Allianz Park

Saracen’s efforts to put their worst run of form for 15 years behind them continued with victory in a high scoring affair against Worcester.

10 tries were scored in Barnet with the European champions notching six of them to help their charge towards a bonus point win. Although it was Worcester who scored the first try of the contest when Josh Adams went over allowing Chris Pennell to convert.

10 minutes later though the home side had their first try of the afternoon when Ben Spencer went over on the corner. Saracens continued to press and were rewarded again shortly after when, after some sustained pressure on the Worcester line, Sean Maitland scored.

Owen Farrell and Pennell traded penalties to leave the score 17-10 with the interval approaching but Worcester managed to draw level before the whistle blew. A well worked move allowed Sam Lewis to go over with Pennell adding the extras.

Ten minutes into the second period and Farrell’s boot put Saracens back in front. Two tries in the space of five minutes then appeared to take the game away from the visitors as Jackson Wray crossed twice. Both instances saw the back-rower snipe over from close range.

David Denton then pulled the Warriors back into the contest as he crossed for a try that Pennell converted. However that hope was short lived as Nathan Earle’s good week continued after he was named in the England squad. On two occasions the winger finding the space to race over for a quick brace.

With the clock in the red Jamie Shillcock ensured that Worcester did not return north empty handed as he crossed for their fourth try which did little to change the scoreline, but could still prove crucial.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: Spencer, Maitland, Wray 2, Earle 2
Cons: Farrell 5
Pens: Farrell 2

For Worcester:
Tries: Adams, Lewis, Denton, Shillcock
Cons: Pennell 4
Pen: Pennell

 

Harlequins  50-21 Northampton Saints 
Twickenham

Northampton suffered their 11th straight defeat in major competitions as Harlequins battered them in the annual “Big Game 10” at Twickenham.

Morale in and around Franklin’s Gardens in low and this performance will have done little to lift the mood as they were outclassed in every department from minute one.

Quins captain Dave Ward was first to cross in the rout as he evaded the tackle of Saints full-back Harry Mallinder to go over. Wingers Charlie Walker and Tim Visser both then crossed shortly after; the first running an excellent support line to go over from close range and Visser racing over unopposed after Marcus Smith had put him in the clear.

The bonus point score was secured before the interval when Danny Care drew the attention of the Saints defence to snipe over. Smith converted all four scores and added a penalty as Harlequins went in at half-time 31-0 up.

It must have been a sense of deja vú for Northampton after they were behind by a similar scoreline in round one against Saracens at Twickenham. Visser added his second two minutes later but that try seemed to wake Northampton up, if only slightly.

Rob Horne crossed from close range before Nic Groom did likewise. But Quins wrestled back the momentum when Care went diving over to score their sixth before Mat Luamanu put them in seventh heaven.

Mike Haywood rounded off an entertaining yet immensely one sided contest when he was the beneficiary of a well organised Northampton driving maul but things for the visitors continue to get darker and darker.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Tries: Ward, Walker, Care 2, Visser 2, Luamanu
Cons: Smith 5
Pen: Smith

For Northampton:
Tries: Horne, Groom, Haywood
Cons: Myler 3

 

Wasps hold out against Bath

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Wasps moved up to second place in the Premiership standings after winning a thrilling fixture 31-26 against Bath at the Recreation Ground.

The victory saw Marcus Watson (2), Dan Robson, Juan de Jongh and Gaby Lovobalavu score tries while Danny Cipriani kicked six points.

In reply Bath’s try scorers were Rhys Priestland, Jack Wilson, Paul Grant and Zach Mercer as they got two points from the home negative.

Wasps were rampant from the outset as Bath looked in danger of being cast adrift with a quarter of the match gone, trailing 19-0 at home.

The first try came in the eighth minute when Wasps’ dominance of territory was rewarded when Willie le Roux’s nice offload out the tackle saw Watson go in, capping a move initiated by Robson sniping blind off the ruck. Cipriani converted from wide out to make it a 7-0 cushion.

That became 14 eight minutes later as Robson darted through from close range before on 18 minutes carries from Tom Cruse, Nizaam Carr and Joe Launchbury resulted in Watson finishing off in the corner for his second. Cipriani missed the conversion attempt so it was 19-0.

Watson was then sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on and Bath began to claw their way back into the match, with a big scrum leading to Kahn Fotual’i finding Priestland, who crossed from close range. He slotted the conversion and Bath fans had something to cheer.

Crucially before the break the hosts grabbed another try, this time Wilson getting over in the corner before Priestland cooly made it 19-14.

Unfortunately for Bath, Wasps came out strongly after the break and Robson’s run saw De Jongh cross for what was their bonus-point try.

At 26-14 down Bath needed to score next and did when several carries led to Grant going over. But once again Wasps went over soon after, as this time it was late call-up to the side, Lovobalavu, crossing as Dai Young’s outfit were now in a strong position at 31-19 to the good.

The fixture was far from over though and when Mercer scored under the posts, with Priestland’s easy extras, Bath were only 31-26 down.

Wasps could have wrapped up the five points on 75 minutes but a fumble from lock Launchbury near to the line handed Bath a lifeline. But Bath were unable to make their visitors pay and had to settle for a losing bonus and try bonus-point in a thoroughly entertaining contest.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries: Priestland, Wilson, Grant, Mercer
Cons: Priestland 3

For Wasps:
Tries: Watson 2, Robson, De Jongh, Lovobalavu
Cons: Cipriani 3
Yellow Cards: Watson, Le Roux

Saracens see off Tigers

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Saracens returned to winning ways in the Premiership as they beat Leicester 29-17 in a pulsating clash at Welford Road on Sunday.

A spell of three domestic losses was ended in this fixture thanks to a penalty try, Jamie George’s crossing and the boot of Owen Farrell.

Tigers scored through Mathew Tait and a penalty try but May’s two yellows proved costly as they missed the chance to go above Sarries.

Saracens racked up an early 10-0 buffer thanks to Farrell’s successful penalty following a breakdown offence, which preceded a penalty try.

The seven-pointer was compounded for Tigers by wing May being yellow carded for deliberately knocking on only metres before the line.

15 minutes later Saracens moved even further ahead when George sprinted over from 20 metres out, with Farrell making it a 17-0 lead.

Tigers needed something on the board and got just that on 28 minutes after sustained pressure led to Tait making it 17-7 thanks to Adam Thompstone’s superb offload. Soon after, George Ford added to his earlier conversion with a penalty goal for a 17-10 half-time scoreline.

Saracens extended their lead to 10 eight minutes into the second period after a Farrell penalty and he then struck a drop-goal for 23-10.

But Tigers supporters were given hope of a comeback just before the hour mark as a series of scrums close to Saracens’ try-line led to a penalty try being awarded. However, fly-half Farrell swiftly slotted his third penalty to make it 26-17 to the visitors with 19 minutes remaining.

Then came May’s second yellow card, again for a slap-down of a pass, and with Farrell turning to screw, Saracens ran out 29-17 winners.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Tries: Tait, Penalty try
Con: Ford
Pen: Ford
Yellow Cards: May 2

For Saracens:
Tries: Penalty try, George
Con: Farrell
Pens: Farrell 4
Drop Goal: Farrell
Yellow Card: Vunipola

Thanks to

Premiership Warp – Newcastle, Exeter, Sale and Wasps victorious

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There were wins for Newcastle Falcons, Exeter Chiefs, Sale Sharks and Wasps in the Premiership matches taking place on Saturday.

Newcastle Falcons 11-10 Harlequins

Newcastle heaped further pressure on an under-performing Harlequins side as they edged out a narrow contest in the north east.

Sonatane Takulua’s boot and a try from the effervescent Vereniki Goneva ensured Newcastle got back to winning ways after a run of results that had seen them slide down the table following an impressive start.

Harlequins were always chasing the contest and it was Mike Brown who hauled them back when he crossed for a try early in the second 40 that Marcus Smith converted.

The Quins fly-half then notched a penalty to set up a tense finish by the result means Newcastle leapfrog their opponents who were above them prior to this match only on points difference.

The scorers:

For Newcastle:
Try: Goneva
Pens: Takulua 2

For Harlequins:
Try: Brown
Con: Smith
Pen: Smith

 

Northampton Saints 14-35 Exeter Chiefs

Northampton, without a win since September and now without a director of rugby, got little festive cheer as the champions came to town and were comfortable winners.

Looking to bounce back after consecutive defeats against Leinster, Exeter took the lead when Will Chudley went over after 10 minutes. Northampton hit back soon after when an excellent move ended with Ahsee Tuala going over with Piers Francis adding the extras.

Gareth Steenson continued to keep the scoreboard ticking from the tee and it wasn’t until the hour when the visitors got their second try. Sam Simmonds crashing over as he so often does with his partner in crime and elder statesman Thomas Waldrom doing likewise 10 minutes later.

The hosts did show some fight in front of their home faithful when Cobus Reinach dotted down but that was about as cheerful as it got in the midlands this afternoon. Exeter continued to plug away and replacement Jack Yeandle secured the bonus point when he crossed the whitewash with the clock in the red to leave the Chiefs firmly on top of the pile.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries: Tuala, Reinach
Cons: Francis 2
Yellow Cards: Foden, Van Wyk

For Exeter:
Tries: Chudley, S Simmonds, Waldrom, Yeandle
Cons: Steenson 2, J Simmonds
Pens: Steenson 3

 

Sale Sharks 32-9 Bath

Bath were bought crashing back down to earth after last weekend’s memorable win over Toulon with a humbling defeat at Sale.

Rhys Priestland’s boot was all that graced the scoresheet where Bath were concerned whilst the home side ran riot in the second-half.

Josh Strauss was the first to go over for Sale after the referee had to consult the TMO with AJ MacGinty failing to convert his score.

Byron McGuigan was the next to go over for Sale just after the start of the second period when he combined well with MacGinty and James O’Connor. It was the Australian who then put the home side to within one try of the bonus point on the hour mark after the Sharks’ backs had combined excellently.

That score wasn’t far away with Will Cliff crashing over 10 minutes later after MacGinty had chipped through. The result earns Sale their third win on the bounce whilst putting Bath’s top four ambitions on hold until after Christmas.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Tries: Strauss, McGuigan, O’Connor, Cliff
Cons: MacGinty 3
Pens: MacGinty 2

For Bath:
Pens: Priestland 3

 

Wasps 49-24 Gloucester

Wasps secured a bonus-point rout over Gloucester in Coventry and in doing so leapfrogged them in the league table.

