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Sale Sharks proved too strong for Worcester Warriors at the AJ Bell Stadium and Newcastle Falcons claimed a narrow win over Gloucester at Kingston Park.

Sale 36-26 Worcester
AJ Bell Stadium

Sam James’ early try was countered by Francois Hougaard in a thrilling first 15 at the AJ Bell Stadium. Joe Taufete’e put Warriors ahead for the first time, but James’ second and Mike Haley’s effort put Sale 21-14 up at the break.

Byron McGuigan stretched the lead but a yellow card to Halani Aulika allowed Worcester back in, with Chris Pennell going over in the final 10 minutes. Ben Curry sealed the win though, with a late try from Biyi Alo grabbing a bonus point for Warriors as they fell to a 36-26 loss.

Looking for their first win on Sharks soil since 2008, Worcester didn’t start in the best way as James went through six minutes in.

Denny Solomona sped beyond the chasing Worcester defenders and fed it to Sale’s 13, whose try was awarded after the TMO checked it over. AJ MacGinty added the extras as the hosts produced a powerful opening.

But Worcester recovered quickly and Hougaard was the man who found a gap in the back line to level the scores. Perry Humphreys kicked things off with his break, Ben Te’o helped him out and Hougaard finished the job, allowing Mills to convert and make it 7-7.

The visitors were getting on top and took the lead courtesy of Taufete’e. Having denied Sale in the maul, a drive forward had the hosts on the back foot and Taufete’e crashed over, Mills converting again.

But despite being on top, Worcester squandered the lead as James grabbed his second and Sale’s 1000th try in the Premiership. 10 phases came and went before James found the line, the recipient of a kind deflection to make it 14-14.

Sharks took a lead into the break as they got their third try right on half-time. Haley’s run from 30 yards was timed to perfection and he pierced the Worcester defence to go through, providing a 21-14 lead.

Neither side started the second 40 well, with kicking the order of the first 10 minutes in a spell of little quality. Sale almost went through as the livewire Haley again bore down on the line, but a challenge and subsequent knock on stopped Warriors minor panic. And it was Worcester’s turn to go close.

They thought they’d gone over through Perry Humphreys, but the TMO’s countless replays proved he was held up inches away. And the action went straight up the other end as Sale made it 26-14.

McGuigan worked some magic in the build up, having been left with little avenues to go down after being fed possession by Josh Beaumont. Going it alone, he chipped beyond Chris Pennell, collected and crashed down for the most improbable of tries. The bonus point was secured and the conversion went through.

Halani Aulika was sent to the sin-bin though, which gave Worcester just a glimmer of hope of getting back into it.

And they took that opportunity with both hands in Aulika’s absence. Pennell went through after being shown up at the other end, finishing Ryan Lamb’s searching long pass.

Lamb was on hand to convert but MacGinty’s penalty maintained an eight point gap between the sides as they headed into the final five.

And it was job done when the fifth try came in. Curry added a bit of spice to the night with a wonderful try, muscling his way over having stolen the ball and finishing any worries the Sharks may have had in the process.

A late yellow to Mike Phillips meant they only had 14 at the end, but it mattered little. Worcester had the final say with another try, Alo the man with ball in hand as bodies flew over the line.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Tries:
James 2, Haley, McGuigan, B Curry
Cons: MacGinty 4
Pens: MacGinty
Yellow Cards: Aulika, Phillips

For Worcester:
Try:
Hougaard, Taufete’e, Pennell, Alo
Cons: Mills 2, Lamb

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 Tom Curry, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Ben Curry, 17 Jake Pope, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 George Nott, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Josh Charnley

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Ryan Mills,9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (c), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 Ryan Bower
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Darren Barry, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Wynand Olivier

Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales, Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher


Newcastle 16–14 Gloucester
Kingston Park

Juan Pablo Socino put Falcons ahead midway through the first half with the opener, but tries either side of the break from Jonny May and Tom Marshall turned the scoreline in favour of Gloucester.

Falcons had chances to go back ahead but it looked like the game had gone. That was until Joel Hodgson’s ice-cool penalty at the death turned the scoreline around and gave Falcons the 16-14 win.

Both teams came into this one in indifferent form, with Newcastle hoping to complete the double over Gloucester for the first time in five seasons.

A quick opening produced no points, mainly thanks to a try-saving challenge from Micky Young blocking Charlie Sharples route to the line. Mike Delany’s post hitting penalty was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock in the first quarter of an hour.