It was Gloucester’s first defeat in five games but they had no answer to Wasps relentless attack in the second-half.

South African Willie le Roux gave Wasps the lead when he went over in the corner but the visitors quickly wrestled back momentum when first Willi Heinz snipped over from close range before Mark Atkinson showed some great support play to put Gloucester up by seven.

Wasps responded through Christian Wade after some good work again by Le Roux but Gloucester still headed into the interval in the ascendancy after a great line from Tom Marshall sent him over.

The hosts then came out with a vengeance and Johan Ackermann’s men were on the receiving end. First Thomas Young was able to run over from halfway after a Wasps turnover to put them into the lead. Replacement Guy Thompson then secured the bonus point try to send the Ricoh Arena into party mood.

Gloucester did head west though with a bonus point after Freddie Clark crashed over from close range. From then on though the visitors were masters of their own downfall when first Dan Robson was able to intercept ten metres out to dot down against his former side. Then straight from the kick off Wade was allowed to catch and race over unopposed to end an immensely entertaining game.

The scorers:

For Wasps:
Tries: Le Roux, Wade 2, Young, Thompson, Robson
Cons: Cipriani 5
Pens: Cipriani 3

For Gloucester:
Tries: Heinz, Atkinson, Marshall, Clarke
Cons: Twelvetrees 2

Thanks to

Worcester get one over London Irish

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Worcester gave their survival hopes a major boost on Friday after they beat Premiership relegation rivals London Irish 23-8 at Sixways.

The win puts Worcester 10 points clear of the bottom side, which is a handy cushion to have over the Exiles at this stage of the season.

Josh Adams scored two tries in the first-half for the Warriors, with Alex Lewington responding for the visitors who suffer a tenth defeat.

Worcester raced into a 7-0 advantage when they crossed through wing Adams in the fifth minute. His try came thanks to a well weighted kick behind the onrushing London Irish defence from Ryan Mills and Adams had the pace to get to the ball first. Chris Pennell nailed the two.

Pennell made it 10-0 on 22 minutes with a penalty but London Irish responded with one of their own, from Greig Tonks, before claiming a key try six minutes before the interval when wing Lewington crossed out of nothing. His virtuoso run and kick ahead led to him going over.

However the hosts would hit back in the dying embers of the half again through Adams, whose converted try meant it was a 17-8 advantage.

Pennell was the first to add to the scoreboard after the break with a penalty on 50 minutes before things got heated between Saia Faingaa and Donncha O’Callaghan at a ruck. Pictures clearly showed lock O’Callaghan pull Faingaa’s hair before the Australian slapped him in the face.

Worcester though were not to be denied this vital Premiership victory and a further Pennell penalty in the 54th minute gave them even more breathing space at 23-8, which was how it remained until full-time. London Irish are now in serious danger of being cut adrift from their rivals.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
Tries: Adams 2
Cons: Pennell 2
Pens: Pennell 3
Yellow Card: Taufete’e

For London Irish:
Try: Lewington
Pen: Tonks

Premiership Wrap – Falcons and Sharks with away wins

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Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks claimed away wins in the Premiership as they beat Northampton and Worcester respectively.

Northampton Saints 22-24 Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle moved up to seventh in the Premiership table as a late converted try from Nili Latu saw them shock Northampton on Friday.

With the Saints looking like picking up the four points, the flanker crossed in the final play and Sonatane Takulua did the rest off the tee.

Newcastle led 14-12 at the break with two tries in a five-minute spell from Sinoti Sinoti and Josh Matavesi showing how deadly their backline can be. Toby Flood converted both, with Matavesi’s try coming from a lethal set-piece move.

Either side of the Falcons’ tries, Northampton scored through Harry Mallinder and a penalty try, with the game well poised at the interval.

Dylan Hartley’s try and a further Piers Francis penalty seemed to put the Saints into a strong position, but Latu struck late on for the win.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries: Mallinder, Penalty try, Hartley
Con: Francis
Pen: Francis

For Newcastle:
Tries: Sinoti, Matavesi, Latu
Cons: Flood 2, Takulua
Pen: Flood
Yellow Card: Flood

 

Worcester Warriors 14-18 Sale Sharks

Sale picked up just their fourth win of the Premiership season as they beat Worcester 18-14 at Sixways, despite having a player sent off.

Byron McGuigan was given his marching orders on 66 minutes for a second yellow, but Sale scored a crucial try with 14 men to prevail.

New signing Rohan Janse van Rensburg claimed the opening try of the contest on 14 minutes, but it went unconverted as Sale led 8-0, with AJ MacGinty having kicked a penalty four minutes before the big inside centre’s crossing.

Worcester made it 8-3 when Chris Pennell slotted three points of his own and when wing Josh Adams crossed on 33 minutes, it was 8-8. MacGinty though would have the final say of the first-half as his second penalty made it 11-8.

There was no score in the second-half until Pennell made it 14-11 to Worcester with two penalties, coming in the 62nd and 67th minute.

But Sale, despite being without McGuigan, then crossed in the 70th minute through Mark Jennings, with MacGinty’s extras also added.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
Try: Adams
Pens: Pennell 3

For Sale:
Tries: Janse van Rensburg, Jennings
Con: MacGinty
Pens: MacGinty 2
Yellow Cards: O’Connor, McGuigan (2)

North to leave Northampton

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Northampton Saints have confirmed that wing George North will leave the club at the end of the 2017/18 season in order to return to Wales.

Following recent conversations with the club and WRU representatives, the 25-year-old Wales international and British & Irish Lion feels it is the right time for him to return to Wales and sign a National Dual Contract.

“While we are disappointed to lose a player of George’s quality we respect and understand his decision to move back to Wales to be closer to home,” said Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder. “He will leave with our full support and best wishes for the future.

“I know how difficult a decision this has been for George, but in the end the emotional pull of settling back in Wales outweighed his desire to remain in Northampton and we respect that.

“I remember him joining the club almost five years ago as someone with an enormous talent and potential to be a really top class international. Since then he has developed into a world-class player and a very popular member of the club. He’ll be greatly missed both on and off the field.

“I have no doubt that for the rest of the season George will put all his energy into firstly rehabilitating from his current knee injury as quickly as possible and then ensuring Saints have a strong second half of the season.”

The wing made six appearances for the club this season before suffering an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament requiring six to eight weeks rehabilitation. North has targeted the club’s Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs on Saturday 23 December for his return.

“The club remains focussed on recruiting and retaining top quality talent and we made an appropriate offer for George to stay,” said Saints Chief Executive Mark Darbon.

“We have Dan Biggar joining us next season, and have plans to further strengthen our backline, and the squad more broadly, over the coming months.”

Joining from Scarlets in 2013 North has made a total of 80 club appearances scoring 35 tries. In his first season the wing collected Premiership and European Champions Cup winners medals. North was also toured Australia with the British & Irish Lions in 2013 – an achievement he would repeat in New Zealand in 2017.

“This has been an incredibly hard decision,” said North who since joining Saints has earned 38 of his 69 caps for Wales.

“Saints have developed me as a player and stuck by me through thick and thin, so it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to move on. I love playing for Northampton Saints and am excited by the potential of the squad that is being assembled but, as a proud Welshman, I felt that now is the right time to move back home despite the compelling offer Saints made me.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of this great club for the last four years. I have loved every minute of my time here and I am excited to see what we can achieve this season. I will be putting everything I have into helping the squad fulfil our potential this year in the highly competitive Aviva Premiership, and I will sorely miss Franklin’s Gardens in the future.

“I would like to thank the squad, coaches, medical team, support staff and especially all of the supporters who have made my time at Northampton Saints so memorable.”

Thanks to 

Ackermann Gloucester fight back to beat Saracens

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Gloucester had to fight back from 14-9 to beat Saracens 23-17 on Friday night.

Second half tries from Thorley and Hudson with the help of the boot from Twelvetrees gave them the victory.

Saracens only managed one try from Brits and got a bonus point atleast after a late penalty.

The first half went Saracens way as they had the most of the possession and territory but had plenty of wasted opportunities.

Gloucester came out the second half with a better plan and drive and started to get back on the scoreboard as well.

With Gloucester playing better it was a break from Koch that led to Brits scoring a try to take the score to 14-9.

But Gloucester got over for a try from win Thorley which took the scoreboard to 16-14 in their favor

However Gloucester were soon on the board again through Twelvetrees, who made it 14-9 with still well over a quarter of the fixture to play.

It took not long for Hudson to get over the whitewash and extending the lead to 23-14.

Fortunately for Saracens they managed to land a penalty late on through replacement scrum-half Spencer, after Lozowski had missed an earlier shot at goal, which meant they at least went home with a point in the bag.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Thorley, Hudson
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Pens: Twelvetrees 3

For Saracens:
Try: Brits
Pens: Lozowski 3, Spencer

Jansen van Rensburg excited for stint at Sale

3

Lions and Springbok centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg is excited to experience a new environment during his short-term stint with the Sale Sharks in the Premiership in England.

Janse van Rensburg is set to link up with the English club on a three-month deal before returning to the Lions ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season.

“I’m really excited. I hadn’t really thought about going overseas because I’d hoped to make the Bok squad [for the end-of-year tour], but when I unfortunately wasn’t selected, I started to think about other options. The opportunity to join Sale then came up, and I’m really grateful to the Lions for allowing me to head over for a bit.”

Janse van Rensburg has had a tough year both on and off the field. The 23-year-old lost his mother to cancer and was also one of the victims of a terrifying house robbery.

He also suffered a serious knee injury in a Super Rugby clash against the Stormers in April which saw him miss a Bok call up even though many felt he should have been called up.

“It has been a rough year,’ he admits. ‘With all that has gone on, I thought it might be a good thing to go and experience playing in a different environment for a bit, and I’ll hopefully come back an even better player.

“I’ll also be back in time for the start of Super Rugby with the Lions, while the ultimate goal obviously remains to make it back into the Bok squad.”

Bok coach Allister Coetzee claims it has been a ‘difficult return’ for the centre following his recoveryand expressed his desire to only select an industrious No 12.

“It has been tough to miss out on Bok selection, and although it isn’t always easy to hear those comments [Coetzee made], I realise the importance of continuing to work on my game,’ he said. ‘It did take me a little while to regain fitness and form after returning from injury, but I started to feel good towards the end of the Currie Cup, and hopefully I can now make the most of this time in England.”

Janse van Rensburg is still very eager to get back into Bok contention.

“I remain so passionate about playing for the Boks, and it’s difficult when you’re not there, and of course there’s emotion if you’re not selected. But that’s what I’m going to continue working towards, and hopefully this time with Sale will allow me to refresh somewhat and come back in good shape and as a better player overall.”

Double injury blow for Wasps

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Wasps duo Matt Mullan and Elliot Daly will be out for three months and three weeks respectively after sustaining injuries in the victory at Northampton at the weekend.

Prop Mullan and centre/winger Daly underwent scans for further assessment.

“The club can confirm that Matt Mullan has torn a tricep tendon which will require surgery. It is unfortunately anticipated that he will be side-lined for approximately three months,” read a statement on the club’s official website.

“Elliot Daly suffered a grade two MCL tear (Medial Collateral Ligament – knee). The club will continue to treat him this week and assess how the injury settles. He is then expected to undergo a two to three-week period of rehab.

“The pair will remain with Wasps to follow the rehab schedule with the club’s medical team, who will keep in regular contact with the England medical team.”

Daly has been withdrawn from the England squad for the upcoming November internationals and replaced by Bath flyer Semesa Rokoduguni.

thanks to

Late win for Gloucester, Tigers beat Newcastle

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There was a dramatic win for Gloucester at Bath while Leicester were too strong for Newcastle in the two Premiership games on Sunday.

Bath 21-22 Gloucester

Ed Slater’s late try, converted by Owen Williams, helped Gloucester defeat local rivals Bath 22-21 at the Recreation Ground on Sunday.

Willi Heinz grabbed a brace for the Cherry and Whites while Semesa Rokoduguni also scored two for Bath before Slater’s late crossing handed Gloucester their fourth victory of the Premiership season and Bath a third loss.

A close-fought opening half saw Bath go in 8-5 to the good, this after they went behind as early as the fifth minute against their visitors.

Gloucester hit the ground running with a scintillating try set up by Henry Trinder seeing Heinz dummy before diving over for a 5-0 buffer.

But Bath responded in the 14th minute when a Jonathan Joseph run led to Anthony Watson finding Rokoduguni who levelled the contest.

Priestland nudged the hosts three points ahead soon after and that was how it stayed going into the dressing rooms in this local derby.

Williams and Priestland traded penalties inside the first 10 minutes of the second-half to make it 8-8 as the game continued to be tight.

Then came a brilliant offload from Gloucester tighthead prop John Afoa, which set up Heinz for his second try, as the visitors led 15-11.

But a penalty from Priestland cut the gap to one point before Rokoduguni grabbed his second try with four minutes left, following good work from Taulupe Faletau, as the hosts put their noses in front at 21-15, which looked like being enough to hang on for the four points.

However, a last-minute try from Slater handed Williams a chance to win the match for Gloucester, which he slotted for a dramatic triumph.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries: Rokoduguni 2
Con: Priestland
Pens: Priestland 3

For Gloucester:
Tries: Heinz 2, Slater
Cons: Williams 2
Pen: Williams

 

Newcastle Falcons 13-30 Leicester Tigers

Leicester won their fifth match of the Premiership season as they pulled clear of Newcastle to win 30-13 at a sold-out Kingston Park.

Tries from Telusa Veainu, Ben Youngs and Jonny May saw them to the four points, with Vereniki Goneva crossing for the home outfit.

Leicester raced out of the blocks and were 14-3 up after the first quarter with Veainu’s hot stepping score and a crossing from scrum-half Youngs putting them in a strong position. In reply former Leicester Tigers fly-half Toby Flood got the Falcons on the board off the tee.

But crucially for the hosts they scored before half-time as Alex Tait’s inside ball set up another former Tiger, Goneva, to make it 14-10.

Flood and Ford traded a penalty apiece early in the second-half to make it 17-13 to Leicester, with the Falcons then pressing in the 22.

But Ford pushed Leicester into a seven-point lead on 66 minutes meaning Newcastle required two scores to win the game and the England star then added his third penalty of the game four minutes later to push Tigers into what looked like an unassailable 23-13 advantage.

And the result was sewn up when May continued his fine try-scoring form by crossing the whitewash as Leicester ran out 30-13 winners.

The scorers:

For Newcastle:
Try: Goneva
Con: Flood
Pens: Flood 2

For Leicester:
Tries: Veainu, B Youngs, May
Cons: Ford 3
Pens: Ford 3

Thanks to

Victories for Sarries, Wasps and Harlequins

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Wasps got back to winning ways at Northampton whilst there were bonus points wins for both Saracens and Harlequins at home. 

Saracens 44-13 London Irish
Allianz Park

The Premiership freight train that is Saracens continued its forward momentum with a routine bonus point win against lowly London Irish.

Irish full-back Tommy Bell’s boot opened the scoring before Mako Vunipola broke through the visitors defence to race over. Two Owen Farrell penalties and a further three points from the boot of Bell left the deficit at seven points when the teams left for the interval.

Fly-half Farrell notched the first set of points in the second period when he converted his own try after collecting a Liam Williams offload he sold a dummy to the Irish defence to dot down.

Both wingers helped the European champions secure the bonus point when Welsh flyer Williams extended his run of try scoring games to three before Chris Wyles continued his rich vain of form.

Replacement Nathan Earle notched his side’s fifth when Wyles caused the Irish defence problems by coming off his wing before sending his fellow wing over the whitewash.

London Irish did briefly make the match a contest when captain Daivd Paice crashed over via a driving maul but the newly promoted side ended the match with a whimper as Earle was on the end of a slick move to score his side’s sixth of the afternoon.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: 
Vunipola, Farrell, Williams, Wyles, Earle 2
Cons: Farrell 4
Pens: Farrell 2

For London Irish:
Tries:
 Paice
Cons: Bell
Pens: Bell 2

 

Northampton Saints 22-38 Wasps
Franklin’s Gardens

Wasps ended a miserable run of four straight Premiership defeats when they secured an impressive win at Northampton on Saturday afternoon.

After an initial trading of penalties had left the fly-half showdown Piers Francis 3-6 Jimmy Gopperth, Saints winger Ben Foden cut a great line to scythe through the Wasps defence and send Ahsee Tuala over to give the home side the lead.

Not to be outdone however, Foden’s opposite number Christian Wade produced one of the moments of the match. Looking to exit their own 22 Wasps hooker Ashley Johnson sent the ball flying down the pitch and with no full-back at home Wade was able to win the foot race and dot down.

The winger then had the audacity to convert his own try with a memorable drop goal to send Wasps into the ascendency at the interval.

The visitors extended the lead early in he second-half when a huge team effort saw Johnson crash over. Two Francis penalties had bought Northampton to within touching distance but Josh Bassett was able to reaffirm Wasps authority on the contest when he crashed over on the hour.

Another Gopperth penalty pushed the gap out to 14 points and Dai Youngs’ men seemed to be looking like their former selves again. South African Juan De Jongh scored his first try for his new side after Johnson’s offload and despite Harry Mallinder’s late score Wasps ran out bonus point winners.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries: 
Tuala, Mallinder
Pens: Francis 4

For Wasps:
Tries:
 Wade, Johnson, Bassett, De Jongh
Cons: Wade, Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth 4

 

Harlequins 41-35 Worcester Warriors
The Stoop

Worcester produced their best effort yet in an attempt to end their winless start but Harlequins eventually proved too strong at the Stoop.

Fresh off receiving England appreciate status from Eddie Jones, Marcus Smith capped his memorable week when he dived through a gap to open the scoring after just three minutes.

The visitors hit back however when, first, David Denton provided a great support line to go over in the corner before Perry Humphreys chased down a hopeful punt to put the Warriors in front.

Things got even better for the Premiership’s basement side when Josh Adams juggled the ball before managing to get it down in the corner. That was to be as good as it got however as Quins scored four unanswered tries to turn the contest.

Mat Luamana crashed over on the stroke of half-time to reduce the deficit. Danny Care put Quins into the lead when he benefitted from a poor Worcester scrum to pounce on a lose ball and dive over.

Jamie Roberts secured his side the bonus point midway through the second period when Harlequins found men out wide and the Welshman utilised his strength to power over. With Worcester looking lethargic winger Charlie Walker was able to find some holes in the visitors defence and some missed tackles meant he went over unchallenged.

Worcester were able to head back up north with something to show for their efforts however when they staged a terrific late fight back that saw replacement Dean Hammond cross twice before Jack Singleton cut the gap to six points within two minutes remaining. Quins held out however and Worcester left with two losing bonus points.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Tries:
 Smith, Luamana, Roberts, Care, Walker
Cons: Smith 5
Pens: Smith, Swiel

For Worcester:
Tries: 
Denton, Humphreys, Adams, Hammond (2), Singleton
Cons: Heathcote
Pens: Lance

Thanks to

Preview – Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs

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Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond has made five changes to his starting line-up for Friday’s clash with Exeter Chiefs in Salford.

The Sharks return to Premiership action after suffering a narrow 27-24 defeat at Lyon in the Challenge Cup and Diamond has opted to make some alterations as his side look to return to the victory trail.

In the back-line, Will Addison returns at full-back where he replaces Mike Haley, who drops down to the bench. Addison also takes over the captaincy from Faf de Klerk, who led the side against Lyon.

The only other back-line change sees Byron McGuigan taking over from Josh Charnley on the left wing.

In the forwards, there’s a new-look back row with Josh Strauss, Tom Curry and Jono Ross coming into the run-on side. Strauss is preferred to Sam Moore at number eight while Curry comes in for his brother, Ben, on the openside flank and Ross replaces Cameron Neild on the blindside.

Meanwhile, the visitors have made slight tweaks to their run-on side after an impressive away Champions Cup win at Montpellier.

Carl Rimmer, Harry Williams, Ollie Akins and Sam Simmonds all come into the pack, while behind the sole change sees James Short start on the wing.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter expects a tough duel against the Sharks.

Baxter insisted that it will be a “huge test” of character for his players to rise to ahead of kick-off.

“Sale at home are a huge test of your attitude and your commitment to getting out there and working hard,” he warned.

“That said, I’d like to think that is one of our strengths. Certainly I’d like to think we can go there, challenge the players to front up, whilst at the same time be ourselves and look to impose our game on them.