Socino thought he’d opened the scoring with a try, but the TMO cut his celebrations short. But he didn’t have too long to wait before getting himself and his side onto the scoreboard.

Only moments after the disappointment, the Argentine nipped over from a couple of yards out after Gloucester failed to withstand Falcons pressing. Delany made it a seven point lead and it was the least his side deserved.

But Gloucester levelled three minutes past the 40 as May went through to get the visitors back on terms. It was their first decent attack and the influential Willi Heinz passed into the arms of May, who evaded two challenges to go through. Billy Twelvetrees’ two saw the sides go in at 7-7.

Falcons retook the lead after half-time, with Joel Hodgson’s penalty putting them three points ahead. The lead didn’t last though as Gloucester went right up the other end after earlier being saved by the TMO, this time they were helped by him.

Marshall hunted down his own kick and was adjudged to have made it there in time, Twelvetrees converting again to give the visitors their first lead of the night.

The second half was scrappy but a Hodgson three pointer cut the gap down to a single point as the final 10 minutes remained finely balanced for either side to nick the win.

It was a nervy ending for Gloucester who were denied a try after Tom Denton went over, replays showing he spilt the ball in the process. And a yellow to Lloyd Evans for a high tackle leaving them a man light for the final moments.

Falcons had chances and had Sinoti Sinoti not thrown a pass straight out of play, things could have finished very differently. But despite knocking on in the final moments, Newcastle were given one last chance in the form of a penalty.

And with everything on the shoulders of Hodgson, he kept his nerve to give Falcons a 16-14 victory with the final kick.

The scorers: 

For Newcastle:
Tries:
Socino
Cons: Delany
Pens: Hodgson 3

For Gloucester:
Tries:
May, Marshall
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Yellow Cards: Evans

Wasps steal it at the death

Wasps scored a try at the death to claim a 32-30 victory over the Northampton Saints at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday.

The visitors looked dominant throughout and looked as though they had the game in the bag before Matt Mullan was pushed over the line through a maul.

Wasps extend their lead at the top of the table after the win while Saints stay at seventh place.

Northampton got an early lead on their rivals after a 12 minute try from Ben Foden with Stephen Myler neatly knocking over a penalty just beforehand.

Wasps would be out to rock the boat quickly though as Elliot Daly scored after using his searing pace to get over the line for his side with New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth adding the extras to catch up to the leaders making the score 8-7.

Saints would then pull the scoreline away from the hosts after Alex Waller scored another which was a blow for Wasps who were confident after crossing the whitewash.

Myler missed the conversion which would prove costly to the visitor’s lead with Gopperth knocking over two successive penalties making the score 13-13 all, the first time the score had come so close in the game.

Saints would go into the lead at half time after some clever play sent flyer George North over in the corner making the half-time score 18-13.

Wasps got out of the blocks first in the second half after a break from Ashley Johnson led to the ball being swung down field to the ever-industrious Christian Wade who chipped the ball over the defence, the bounce favoured him and the winger dotted down equaling the score before Gopperth took his side into the lead for first time. And then again when Joe Simpson scored with Gopperth kicking the conversion.

The Saints closed the gap on the Wasps after they took the ball to the line and after swinging wide to North who passed to full-back Ahsee Tuala who dotted down in the corner.

Saints flanker Teimana Harrison then grabbed the lead after he received a short pass from off the shoulder of his inside man and went over under the posts.

It didn’t take long for Wasps to get back in the game after they used some great handling to swing the ball wide before Kurtley Beale gave off a great pop pass for Willie le Roux to score. But the try was called off after the referee deemed it was a forward pass.

Wasps snatched the game at the death though after sustained pressure from the hosts resulted in Mullan barging over in a maul with Gopperth winning the game with a conversion in the 82nd minute.

The scorers:

For Wasps:
Tries:
Daly, Wade, Simpson, Mullan
Cons: Gopperth 3
Pens: Gopperth 2

For Northampton Saints:
Tries:
Foden, North, Tuala, Harrison
Con: Myler
Pen: Myler

Saracens score four past Quins

Saracens 40-19 Harlequins
Wembley

Four tries and 20 points from the boot of Owen Farrell were enough for Saracens to dispatch Harlequins at Wembley.

After a fairly quiet open ten minutes, it was Harlequins who opened the scoring with a penalty from the boot of Nick Evans.