“That’s what we have talked a lot about this week in the build up to the game, so now it’s up to the players to show they are capable of doing that.”

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Will Addison (c), 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 George Nott, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Cameron Neild, 22 Will Cliff, 23 Mike Haley

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Sam Simmonds, 6 Don Armand, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Carl Rimmer
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Sam Skinner, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Tom Hendrickson, 23 Tom O’Flaherty

thanks to

Hougie out for three weeks

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It has not been a happy return to his English club for Francois Hougaard as it was announce that he will be out for two to three weeks stil.

Hougaard will missed the trip to Bath after Warriors Director hinted last week that he may make the trip this week.

Hougaard is recovering from an adductor injury which he sustained while on duty for the Springboks.

Hougaard might also miss Worcester’s European Challenge Cup opener against Brive at Sixways on Saturday, October 14 and he clash against Connacht the following Saturday.

Gold hopes Hougaard as well as Ryan Mills, who faces a further three weeks on the sidelines with a quadricep injury, will return for Worcester’s league clash at Harlequins on Saturday, October 28.

Saracens, Newcastle and Sale get wins

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Saracens and Newcastle picked up wins in the Premiership on Friday while Sale Sharks destroyed Gloucester at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Worcester Warriors 3-25 Saracens

Saracens secured a 25-3 victory over the Worcester Warriors in their Premiership clash at Sixways on Friday.

Two tries from Chris Wyles helped Saracens to a routine win , but they didn’t have it all their own way against winless Worcester.

The European champions returned south without the bonus point they will have wished for with Worcester feeling aggrieved that their display didn’t at least make the score line look more respectable.

Wyles crossed in the first-half after Alex Goode found him with a looping pass. Goode then crossed himself to double Sarries’ try tally.

England fly-half Owen Farrell came off the bench to show his quality with a brilliant cross kick that allowed Wyles to get his second but the elusive fourth try evaded Mark McCall’s side.

Their defence was at its resilient best as a Jamie Shillcock penalty was all Worcester had to show for their efforts as they lost their fifth game on the trot.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
Pen: Shillcock

For Saracens:
Tries: Wyles 2, Goode
Cons: Lozowski, Farrell
Pens: Lozowski 2

Newcastle Falcons 29-17 London Irish

Newcastle Falcons defeated London Irish 29-17 in their Premiership match at Kingston Park on Friday.

London Irish’s reputation as slow starters doesn’t look like being shook anytime soon as Newcastle romped to a bonus point victory that took them top of the table.

Three first-half tries cancelled out Tommy Bell’s early penalty for the visitors when, first, Juan Pable Socino cut through the Irish defence to dot over under the posts.

Goneva then helped himself to two tries, the first a length of the field special to rival Gloucester’s breathtaking try from a week ago. The second was from a meter out as he turned into a forward to drive over.

Captain Will Welch crashed over for the bonus point in front of the Kingston Park faithful. Conor Gilsenan and Tom Fowlie both crossed after to give Irish a glimmer of hope that they could leave with a bonus point but they didn’t manage to do so.

Dean Richards men now sit top of the table whilst London Irish are without a win since the opening weekend.

The scorers:

For Newcastle:
Tries: Socino, Goneva 2, Welch
Cons: Takulua 3
Pens: Takulua

For London Irish:
Tries: Gilsenan, Fowlie
Cons: Bell 2
Pens: Bell

 

Sale Sharks 57-10 Gloucester

Sale Sharks destroyed Gloucester with a 57-10 victory in their Premiership encounter at AJ Bell Stadium on Friday.

A sublime solo Denny Solomona try after 40 seconds set the tone for a rout at the AJ Bell stadium as Sale scored eight tries.

Solomona chipped on and broadcasted his dancing skills as much as his rugby skill as he two stepped down the touchline and then across the try area to dot down under the posts.

Not to be out done though, fellow winger Byron McGuigan notched a hat-trick to leave the internal wingers competition 3-2 in his favour after Solomona added to his initial try.

Wallaby James O’Connor, on for his debut, sent Faf de Klerk over for another Sale try after the interval before he crossed to mark what must have been a dream debut.

The AJ Bell were then treated to a Sam James intercept after McGuigan had complete his treble . John Afoa crossed late on to give Gloucester a late consolation with Billy Burns kicking five points on a miserable night for the Cherry & Whites.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Tries: Solomona 2, McGuigan 3, De Klerk, O’Connor, James
Cons: MacGinty 6, Cliff
Pen: MacGinty

For Gloucester:
Try: Afoa
Con: Burns
Pen: Burns

 

Aviva Premiership Saturday and Sunday Preview

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There are five matches scheduled for Saturday and Sunday with the clash between last year’s finalists, Exeter and Wasps, at Sandy Park, the pick of the weekend’s fixtures.

Bath v Newcastle Falcons

Bath boss Todd Blackadder has made eight changes to his starting line-up for this fixture.

Freddie Burns makes his first start in the competition for the club, with Max Clark, Chris Cook, Francois Louw and Luke Charteris all returning to the starting line-up.

Nick Auterac and Paul Grant are named in the starting line-up for the first time this season.

Burns comes in at full-back, with the wing positions occupied by Matt Banahan and Semesa Rokoduguni, who has scored three tries in three games.

Clark returns to the fold at inside centre, alongside Jonathan Joseph, whilst Rhys Priestland looks to continue his impressive start to the season at fly-half with Cook as his half-back partner.

Auterac and Jack Walker take their places in the front row, as Anthony Perenise continues at tighthead. Charteris and Elliott Stooke form the second row combination, with Charlie Ewels switching to blindside flanker.

Louw returns to captain the side in the absence of Matt Garvey, with Grant completing the back row at number eight.

Meanwhile, Canada’s record try-scorer DTH van der Merwe will makes his debut for Newcastle Falcons.

The 31-year-old has scored 25 tries in his 44 international appearances and joined the Falcons from PRO12 winners the Scarlets, having scored a try in last season’s final. Made co-captain of his country over the summer, Van der Merwe’s debut had been delayed by a knee injury suffered during their Rugby World Cup qualifying match against the USA.

His inclusion is one of five changes from the team which started in last weekend’s match against Saracens in Philadelphia, with hooker Santiago Socino making his first Premiership start after a pair of appearances from the bench over the past fortnight.

Older brother Juan Pablo Socino comes into the centres, Craig Willis earning a first start of the season at fly-half while Will Witty slots into the second row.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Freddie Burns, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Paul Grant, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Charlie Ewels, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Phillips, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Aled Brew

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Santiago Socino, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Sami Mavinga, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Josh Matavesi

 

Harlequins v Leicester Tigers

Harlequins director of rugby has made three changes to his starting line-up after their Round 3 win against Wasps.

All three of the changes to the starting 15 come in the front row as Mark Lambert comes in for Joe Marler – who picked up a rib injury at the Ricoh Arena last weekend – while Rob Buchanan has returned from a shoulder injury and starts at hooker.

Will Collier replaces Kyle Sinckler who is named among the replacements, joining Alofa Alofa and Charlie Matthews who have both recovered from injury.

Speaking ahead of the match, Kingston said: “We are delighted to have secured back to back victories over Gloucester and Wasps.

“However, we know Leicester present a massive challenge notwithstanding the excellent home record we have had in recent times.”

For Leicester Tigers, Dom Barrow and Dominic Ryan return to their pack for this encounter.

Barrow missed the win over Gloucester in Round 3 but replaces Joe Maksymiw as partner for Harry Wells in the second row. Ryan replaces Luke Hamilton in the back row.

Head coach Matt O’Connor retains the same back-line that started in Round 3.

O’Connor said: “We were pretty disappointed about the performance in the final 60 minutes against Gloucester last week. We started with the intensity we’ve tried to get all season but after that we let ourselves down.

“Dom Barrow is fit to return this week but Graham Kitchener unfortunately is going to have surgery on a cracked eye-socket which will keep him out for a couple of weeks.

“Quins have dangerous players and a lot of experienced players who have been at the club a long time and are big-game players. They’re very hard to beat at The Stoop and we’ll have to be at the very top end of our game to get the points there.”

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Ben Glynn, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Alofa Alofa

Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Luke Hamilton, 20 Valentino Mapapalangi, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mathew Tait

 

Saracens v Sale Sharks

Saracens welcome back lock-forward George Kruis to the starting XV in their first game at Allianz Park for the 2017/18 season. Kruis, who picked up an ankle injury in the club’s Round 1 clash against Northampton Saints, returns to the side alongside Maro Itoje.

Elsewhere in the pack, Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Juan Figallo start in the front-row, with Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray and Billy Vunipola all starting. Schalk Burger misses the game with a shoulder injury.

In the halves, Ben Spencer starts at scrum-half alongside Owen Farrell, who will skipper the side. Richard Wigglesworth is ruled out of the game with a slight knock.

At centre, Marcelo Bosch will make his 100th appearance for Saracens. The Argentine international will be joined by Duncan Taylor in the Saracens midfield – skipper Brad Barritt is rested for the clash.

In the back three Alex Goode (full-back), Sean Maitland (right-wing) and Liam Williams (left-wing) will all start with Williams making his home debut for the club whilst on the bench Calum Clark will make his Saracens debut if featured.

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks skipper Will Addison misses out with a hamstring injury and is replaced at full-back by Mike Haley who returns to the run-on side after being benched last week.

The Curry twins continue their game rotation with Tom starting this weekend on the openside flank while Byron McGuigan is named on the bench.

Cameron Neild re-joins the matchday 23 after missing the London Irish game.

Commenting on the last two games Sale’s director of rugby, Steve Diamond, said: “The mindset is that after Newcastle we didn’t get our basics right. We had worked all pre-season on them and that had gone well and I think against London Irish we showed what happens when we stick to our plans and our basics are done well,” said Diamond.

“Our defence was good, the set-piece went well and we took 40 per cent of our opportunities and scored five tries.

“That said, Saturday will be a different kettle of fish but we can’t worry about Saracens.

“We know they are a top side – what we’ve got to worry about is getting our own ball and keeping it and having an effective defence when we haven’t got the ball.”

The teams: 

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Nathan Earle

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Josh Beaumont, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Alex Tarus, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 James Flynn, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Andre Ostrikov, 20 Ben Curry, 21 TJ Ioane, 22 Will Cliff, 23 Byron McGuigan

 

Exeter Chiefs v Wasps

After last week’s 41-10 success on the road at Worcester, injuries have forced Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter into a couple of changes in personnel.