However, it would be Saracens who grabbed the first try of the game, Chris Ashton chasing down a kick through from Alex Goode to dive on the ball.

Mark McCall’s men double their score on 25 minutes when Schalk Brits powered over at the back of a driving maul.

Evans kept the scoreboard ticking over for Quins with his second and third penalties to keep them within five.

Farrell added a penalty either side of half time to keep Saracens ahead just before the break. The ever-reliable Evans kicked another three points for Harlequins as they tried to keep pace.

The fly-half’s continued to exchange blows, Farrell this time adding another penalty on the hour mark.

The metronomic Farrell kept the points coming with his fourth penalty, and the game appeared to be slipping away from Quins.

Saracens delivered the killer blow in the final ten minutes with a try from Michael Rhodes to take the result beyond doubt.

Quins did give themselves a glimmer of hope when James Horwill crashed over for their first try, but it was too late to bridge the gap.

There was still time for Saracens to secure the bonus point try, Goode finishing off a simple overlap to ensure that Saracens would be leaving Wembley with the maximum five points.

The scorers:

For Saracens:

Tries: Ashton, Brits, Rhodes, Goode
Cons: Farrell 4
Pens: Farrell 4

For Harlequins:

Try: Horwill
Con: Evans
Pens: Evans 4

 

“Hero’s…urr Europe in a Nutshell”

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This week sees the Six nations return for the final matches and the focus will be on England to see if they can equal New Zealand record of consecutive wins against trier one nations.

Here is all the news from around Europe  and results over the weekend…..

Ireland wing Andrew Trimble has been ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations after he injured his hand in Ulster’s win over Treviso in Belfast on Friday.

The 70-Test veteran broke a bone in his hand in his side’s 19-7 triumph and will miss the upcoming matches against Wales and England.

Trimble came off the bench in Ireland’s 19-9 win over France in their Round Three clash in Dublin.

He will be joined on the sidelines by second-row Ultan Dillane, who will undergo surgery this week for an ongoing shoulder issue. Dillane will be ruled out of action for eight to ten weeks.

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards rued missed opportunities after his side’s loss to Saracens on Sunday.

The Saracens claimed 35-27 win over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park after scoring five tries to Newcastle’s three.

Richards believes his side could have used their opportunities better in the fixture.

“We are disappointed but it’s probably a measure of where we are at this moment in time,” Richards told reporters.

Stade Français ended their three-match winless run when they claimed an emphatic 32-9 victory over Bordeaux-Bègles at Stade Jean Bouin on Sunday.

The home side were full value for this win as they outscored UBB by three tries to none with all their five-pointers notched in the first half and Jules Plisson also deserves special praise as he finished with a 17-point haul courtesy of a conversion and five penalties.

La Rochelle moved into the driving seat in the Top 14 standings when they claimed a 27-21 win over Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday.

The visitors were made to work hard for this result especially during the game’s latter stages when Toulouse launched a late fightback.

Both sides crossed for two tries apiece but it was the goalkicking of La Rochelle’s Australian fly-halves Zack Holmes and Brock James which proved the difference between the sides and the duo contributed 17 points between them with Holmes kicking four penalties and James adding a conversion and a penalty.

Worcester Warriors eased their Premiership relegation concerns when they beat fellow basement dwellers Bristol 41-24 at Sixways on Sunday.

Gary Gold’s men started quickly and went 10-0 in front in the opening six minutes thanks to a penalty try and Ryan Mills’ three-pointer. Gavin Henson reduced the arrears from the tee before Francois Hougaard and Jason Woodward traded scores.

However, 14 unanswered points via Will Spencer and Bryce Heem gave the Warriors a 31-10 lead at the interval. Heem extended that further before Bristol mounted a fight-back of sorts as Max Crumpton and Tom Varndell crossed the whitewash, but Wynand Olivier sealed the five points to plunge their opponents closer to the Championship.

Saracens kept the pressure on Exeter and Wasps at top of the Premiership table when they claimed a 35-27 win over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Sunday.

Alex Lozowski provided the inspiration, scoring 13 of the Londoners’ first half points. Michael Rhodes also touched down as they went into the interval 18-6 in front – Sonatane Takulua kicking two penalties for Newcastle – before Chris Ashton extended Sarries’ lead in the second period.