Captain Jack Yeandle (knee) and full-back Phil Dollman (calf) both sit out this encounter, so Elvis Taione and Lachie Turner come into the starting XV.

Taione’s inclusion, plus that of Sam Skinner for Jonny Hill in the second row, mean they are both in line to make their first-ever starts in the Premiership.

On the bench, summer signing Toby Salmon and Tom Hendrickson get their first involvements in a Premiership squad, while there are also call-ups for Shaun Malton and Julian Salvi.

Baxter is expecting another great occasion between the two sides who have got to know one another very well in recent seasons, having traded blows in the Premiership, European Champions Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup.

“The truth is it’s going to be a battle between motivations, isn’t it?” said Baxter. “Everything says Wasps have the bigger reasons to be motivated. They lost a semi-final down here two years ago, then last season we beat them in the Premiership Final, so you’d think all the motivational tools and weapons are in Wasps court, which they potentially are.

“That said, it’s also a great challenge for us. We have openly talked this week about that as a group and now our challenge is to show we are just as highly motivated against a team that is stinging from a couple of important losses in the last couple of years.

“Personally, I’d still like to think our motivation, which drives us each day, is that we are a top side who want to be top end of the league and that getting to finals is not a one off for us. Those sorts of things I’d like to think are big motivational tools for us.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy Gopperth returns to Wasps’ starting line-up at fly-half alongside Joe Simpson, after missing out with a knock last weekend.

Wasps’ back three is formed by Rob Miller, Christian Wade and Josh Basset. Miller, who starts at full-back, also provides cover at fly-half in the absence of Danny Cipriani who suffered a knee injury against Harlequins. Willie Le Roux misses out through a hamstring strain.

South African international Juan de Jongh partners Elliot Daly in midfield, while Gaby Lovobalavu is sidelined by a calf injury.

In the pack, the starting front row is unchanged from last Sunday’s loss to Harlequins. Matt Symons returns to take his place alongside captain Joe Launchbury in the second row, having been forced to withdraw through illness last weekend.

Nathan Hughes, James Haskell and Ashley Johnson provide Wasps’ back row combination, with Johnson covering hooker. On the bench, there’s a welcome return to fitness for Wales international Thomas Young who is also joined by a further back row replacement in Jack Willis.

Heading into the game, Young said: “We know we will need to muscle up defensively this weekend, as Exeter Chiefs are very good at starving teams of possession. We also have to be disciplined and not give them easy opportunities to get inside our 22 as they probably have the best driving lineout and pick-and-go game in the league, so we’ll need to defend our 22 as if it’s our try line.

“I think the best we’ve managed so far at Sandy Park is a draw, so we really want to go down there and give a good account of ourselves. We may have a few players missing but that’s no excuse, we still have a strong squad and if we get things right there’s no reason why we can’t get a win.

“We really enjoy playing the Chiefs who we have a lot of respect for. They’re normally tight games between us, with two teams who want to play rugby and keep the ball on the field, so I’m sure it will be another good game for people to watch.”

The teams: 

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Carl Rimmer
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Tom Hendrickson, 23 Max Bodilly

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Juan De Jongh, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Jack Willis, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Marcus Watson

 

London Irish v Northampton Saints

Johnny Williams returns to London Irish’s starting XV for this encounter at the Madejski Stadium.

Williams, a Junior World Cup-winner with England Under-20s in 2016, has made a full recovery from a hamstring injury sustained towards the end of last season.

Now fighting fit, the powerful centre is back in the fray and is one of five changes to the side that locked horns with Sale Sharks last weekend.

Fijian international wing Napolioni Nalaga is set for his full debut, the former Lyon and Clermont Auvergne favourite getting his chance to shine from the start.

A new look pack spearheaded by skipper Ben Franks sees Petrus Du Plessis replacing Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi in the front row, the latter sustaining a ruptured Achilles in his side’s trip to Sale.

Josh McNally comes in for Mike Coman at blindside flanker, while Conor Gilsenan gets the nod at openside flanker and Blair Cowan switches tonumber eight as the Exiles look to get their campaign off to a positive start at the Madejski Stadium.

“It’s great to be back playing Premiership rugby at the Madejski Stadium and we’re looking forward to taking on a very good Northampton Saints side,” said London Irish director of rugby Nick Kennedy.

“They come into this weekend’s game on the back of two excellent wins and will be full of confidence, so we’ll have to be fully focussed on the task in hand from the very first whistle.

“We’ve addressed the fact that we need to start games better and I’m looking for an improved performance from us on Sunday.”

Meanwhile  Northampton Saints boss JIm Mallinder has named a strong starting line-up for the trip to Reading.

The matchday 23 shows just the one change from that which earned a four-try bonus point win over Bath last time out, with Sam Dickinson coming in for Teimana Harrison (shoulder).

Dylan Hartley (hand), Mitch Eadie (ankle) and Piers Francis (jaw) are the other significant injury absentees, although Hartley and Francis are close to full fitness. Tom Wood and Stephen Myler have been in full training this week and are among the travelling reserves.

The teams: 

London Irish:  15 Tommy Bell, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 James Marshall, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Blair Cowan, 7 Conor Gilsenan, 6 Josh McNally, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Ben Franks (c)
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Teofilo Paulo, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Topsy Ojo

Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 George North, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Harry Mallinder, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 5 David Ribbans, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Christian Day, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 James Grayson, 23 Ben Foden

Thanks to

Gloucester hang on for win

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Gloucester Rugby held on at the death to return to winning ways in Aviva Premiership Rugby with a 24-19 success over Worcester Warriors as Ollie Thorley scored two tries at Kingsholm.

After beating champions Exeter Chiefs in Round One, Gloucester were soon in control with Thorley crossing twice inside the opening 20 minutes and Billy Twelvetrees adding a third soon after the break.

But Perry Humphreys replied twice for the visitors who came close to snatching victory as Ryan Mills knocked over three penalties.

The Warriors, without a win so far this season, saw captain Donncha O’Callaghan sent to the sin bin after six minutes as Willi Heinz took a quick penalty five metres from the tryline.

Gloucester were ahead soon after through a Billy Burns penalty and it was the fly-half who provided the first try minutes later.

Burns sent a brilliant flat pass to Jason Woodward whose neat offload gave Thorley space to score and the Gloucester winger doubled his tally soon after.

Centre Twelvetrees carved through the Warriors defence with Thorley once again in the right place at the right time to make it 17-0 after 18 minutes.

Worcester worked themselves back into the game with two Ryan Mills penalties reducing the deficit before half-time.

Trinder replaced Mark Atkinson at half-time and had an immediate impact as he broke through the Warriors defence and ran almost the length of the feed.

He played a one-two with skipper Heinz before Twelvetrees took an offload to dot down under the posts to make it 24-6.

Winger Perry Humphreys then beat Charlie Sharples to a Mills’ crossfield kick to reduce the deficit before adding a second score with eight minutes to go.

Mills hit a third penalty for a losing bonus point but the Warriors remain winless at Kingsholm since April 2009.

Read more at www.premiershiprugby.com

Catrakilis hospitalised after dangerous tackle

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Harlequins fly-half Demetri Catrakilis had a narrow escape when a tackle to the throat left him unable to breathe in Saturday’s win over Gloucester.

Catrakilis stopped breathing for a few seconds after a challenge in the 13th minute and he eventually left the field on a stretcher while receiving oxygen, before being taken to hospital.

“He was struggling to breathe on the pitch, it just wasn’t clearing,” Harlequins’ director of rugby, John Kingston, told the Telegraph.

“It alarmed [the medics] which mean he needed to get oxygen and get to hospital and checked out.

““He’ll probably stay there overnight. He’s in the right place. It’s too early to say it’s precautionary but the bottom line is, when you get a blockage like that’s something you’ve got to react very quickly to.”

Catrakilis’s injury meant Kingston was forced to introduce 18-year-old playmaker Marcus Smith prematurely.

And after a shaky start, the youngster featured in Quins’ first-half tries scored by Dave Ward and Charlie Walker and eventually contributed 10 points in his side’s 28-17 win courtesy of two conversions and two penalites.

“He showed believable composure for a man of that age,” said Kingston.

Thanks to 

Bath, Chiefs, Quins and Saints claim wins

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Semesa Rokoduguni was Bath’s hero as they beat Saracens while Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins and Northampton also claimed wins on Saturday.

Bath 31-21 Saracens
The Recreation Ground

Both sides came into this game looking to make it two wins from two in the Premiership.

After a barren opening 15 minutes, Bath fly-half Rhys Priestland slotted a drop goal to break the deadlock. Bath continued to press, flanker Francois Louw found himself on the wing, and the Springbok powered over through a pair of Saracens defenders for the first try of the game.

Priestland went on to add six points from the tee, with Saracens failing to register a score in the first 40 minutes.

Heading into the second half, Saracens finally broke their duck after an easy penalty against Matt Garvey left Alex Lozowski with an easy kick for three points. Newly introduced Owen Farrell continued to close the gap with three points of his own.

Bath needed to slow the momentum from Sarries and were given some respite with a second drop goal of the afternoon from Priestland.

Mark McCall’s men eventually scored their first try of the game, a penalty try awarded after Bath collapsed a driving maul, with Taulupe Faletau being sent to the bin.

After another penalty from Farrell, Saracens took the lead on 72 minutes after a two on one was finished off by replacement scrum-half Ben Spencer.

It looked like Saracens would come away with the win, but two moments of magic from Semesa Rokoduguni sealed the win for the hosts, the England man scoring two tries in the final two minutes to secure the win for Todd Blackadder’s side.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries: 
Louw, Rokoduguni 2
Cons: Burns 2
Pens: Priestland 2
Drop goals: Priestland 2
Yellow Card: Faletau

For Saracens:
Tries: 
Penalty try, Spencer
Pens: Lozowski, Farrell 2

The teams:

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey (c), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Phillips, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Ben Tapuai

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Dominic Day, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Liam Williams

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Wayne Falla
TMO: Keith Lewis


Exeter Chiefs 37-7 London Irish
Sandy Park

Exeter ran in five tries to see off a confident London Irish side at Sandy Park, with Don Armand grabbing a brace.

The champions opened their account on nine minutes with a Gareth Steenson penalty, before Henry Slade dotted down for the first try of the game after a neat break from young number eight Sam Simmonds.