Lyon returned to the victory trail when they claimed a hard-fough 16-3 win over Montpellier at the Matmut Stadium on Sunday.

In a tightly contested encounter, the home side had to dig deep to secure the win but they eventually took control of proceedings and outscored Montpellier by one try to none.

Leinster saw off the challenge of the Scarlets at the RDS in Dublin on Saturday in a 45-9 win that takes them back to the PRO12 summit.

Luke McGrath scored twice in the opening period as the Irish province took a lead into the interval, but three Dan Jones’ penalties kept the visitors in contention.

Round Three of the 2017 Rugby Europe Championship produced victories for Germany, Georgia and Romania.

And it was Germany’s win over Belgium which caught the eye as they continue to push for qualification ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

This and next year’s Rugby Europe Championships act as qualifiers for the tournament, with Georgia having already secured their place after finishing in third place in their group at the last Rugby World Cup.

Saturday’s win took Germany up to third, two points behind second-placed Romania, who they defeated earlier this year.

Germany started well thanks to tries from Jacobus Otto and Jarrid Els, with captain Sean Armstrong’s score before half-time suggesting a comfortable win was on the cards.

Belgium to their credit fought back in the second half, with tries from Alan Williams and James Pearce, with the boot of fly-half Williams setting up a tense finish at 27-21.

Jamie Murphy’s try however put the result beyond doubt, as Belgium hit back late on through Elvin Muric but fell to a 34-29 defeat in Offenbach.

Meanwhile leaders Georgia came through their match with Spain in Medina del Campo with a 20-10 win, outscoring their hosts by two tries to one.

The two full-backs, Spain’s Brad Linklater and Georgia’s Merab Kvirikashvili, traded early penalties before Spain went in ahead at the break thanks to a try from Kalokalo Gavidi, leading 10-3.

Georgia went level ten minutes into the second half through a Giorgi Tkhilaishvili try, converted by Kvirikashvili, and they took the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute thanks to a try from Zviad Matiashvili, with a late Kvirikashvili penalty making it 20-10.

And finally Romania comfortably saw off Russia in a 30-10 win by scoring four tries, with two scores coming in the last 11 minutes.

Scores from Ionel Badiu and Madalin Lemnaru got the visitors off to the perfect start in Sochi, leading 14-3 at half-time.

Penalties from Valentin Calafeteanu then stretched the score to 20-3, before Valentin Poparlan and Jody Rose put the seal on a big win.

 

Sale Sharks stun Willie’s Wasps

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SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the English Premiership, French Top 14 and Celtic Pro12 matches played this weekend.

Bok fullback Willie le Roux’s Wasps debut ended in defeat as the Premiership log trendsetters slumped to a shock 34-28 loss against the Sale Sharks on Sunday. The hosts made a perfect start as they opened up a commanding 24-9 lead at the break.

Wasps’ quality came through after the interval as they launched a comeback with two quick tries, including one from captain Ashley Johnson. Le Roux then came off the bench and had the crowd on their feet with dazzling run which led to a try for Kurtley Beale. But in the end, Wasps’ best efforts weren’t enough, as Sale held on for an important victory.

ALSO READ: JP’s Tigers win, Pienaar inspires Ulster

In the only other Premiership match on Sunday, the Newcastle Falcons claimed a stunning 46-31 bonus-point victory over favourites Northampton Saints. Former Sharks hooker Kyle Cooper scored one of Newcastle’s seven tries.

Elsewhere in Europe, Rory Kockott’s Castres defeated Bordeaux 29-17 to move up to third in the French Top 14 standings.

Meanwhile in the Celtic Pro12, reigning champions Connacht edged the Newport Gwent Dragons 14-9.

WEEKEND RESULTS

English Premiership (Round 15):

Wasps 28 Sale Sharks 34
Newcastle Falcons 46 Northampton Saints 31

French Top 14 (Round 18):

Bordeaux 17 Castres 29
Montpellier vs Toulouse (Sunday night)

Celtic Pro12 (Round 15):

Connacht 14 Newport Gwent Dragons 9

Thanks to

Aviva Premiership Round 13 Wrap

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Newcastle Falcons 24-22 Bath Rugby

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Two late tries from Mark Wilson and Ben Harris gave Newcastle Falcons a dramatic late victory against Bath Rugby at Kingston Park on Friday night.

The home side had the perfect start when Vereniki Goneva crossed inside five minutes but 17 unanswered points from Bath – through George Ford and Semesa Rokoduguni tries – had given them the advantage.

And although Rokoduguni added a third try, to take him second on Bath’s all-time try scorers list, a late rally from the Falcons saw Wilson and Harris cross and snatch the victory.

The Falcons had their first try of the evening with just three minutes gone as winger Vereniki Goneva picked up from the base of a ruck and strolled through a gap in Bath’s defence to dot down.

Fly-half Joel Hodgson, who had made the initial break in the build-up, added the extras to give the home side a 7-0 lead inside the opening five minutes.

With both defences standing strong throughout the first half, Ford missed two penalties to get Bath back into the game.

And as the half came to a close, Ford went for the corner with a third kickable penalty and with phases racking up, the Falcons were penalised in front of the posts and the Bath fly-half made the score 7-3.

And it was the England international who turned the game on its head minutes into the second half as he collected the ball and jogged underneath the posts for Bath’s first try.

With the conversion successful, Bath had the lead in the match for the first time at 10-7 with 43 minutes gone.

And Rokoduguni extended their lead with an excellent finish on 52 minutes as he went over in the corner after being fed by fellow wing Anthony Watson who had made the initial half break.

Despite the close attention of Goneva, Rokoduguni forced himself over the line and with Ford adding the extras from the touchline, the visitors led 17-7.

Hodgson temporarily stemmed the flow with three points for the Falcons on the hour mark but the visitors’ momentum wasn’t halted as Rokoduguni had his second try of the evening.

It was the winger’s 37th Bath try to move him ahead of Iain Balshaw on the club’s all-time list with only Matt Banahan ahead of him.

But with ten minutes to play, the Falcons found their form once more though as Wilson forced himself over from close range after a number of pick and drives from the Newcastle forwards.

And trailing by five points with the minutes ticking by, Harris repeated the trick to bring the hosts level and man-of-the-match Hodgson held his nerve to slot the vital conversion.

Saracens 13 Exeter Chiefs 13

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Titi Lamositele’s late try earned Saracens the most unlikely of draws as they secured a 13-13 result at home to Exeter Chiefs despite playing 70 minutes down a man.

Saracens had got the better of the Chiefs in each of the last four meetings between the sides including a victory at Sandy Park and of course their success in last season’s Aviva Premiership Rugby final.

But they were up against it early on when Richard Barrington was dismissed for a high tackle, and Jack Nowell’s try put the visitors 10-0 up.

But Saracens aren’t champions for nothing and they showed their never-say-die attitude to frustrate Exeter at every turn and slowly work their way back into the game.

Even after Steenson had made it 13-6 to Chiefs, Saracens came back, with Lamositele forcing his way over from a rolling maul and Alex Lozowski converting from out wide to seal the draw.

Exeter started the game on the front foot and found themselves a man up after ten minutes when Barrington was sent off.

The prop caught Geoff Parling with his shoulder and was red-carded as a result, with Gareth Steenson knocking over a penalty to give his side the lead.

With Barrington off, Saracens replaced Sean Maitland with Lamositele, and Chiefs took advantage of the extra space out wide. Steenson, who had missed an early penalty, produced a delightful cross-kick and Nowell brilliantly caught it and dotted down.

Steenson nailed the conversion from out wide and Chiefs led 10-0 with quarter of an hour gone.

Saracens could have cut the deficit only for Alex Lozowski to pull a drop goal attempt wide but he made up for it with a penalty on 23 minutes.

However with their man advantage Exeter continued to press, and it required a desperate last-ditch tackle from Michael Rhodes to stop Don Armand as he looked set to score.

Saracens produced another huge defensive stand to close out the half, forcing a penalty with Exeter pressing to go in just seven points down at 10-3.

The second half was a tight affair, and Saracens cut the deficit to four points, Lozowski slotting a second penalty after a scrum infringement.

Saracens had the chance to grab the lead for the first time when Alex Goode played a grubber through but Chris Wyles couldn’t get there and in the end conceded a penalty for an intentional knock-on as he stretched for the ball.

A second chance then went begging as Lozowski’s kick through just beat Wyles into touch once again.

Instead it was Steenson who pushed Exeter’s lead back to seven points with a penalty as Saracens were penalised for not rolling away.

But still Saracens would not give up, and replacement prop Lamositele was the man to emerge after an unstoppable driving maul. Lozowski knocked over the extras to level the scores.