Rob Baxter’s men continued to press and were awarded a penalty try after Irish illegally halted a powerful Chiefs driving maul.

There was time for Exeter to add another try before half-time, Armand finishing off a lovely move from his back-line.

Exeter continued where they left off in the second half, Steenson adding another three points from the tee.

The scoring slowed as the half went on, Irish were the next to add to the scoreboard, a neat move finished by Alex Lewington with nine minutes left on the clock.

The champions eventually secured the bonus point in the final minutes, Olly Woodburn intercepting a loose ball and sprinting in from 65 metres to ensure they would be leaving with the maximum five points.

There was still time for one final score, Armand with his second try of the game, the flanker driving over from close range to seal a comprehensive victory for the Chiefs.

The scorers:

For Exeter:
Tries:
 Slade, Penalty, Armand 2, Woodburn
Cons: Steenson 3
Pens: Steenson 2

For London Irish:
Try: 
Lewington
Con: Bell

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Max Bodilly, 23 Lachie Turner

London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Topsy Ojo, 10 James Marshall, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Mike Coman, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 David Paice (c), 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Conor Gilsenan, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace, Paul Dix
TMO: Geoffrey Warren


Harlequins 28-17 Gloucester
Twickenham Stoop

Quins secured their first win of the 2017/18 season with a comprehensive 28-17 win over Gloucester in a torrential downpour at the Stoop.

After their shock win over Exeter, in their opener last week, the Cherry and Whites were brimming with confidence heading into this game.

But was Quins who would open the scoring with a penalty from summer signing Demetri Catrakilis.

David Humphreys’ men levelled the scores a few minutes later with a penalty from Billy Burns.

The crowd had to wait until he halff-hour mark for the first try of the game, Quins flanker Dave Ward powering over and replacement Marcus Smith adding the extras.

John Kingston’s men added to their tally with another try courtesy of speedster Charlie Walker, with the added two points from Smith.

After the break, Gloucester began to work their way back into the game, young number eight Freddie Clarke scoring his sides’ first try after neat play in the Quins 22.

Quins young fly-half Smith continued to look impressive, his penalty a few minutes later establishing a ten-point lead for the hosts. The 18-year-old added another three points as Quins looked to close out the game.

Gloucester’s discipline began to cost them as the half wore on, with the away side conceding five penalties in 15 minutes.

Quins took advantage and scored their third try through Marland Yarde to put the result beyond doubt.

Gloucester did grab a consolation try with the last play of the game through Jacob Rowan, but the score was not enough to bring them back within losing bonus point range.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Tries: 
Ward, Walker, Yarde
Cons: Smith 2
Pens: Catrakilis, Smith 2

For Gloucester::
Tries: Clarke, Rowan
Cons: Burns, Twelvetrees
Pen: Burns

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Danny Care, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Dave Ward, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Ben Glynn, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Winston Stanley

Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Freddie Clarke, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 John Afoa, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Charlie Sharples

Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Simon McConnell
TMO: David Grashoff


Northampton Saints 24-11 Leicester Tigers
Franklin’s Gardens

After their poor opening performance at Twickenham last weekend, Northampton were keen to set the record straight in the East Midlands derby.

They started off on the right foot, a wonderful passage of play from the Saints finished off by Luther Burrell, with Harry Mallinder adding the extras.

As the half progressed Leicester began to work their way into the game, but it was Northampton who struck next.

England skipper Dylan Hartley dove over the top of a ruck to dot down for the try, Mallinder converting after TMO David Sainsbury had confirmed the score.

Leicester finally registered their first score of the half on 35 minutes when George Ford slotted a penalty from in front of the posts.

The first half continued well past 45 minutes as Northampton piled on the pressure, with their reward a Mallinder penalty to see them into half-time with a 14-point lead.

Leicester’s fortunes did not improve after the break, Mike Williams shown yellow for a no-arms tackle. Despite being a man down, Ford was able to add his second penalty of the afternoon to reduce Northampton’s lead to 11 points.

Saints had an opportunity to stretch their lead – Mallinder missing the kick from the tee – but they would not be denied. A wonderful break and finish from Tom Collins put the game beyond doubt with ten minutes to go.

A superb solo effort from Jonny May provided a consolation score for the Tigers but that did little to dampen the spirits of the Franklin’s Gardens crowd.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries: 
Burrell, Hartley, Collins
Cons: Mallinder 3
Pen: Mallinder

For Leicester:
Try:
 May
Pens: Ford 2

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 George North, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Harry Mallinder, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 James Grayson, 23 Ben Foden

Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Luke Hamilton, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mathew Tait

Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Dean Richards, Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Sainsbury

Thanks to

Penalty try seals it for Falcons

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Newcastle Falcons underlined their status as dark horses in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season as they came from behind to win 13-12 away against Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Trailing 12-6 to four AJ MacGinty penalties, Falcons managed a penalty try with six minutes remaining to sneak the win.

Sale had the better of the first half, but had just three points from the boot of MacGinty to show for it. They could have led by more but Byron McGuigan had a try disallowed after a brilliant counter-attack as he knocked on when placing the ball over the line.

Falcons responded early in the second half, with Sonatane Takulua slotting a three-pointer soon after the break.

However, they were not level for long, MacGinty adding his second of the evening on the next Sharks incursion into Falcons territory.

The back and forth continued, with Takulua levelling again, only for MacGinty to knock over a third to give the home side the lead just before the hour.

He added three more to stretch the lead to 12-6, with neither side able to find a way over the line.

For Sale, the lineout was proving a thorny issue, as they regularly lost crucial ball in good position, failing to capitalise on their territorial dominance.

And they were made to pay in the final ten minutes when Newcastle finally got into good position, and Sale pulled down a rolling maul, conceding a penalty try and a yellow card for hooker Marc Jones.

The visitors then lost Alex Tait to a yellow card for an intentional knock-on, but they were able to hold on in the final stages despite plenty of Sale pressure.

Scorers:

SALE Sharks:

Penalties – Alan MacGinty(4)

NEWCASTLE

Tries – Penalty Try

Penalties – Sonatane Takulua(2)

Read more at www.premiershiprugby.com

Ackermann stand out in week one

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Former Lions coach and now Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann has made his presence felt in the first week of the Aviva Premiership this past weekend.

His side beat Exeter 28-21 on Saturday as last years champions were stopped dead in round one.

After the match Ackermann could not hide his pleasure in the way his side has stood up against the Champions

I probably couldn’t ask for a better start and I’m grateful for that,” the head coach told Gloucestershirelive.co.uk.

We’re all in the game to enjoy it so when we saw him go over we were all high-fiving and celebrating. That’s why we play this game to experience the tense times in it but also enjoy the good times.”

You can’t take anything for granted but I’m so pleased with the guys, the character they showed and the effort that went into the game. We will enjoy the victory but it’s only week one so we definitely can’t get carried away.”

We just hung in there even sometimes with not a lot of possession we hung in there so the defence was good,” said Ackermann.

Our set phase I felt was good, I think there were two scrum penalties – one at the beginning and one at the end. I think our lineout was good.I think there were opportunities we didn’t use but in general I’m very pleased. It’s nothing to do with tactics but just the effort and character that went in.”

You look at the game as a whole and it wasn’t the perfect game, there’s a list of work-ons for us to do but if we took 30 or 40 points tonight you have even more worries so it’s definitely a good base to build from and there was good stuff as well.”

 

Ins & Outs ahead of Aviva Premiership

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When the new Aviva Premiership Rugby season gets underway on Friday 1 September, a host of stars will be donning new colours for the very first time.

All 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs have been busy revamping their squads in preparation for the big kick-off, and swathes of top-level talent has entered the League.

British & Irish Lions ace Liam Williams has joined double European Champions Saracens, South Africa scrum-half Faf de Clerk moved to Sale Sharks and Newcastle Falcons recruited Canada’s record try-scorer DTH van der Merwe to name just a few.

There has also been plenty of business conducted between Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs, with Leicester Tigers signing England star George Ford from Bath Rugby and Freddie Burns going in the opposite direction, while veteran prop Petrus Du Plessis has swapped Saracens for newly-promoted London Irish.

Here is your definitive guide to every transfer completed so far.

Bath Rugby

With England fly-half George Ford joining Leicester Tigers, Bath Rugby negotiated a swap deal to secure a like-for-like replacement, with hometown boy Freddie Burns moving in the opposite direction.

Bath’s other marquee signing is another England international in the form of Sam Underhill, who returns to Aviva Premiership Rugby from Ospreys after beginning his career at Gloucester Rugby.

IN: Darren Allinson (London Irish), Freddie Burns (Leicester Tigers), Shaun Knight (Dragons), Josh Lewis (Ebbw Vale), James Phillips (Bristol Rugby), Sam Underhill (Ospreys), Anthony Perenise (Bristol Rugby)

OUT: David Denton (Worcester Warriors), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Robbie Fruean (Edinburgh Rugby), Joe Graham (Rotherham Titans), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), David Sisi (Zebre), Daniel Bowden (released)

 

Exeter Chiefs

Reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby Champions Exeter Chiefs have opted against making any sweeping changes to their squad but have brought in flanker Matt Kvesic from Gloucester Rugby.

A fine start to life with Exeter will only serve to aid the 25-year-old’s bid to force his way back in the England fold.

IN: James Freeman (Jersey Reds), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby), Tom O’Flaherty (Ospreys), Toby Salmon (Rotherham Titans), Wilhelm van der Sluys (Southern Kings), Nic White (Montpellier).

OUT: Will Hooley (Bedford Blues), Dave Lewis (Harlequins), Niko Matawalu (released), Geoff Parling (Melbourne Rebels), Damian Welch (Cardiff Blues), Ben White (Cardiff Blues), Matt Jess, Tom Johnson, Haydn Thomas (all retired)

Gloucester Rugby

British & Irish Lion Greig Laidlaw and England winger Jonny May are two high-profile departures from Kingsholm that have taken place this summer.

In contrast, former New Zealand Under-20 full-back Jason Woodward could prove an important addition for Gloucester Rugby following his impressive displays for relegated Bristol Rugby last term, while Leicester Tigers Ed Slater will add bite to their forward pack.

IN: Ruan Ackermann (Lions), Fraser Balmain (Leicester Tigers), Gareth Denman (Northampton Saints), Jake Polledri (Hartpury RFC), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers), Owen Williams (Leicester Tigers), Jason Woodward (Bristol Rugby), Ben Vellacott (Academy), Freddie Clarke (Academy), Lloyd Evans (Academy).

OUT: Joe Batley (Bristol Rugby), Darren Dawidiuk (London Irish), Paul Doran-Jones (Wasps), James Hook (Ospreys), Sione Kalamafoni (Leicester Tigers), Matt Kvesic (Exeter Chiefs), Greig Laidlaw (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Joe Latta (Bristol Rugby), Tom Lindsay (Bedford Blues), Salesi Ma’afu (RC Narbonne), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Mat Protheroe (Bristol Rugby), Dan Thomas (Bristol Rugby), Yann Thomas (Stade Rouennais)

Harlequins

Harlequins have plumped for a wealth of international talent during their summer recruitment drive, with Namibia’s Renaldo Bothma, South African Demetri Catrakilis and twice-capped All Black Francis Saili all set for their first cracks at Aviva Premiership Rugby.

Catrakilis will look to recreate the form he showed with Montpellier as he attempts to fill the boots of newly-retired club legend Nick Evans.

IN: Renaldo Bothma (Bulls), Lewis Boyce (Yorkshire Carnegie), Demetri Catrakilis (Montpellier,) Ben Glynn (Bristol Rugby), Dave Lewis (Exeter Chiefs), Josh McNulty (Gloucester Rugby), Francis Saili (Munster), Phil Swainston (Wasps).

OUT: Owen Evans (Doncaster Knights), Tyler Gendall (Bristol Rugby), Matt Hopper (Oyonnax), Dan Murphy (Hartpury), Matt Shields (Rotherham Titans), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Luc Jones, Robbie Nairn, Niall Saunders (all unattached), Karl Dickson, Nick Evans, Netani Talei, George Naoupu, Mark Reddish (all retired)

 

Leicester Tigers

George Ford and Jonny May stand out among the list of arrivals at Leicester Tigers ahead of the new season.

The England pair arrive with a wealth of top-level experience and much will be expected of them when they take to the field in green, red and white.

IN: George Ford (Bath Rugby), Joe Ford (Yorkshire Carnegie), Jonah Holmes (Yorkshire Carnegie), Sione Kalamafoni (Gloucester Rugby), Nick Malouf (Australia Sevens), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Gareth Owen (Scarlets), Dominic Ryan (Leinster).

OUT: Fraser Balmain (Gloucester Rugby), Peter Betham (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Riccardo Brugnara (Rovigo), Oli Bryant (Jersey Reds), Freddie Burns (Bath Rugby), Ryan Olowofela (England Sevens), JP Pietersen (Toulon), Jack Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Ed Slater (Gloucester Rugby), Owen Williams (Gloucester Rugby), Sam Yawayawa (Glasgow Warriors), Will Owen (released), Marcos Ayerza (retired)

London Irish

After returning to Aviva Premiership Rugby at the first time of asking, London Irish have gone on an almighty recruitment drive, bringing in 11 new faces.

Most are well-versed in the trials and tribulations of the League, perhaps none more than South Africa-born prop Petrus de Plessis, who has left Saracens for a new life at the Madejski Stadium.

IN: Darren Dawidiuk (Gloucester Rugby), Petrus Du Plessis (Saracens), Saia Fainga’a (Brumbies), Lasha Lomidze (Krasny Yar), Luke McLean (Beneton Treviso), Ben Meehan (Melbourne Rebels), Napolioni Nalaga (Lyon), Teofilo Paulo (Beneton Treviso), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Manasa Saulo (Toulon), Jake Schatz (Melbourne Rebels).

OUT: Darren Allinson (Bath Rugby), Gerard Ellis (Dragons Rugby), Luke Narraway (Coventry) Jerry Sexton (Jersey Reds) Jebb Sinclair, Joe Trayfoot, Tevita Koloamatangi, George Robson (all released), Tom Court (retired)

Newcastle Falcons

At Newcastle Falcons, Toby Flood is the name on every fan’s lips. The 32-year-old former England star has returned to his former club nine years after departing for Leicester Tigers and is back in Aviva Premiership Rugby after a three-year spell with Toulouse.

He will be joined at Falcons by Canadian ace DTH van der Merwe, who arrives from Scarlets.

IN: Ryan Burrows (Yorkshire Carnegie), Tevita Cavubati (Worcester Warriors), Cameron Cowell (England Sevens), Trevor Davison (Blaydon), Gary Graham (Jersey Reds), Toby Flood (Toulouse), Joel Matavesi (Redruth), Josh Matavesi (Ospreys), Sami Mavinga (Lyon), Maxime Mermoz (Leicester Tigers), Adam Radwan (Darington Mowden Park), Sam Stuart (Richmond), DTH van der Merwe (Scarlets), Charlie Wilson (Academy).

OUT: Fred Burdon (released), Joshua Chisanga (released), Mike Delany (Bay of Plenty), Archie Erskine (Edinburgh Rugby), Andrew Foster (Rotherham Titans), Ben Harris (Wasps), Mouritz Botha, Tom Catterick, Sam Egerton (all retired)

 

Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints have shuffled their pack by allowing 12 players to depart. But they have also brought in five players from the Southern Hemisphere, with the likes of David Ribbans and Francoiz van Wyk arriving from Super Rugby.

IN: Mitch Eadie (Bristol Rugby) Piers Francis (Blues), Jamal Ford-Robinson (Bristol Rugby) Rob Horne (Waratahs) Cobus Reinach (Sharks) Francois Van Wyk (Western Force).

OUT: Calum Clark (Saracens), Gareth Denman (Gloucester Rugby), Lee Dickson (Bedford Blues), JJ Hanrahan (Leinster), Sam Olver (Worcester Warriors), Howard Packman (Bedford Blues), Louis Picamoles (Montpellier), Ethan Waller (Worcester Warriors), James Wilson, Sam Dickinson, Jake Ilnicki, George Pisi (all released)

Sale Sharks

Two South African-born internationals are among the raft of new faces at Sale Sharks.

Springbok Faf de Klerk has come in from Super Rugby’s Lions while Scotland international Josh Strauss is another Sale capture from Glasgow Warriors.

IN: Will Cliff (Bristol Rugby), WillGriff John (Doncaster Knights), Marc Jones (Bristol Rugby), Faf de Klerk (Lions), James O’Connor (Toulon), Jono Ross (Stade Francais), Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors), Alexandru Tarus (Bezier).

OUT: Sam Bedlow (Bristol Rugby), Andrew Hughes (Sale FC), Kieran Longbottom (Saracens), James Mitchell (Connacht), Dan Mugford (Plymouth Albion), Matt Rogerson (Jersey Reds), Peter Stringer (Worcester Warriors), Sam Tuitupou (Coventry), Neil Briggs, Mike Phillips (both retired), Charlie Ingall, Tim Jeffers, Magnus Lund, Jonathan Mills, Tom Morton, Connor Dever, (all released)

 

Saracens

Following his heroics for the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand earlier this summer, Saracens supporters will be looking forward to seeing Welsh firecracker Liam Williams in action following his move from Scarlets.

Williams arrives at the top of his game and will step into the breach left by England star Chris Ashton, who has moved to Toulon.

IN: Calum Clark (Northampton Saints), Dominic Day (Rebels), Tom Griffiths (Academy), Kieran Longbottom (Sale Sharks), Will Skelton (Waratahs), Hayden Thompson-Stringer (Academy), Christopher Tolofua (Toulouse), Tom Whiteley (Academy), Liam Williams (Scarlets).

OUT: Chris Ashton (Toulon), Petrus Du Plessis (London Irish), Tom Lindsay (Bedford Blues), George Perkins (Bristol Rugby), Jared Saunders (Jersey Reds), Brian Tuilagi (Dax), Samu Vunisa (Glasgow Warriors), Fa’atiga Lemalu (released), Tim Streather, Neil De Kock, Jim Hamilton, Kelly Brown (all retired)

Wasps

Wasps have injected even more flair into their offensive engine room with the capture of former England and Great Britain 7s international Marcus Watson from Newcastle Falcons and Fiji international Gabiriele Lovobalavu, who comes in from French outfit Bayonne.

IN: Paul Doran Jones (Gloucester Rugby), Antonio ‘TJ’ Harris (Nottingham Rugby), Ben Harris (Newcastle Falcons), Juan de Jongh (Stormers), Gabiriele Lovobalavu (Bayonne), Marcus Watson (Newcastle Falcons).

OUT: Kurtley Beale (Waratahs), Tom Bristow (released), Nick De Luca (retired), Carlo Festuccia (retired), Frank Halai (Pau), Alapati Leiua (Bristol Rugby), Phil Swainston (Harlequins)

Worcester Warriors

The turnover of players has been colossal at Worcester Warriors, meaning that there could be a very different flavour to the Midlands outfit when they dive into the new season.

Among those coming in, former Ireland man Peter Stringer, 39, brings untold experience while Scotland forward David Denton could prove a key man at Sixways following his move from Bath Rugby.

IN: David Denton (Bath Rugby), Tom Howe (Wasps), Simon Kerrod (Jersey Reds), Sam Olver (Northampton Saints), Pierce Phillips (Jersey Reds), Peter Stringer (Sale Sharks), Ethan Waller (Northampton Saints).

OUT: Derrick Appiah (London Scottish), Tevita Cavubati (Newcastle Falcons), Mike Daniels (Hartpury College), Tiff Eden (Nottingham Rugby), James Johnston (Brive), Ryan Lamb (La Rochelle), Na’ama Leleimalefaga (Brive), Val Rapava Ruskin (Gloucester Rugby), Auguy Slowik (Northern Suburbs Rugby Club), Chris Vui (Bristol Rugby), Phil Dowson (retired), Andy Short (retired), Sam Betty, Tom Biggs, Connor Braid, Jaba Bregvadze, Ryan Grant, Cooper Vuna (all released).

 

Read more at www.premiershiprugby.com

Bermuda sets Saracens up for Philadelphia

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Social media would suggest that Saracens were just having a laugh in Bermuda last week during pre-season, but nothing could be further from the truth according to Chris Wyles.

There are videos doing the rounds of Mako Vunipola belly-flopping off a diving board, Alex Goode being clotheslined off a boat by a former WWE star and most of the squad trying to perfect a synchronised dive and pass routine into a pool.

But in between those admittedly amusing incidents, some hard work was done by the defending two-time European champions who surrendered their Aviva Premiership Rugby crown last season.