Exeter threw everything at their hosts in the final stages, but Steenson’s late drop goal attempt from 45 metres out was well wide

Maro Itoje was then pinged at a lineout but Steenson pulled his shot at goal to the left and the nerves went on for the visitors.

Northampton Saints 32 Bristol Rugby 26

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Northampton Saints brought an end to Bristol Rugby’s recent winning run after edging an entertaining Aviva Premiership Rugby clash at Franklin’s Gardens.

The Saints outscored their opponents by four tries to two but an impressive all round performance from fly-half Jason Woodward – who scored 21 of his side’s points – kept Bristol in the game with the scores level heading into the last 20 minutes.

However Stephen Myler’s penalty and Harry Mallinder’s late drop goal settled matters as the Saints won a third successive Aviva Premiership Rugby in a row for the first time since March – with tries from Louis Picamoles, Mike Haywood, Tom Wood and JJ Hanrahan earning the try bonus point.

Bristol started brightly and Varndell, chasing the record for the most Aviva Premiership tries, got his first sniff of the try line after a strong break by Woodward but he was bundled into touch five metres out before Woodward dragged a penalty wide.

After that miss, it turned out to be the Saints who got the first points of the afternoon on 13 minutes with George North setting it all up with an impressive 60 metre break up field before the hosts eventually won a scrum and Picamoles powered over after the Bristol defence crumbled.

Myler converted for 7-0 but Bristol were able to respond with a 16th-minute Woodward penalty to cut the deficit.

And it got better for the visitors on 20 minutes when Varndell made space before putting in Olly Robinson. He was stopped but Bristol managed to keep the ball alive with Mitch Eadie crossing from close range for his third try of the season with Woodward’s conversion making it 10-7.

Bristol’s confidence was plain to see, with Woodward opting for the posts rather than territory with his penalty on 29 minutes and duly dissected the posts on the angle from 45 metres out for 13-7.

But Northampton were proving equally dangerous in attack and piled the pressure on the Bristol try line with Alex Waller appearing to go over before the TMO ruled it out on the ground of no clear grounding over the line.

Play was brought back to an earlier penalty and Saints went again, with Mike Haywood eventually crossing the whitewash from close range on 35 minutes. Myler converted and the hosts were back in front by a point.

That was the way the score stayed heading into the break but it only took five minutes for Saints to add their third try of the afternoon as Bristol’s scrum was bullied again.

Picamoles then shrugged off several tackles before offloading to captain Wood to run in from 15 metres out with Myler’s extras making the score 21-13.

Bristol’s Varndell continued to look dangerous with ball in hand before then winning a penalty which Adrian Jarvis kicked to touch and from the resulting set piece, Bristol were able to win themselves another penalty which Woodward dispatched to bring the deficit down to five.

The fly-half was involved again just minutes later as an impressive counter attacking move from close to Bristol’s try line saw Varndell pick up on a defensive kick forward before Woodward claimed the offload to go over before then converting for 23-21.

But Saints hit back immediately to mute the celebrating Bristol fans as straight from the restart, Myler kicked deep with JJ Hanrahan charging down and catching the Bristol clearance to score on 56 minutes for the bonus point try.

The conversion was missed however and Bristol were able to draw level at 26-26 just three minutes through Woodward’s penalty.

But it was Saints who nudged ahead as they broke in numbers and won a penalty after Bristol were pinged for holding on, leaving Myler to dissect the posts with eight minutes left.

Mallinder then added a late drop goal but Bristol did manage to pick up a losing bonus point to move within a point of second-bottom Worcester Warriors.

Harlequins 29 Sale Sharks 26

Harlequins made it ten wins from ten home matches this season, but were made to work hard at Twickenham Stoop for their 29-26 Aviva Premiership Rugby triumph by a determined Sale Sharks.

Two quickfire scores shortly before the interval from Charlie Walker and Tim Swiel saw the hosts turn the game on its head, after Denny Solomona had notched up his third try in as many weeks.

Byron McGuigan and Solomona scored the only tries of the second period for the Sharks, but Swiel’s boot did not waver and the 23-year-old fly-half took his personal tally to 24 points with three penalties after half-time to edge Quins home.

Harlequins were dealt an early blow when England International Joe Marler was ruled out during the warm-up, with Owen Evans coming into the side and Adam Jones moving onto the bench.