Their season starts at Twickenham on 2 September and two weeks later they will be running out at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia to take on Newcastle Falcons.

The match in Pennsylvania is part of a new four-year agreement with AEG – the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company – in conjunction with NBC Sports.

It means that rather than doing the five-hour coach drive from Allianz Park to Kingston Park, Wyles and his Saracens teammates will be boarding a flight across the pond to America’s east coast.

The match in Philadelphia is a homecoming for Wyles as the Saracens wing grew up about one and a half hours away in a place called Allentown, Pennsylvania and he still has friends nearby.

“One of the most memorable times visiting was with the USA Eagles national team. We played against Harlequins in a World Cup warm-up game in the same stadium as the one we are going to play in against Newcastle Falcons,” says Wyles.

“I actually didn’t play in the game but I will never forget it because the non-playing squad had to get up the next day and run up and down the steps from the Rocky film!”

Wyles admits the trip to Bermuda – which included a pre-season victory over a USA Islanders invitational team – was a fantastic bonding trip for all concerned.

“Bermuda is an absolutely beautiful island and after five tough weeks of pre-season it was great to be able to get away somewhere and freshen things up a bit – it was fantastic,” he said.

“We had a great game against some good opponents and it was also a way to spend time together as a squad.

“There were some pretty ridiculous moments out there as well and the clothesline on Alex Goode was one of them.

“We thought that he was going to take it lightly on Goodey but he caught him up on the neck. That all came on the back of an incredible boat trip.

“Actually thinking about it, Mako’s front flip belly-flop was the most ridiculous. I will never get tired of watching that!”

Saracens have become famous for their squad bonding trips that have taken them to far-flung places like Chicago, St Anton and – last season – Barcelona.

And Wyles insists they are absolutely vital to the Wolfpack team spirit that has seen them claim the last two European crowns, and finish in the top four of the Aviva Premiership for every single one of the last eight seasons.

“We always talk about being able to build closer relationships within the squad and this was also a great opportunity to come away and have a beer together,” he added.

“We may not get it 100 percent right all the time, but we are always pushing ourselves to explore further and build those bonds.

“It’s not always easy to do but every year we try and make ourselves tighter and tighter as a group.

“And that does come through in games, when you have shared those moments together you are willing to go further for each other.”

Tickets for Newcastle Falcons v Saracens are now on sale from premiershiprugbyusa.com.

Read more at www.premiershiprugby.com

Launchbury named as Wasps captain

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England lock Joe Launchbury continues as Wasps’ captain for the 2017/18 season, having led the side to the Aviva Premiership Final in his first term.

Launchbury passed the milestone of a century of appearances for Wasps last season and was an integral part of helping the club reach the Aviva Premiership Final and a European Champions Cup Quarter Final.

The 44-time capped England international is entering his eighth season at Wasps, having joined from Worthing as a 19-year-old, in 2009, and has made 109 appearances for the club.

Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young said: “Joe did a really good job for us last season and he will only get better the longer he does the role. He has become a natural leader around the place and has grown with the responsibility of being captain and a senior squad member.

“Last year we worked to grow the leadership group and fans can expect other players to wear the captain’s armband again this season while Joe is on international duty, enabling players to understand what is required to lead the squad on and off the field. Great teams don’t only rely on one or two leaders, they have at least five or six and that’s what we want to continue to build here.

“We’ve been fortunate to have had some fantastic captains during my time at Wasps with James Haskell, Matt Mullan, Chris Bell, Hugo Southwell and John Hart, and Launchers is the latest in that long line. As well as being an incredibly talented player, he has the respect of the entire squad and coaching staff and has really helped to drive standards.”

Looking ahead to leading the club into the new season, Joe Launchbury said: “It’s a massive honour to have been named captain again for the 2017/18 season and something I am excited about. Wasps is a club I’ve been at for a long time now and I enjoyed the opportunity to play more of a leadership role last season.

“We have a good leadership group within the squad and there is a lot of talent. We will all continue to work hard to try to improve in every area and to get the best out of each other. We’re all looking forward to the Aviva Premiership starting and our first game against Sale Sharks at the Ricoh Arena on the opening weekend of September.”

Tickets for Wasps v Sale Sharks can be purchased from wasps.co.uk/ticketsand start from £21 for adults, while under-10s go free in certain categories.

The Wasps 150th anniversary shirt will be revealed on Tuesday 22nd August and go on sale at 9am on Wednesday 23rd August at the Club shop or online. The shirt can also be pre-ordered by visiting www.waspsshop.co.uk.

Read more at www.premiershiprugby.com

Flood starts for Falcons against Rotherham Titans

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Toby Flood makes the first start of his second spell at Newcastle Falcons on Saturday when they host Rotherham Titans at Kingston Park Stadium (kick-off 4.30pm).

The 60-times-capped England fly-half played the second half of last weekend’s 49-19 home win over Nottingham, kicking five from five on a day which also saw the Falcons defeating Doncaster Knights 31-8.

He forms part of a half-back partnership with Sonatane Takulua, the scrum-half who is playing his first pre-season game after helping Tonga secure their place at Rugby World Cup 2019 over the summer.

Full-back Simon Hammersley makes his first start since November 4 when he suffered an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury at Wasps, while former European Champions Cup centre Maxime Mermoz makes his second appearance for the club following his move from Leicester Tigers.

Senior academy players Adam Radwan and Ben Stevenson, both of whom shone at the Singha 7s and scored in last week’s friendlies, form part of the back line – Ben Sowrey making his first start of the season at hooker.

Jon Welsh makes a first outing of the season on the tight-head side, Ryan Burrows packing down at No 8 in a team captained by open-side flanker Will Welch.

Season ticket members are entitled to free entry to Saturday’s match. Non-season ticket members can gain entry for just £10 adults and £5 juniors by calling 0871 226 6060. Saturday’s 4.30pm kick-off will be preceded by Blaydon RFC v Glasgow Hawks, which is a 2pm kick-off.

Newcastle Falcons team to play Rotherham Titans (Saturday, 4.30pm, Kingston Park Stadium)

15 Simon Hammersley
14 Belisario Agulla
13 Ben Stevenson
12 Maxime Mermoz
11 Adam Radwan
10 Toby Flood
9 Sonatane Takulua

1 Trevor Davison
2 Ben Sowrey
3 Jon Welsh
4 Will Witty
5 Glen Young
6 Harrison Orr
7 Will Welch (captain)
8 Ryan Burrows

Replacements (from)

Scott Lawson
Adam Brocklebank
Diogo Ferreira
Calum Green
Nick Civetta
Max Davies
Simon Uzokwe
Ruaridh Dawson
James Elliott
Craig Willis
Josh Matavesi
Charlie Wilson
Cameron Cowell

Referee: John Meredith
Assistant referees: Matt Daubney, Ben Blain

Read more at www.premiershiprugby.com

Te’o returns to Worcester Warriors

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Worcester Warriors centre Ben Te’o should be back in training with his team-mates from next week after being granted an extended break.

The England star has had time off following his efforts for the British and Irish Lions in their drawn series with New Zealand last month.

His Warriors team-mates have been training intensely in pre-season camps dating back to June. A lot of the squad played in their 55-21 victory over Hartpury last Saturday.

Warriors head coach Carl Hogg believes Te’o’s extended break will benefit him in the latter stages of the season and prevent fatigue going into their Premiership season opener against the Newcastle Falcons away from home on September 1.

The 30-year-old may also make an appearance in Worcester’s final pre-season game against Irish giants Munster on August 24th.

“Ben will be coming back for that Munster week, so he will be fit and available to us,” Hogg told Worcester News.

“I am sure he will be refreshed after a good break from his tour down in New Zealand.”

Te’o scored four tries in 12 appearances for Warriors last season. He was also a star in England’s Six Nations success earlier this year.

Catrakilis relishing chance to reunite with old friend Swiel

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Harlequins fly-half Demetri Catrakilis has revealed he is ready to join forces with  compatriot and old acquaintance Tim Swiel – insisting the pair will not squabble over the No.10 shirt – as the former Montpellier man embarks on his maiden Aviva Premiership Rugby season at the London club.

Catrakilis, who previously plied his trade at three South African Super Rugby franchises, is one of John Kingston’s most high-profile signings of the summer.

The 27-year-old has been training alongside compatriot Swiel, who, like Catrakilis, also has Super Rugby experience in his homeland.

But rather than eyeing his former Western Province teammate as a potential threat who might limit his first-team opportunities, Catrakilis will utilise the pair’s longstanding relationship to help the club better its sixth-place finish in the table last season.

“Timmy and I have been keeping in contact with each other for the last seven years, we’re good friends,” Catrakilis.

“We’re going to be picked for the same position, but I’m there to help him out and he’s there to help me out, however we can, both on and off the field. We really don’t see it as a competition – it’s more like a partnership.

“We’re part of one team. We were only chatting about it the other day and we’re really looking forward to giving tips on each other’s game this year and playing with the rest of the team.

“It will be the first time that I’ve had a relationship like that with a fellow fly-half.”

image: http://d2cx26qpfwuhvu.cloudfront.net/premier/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/27173325/TimSwielQuinsBath1111SB1617-1024×576.jpg

South African-born Catrakilis, who is of Cypriot and Greek heritage, made the decision to join the London club following his first season at the Top 14 side after helping Montpellier beat Harlequins in the 2016 European Challenge Cup final.

Although the 27-year-old publically announced he would be joining Harlequins for the 2017-18 season, he chose to honour his two-year contract at the French giants.

“We knew going into that final that we were up against a really big team, so once the club [Harlequins] showed interest in me, it was really hard to turn it down and look away from,” said Catrakilis.

“It wasn’t any different for me, even though I knew I was going somewhere else at the end of the season.

“I think for other people at Montpellier, it was hard to accept, but that was just the case. I’ve always known Harlequins like most rugby people do.

“Traditionally and historically, the club was always a big attraction for me, it’s a massive club.”

And Catrakilis, who won two Currie Cups with Western Province while being a key figure for the Stormers in Super Rugby, has already set his sights on targeting domestic silverware in a Quins jersey.

“I’ve won cups with all three of my other clubs and I’d love to help get Harlequins into the top four and win that league trophy to keep that track record going,” he said.

“I haven’t moved to Harlequins to not win anything.”

Read more at http://www.premiershiprugby.com