And after a scrappy start to the game from the hosts, the sides were level at 3-3 after ten minutes with Swiel cancelling out Will Addison’s early penalty after Cameron Neild was pinged.

But straight away Quins were guilty of obstruction on Mike Haley to allow Addison another shot at goal, before a high tackle from Josh Beaumont on Mike Brown saw Swiel level arrears once more after 16 minutes.

Once the game settled down however it was Sale who fashioned the first real try-scoring opportunity on the 20-minute mark, putting huge pressure on a Quins lineout on their own ten-metre line.

But while Denny Solomona eventually crossed the whitewash, referee JP Doyle ruled out the try for a forward pass by Rob Webber in the build-up.

Former Wales international Jones was then required off the bench after only 21 minutes as both Will Collier and Evans became the second and third front-row casualties of the afternoon, with Kyle Sinckler the other replacement.

And things soon went from bad to worse for the hosts. Solomona was not to be denied for a second time as the Sharks – with a penalty advantage – sliced through the middle of the park.

The score was confirmed by the TMO and Addison made no mistake with the conversion to make the scoreline 13-6 after 30 minutes.

A quick tap-and-go from Danny Care looked to have unlocked the Sharks as Marland Yarde barged his way over, but the England wing was held up.

The momentum was finally with the hosts however and they took full advantage; first Walker finishing off a wonderful try after Ross Chisholm burst through the midfield and offloaded to Brown, before Swiel pounced on a loose ball on halfway and flew across the line untouched to make it 20-13 at the break.

Quins picked up where they left off on the resumption as the Sharks were penalised for holding on and Swiel extended the lead to ten points from the tee.

But McGuigan brought the visitors right back into the contest on 49 minutes after Sale kicked to the corner from a penalty, Johnny Leota’s sublime pass setting him up.

Addison’s boot however was wayward for the first time in the afternoon with the conversion, and when Care won another penalty shortly after with a defender not retreating fast enough, Swiel could once again give John Kingston’s side some breathing room at 26-18.

But Sale flew forwards after Addison punished Swiel’s dangerous tackle with another penalty, and only determined defence from Quins kept them at bay – Chisholm turning the ball over at the breakdown right in front of his own posts.

And despite their front-row injury problems, the hosts scrum was on fire in the final ten minutes to win yet another penalty for Swiel to knock over, meaning Solomona’s second score of the afternoon late on from TJ Ioane’s crossfield kick was in vain.

Gloucester Rugby 55 Worcester Warriors 19

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Gloucester Rugby were in seventh heaven at Kingsholm after demolishing Worcester Warriors to increase the gap between the two West Country sides in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.

Matt Scott grabbed a try double as Jonny May, Jacob Rowan, John Afoa, Charlie Sharples and Josh Hohneck each touched down once to earn the home side a try bonus point.

Cooper Vuna, Tevita Cavubati and Alafoti Fa’osiliva all scored for Warriors, but with Bristol Rugby recording a losing bonus point against Northampton Saints, Worcester slipped to within a point of the bottom of the table.

In a lively atmosphere as Kingsholm with the crowd knowing how vital a win would be, Gloucester got off to a quick start as Greig Laidlaw kicked a fourth-minute penalty.

And after a period of pressure in the opening 15 minutes the Cherry and Whites eventually got their reward when May crashed over in the 14th minute.

Billy Burns broke from a scrum to get the home side within five metres, and when the ball was thrown wide, May ran it in – with Laidlaw adding the extras.

Five minutes later Gloucester made it two as Hohneck turned the ball over and fed May, who in turn found Scott, who ambled over for the score – Laidlaw again accurate from the tee.

With nearly 15,000 packed into Kingsholm they were enjoying seeing their side take the game to Warriors.

But it was Worcester who hit back shortly after the half hour mark, with Vuna wriggling away from a tackle to go over – Ryan Mills kicking the conversion.

The comeback did not last long, though, and Rowan made the most of quick ball from the top of a lineout and broke a tackle to sprint over the line – Laidlaw again kicking the extras to give his side a 24-7 half-time advantage.

After a scrappy opening to the second period it was Burns who added to Gloucester’s lead, kicking a 46th-minute penalty.

And it took another 12 minutes for the home side to add to their score, but add to it they did when prop Afoa profited from May’s fine charge down and run, to earn Glos their try bonus point.

Billy Twelvetrees then added the conversion to put his side 27 points ahead, with 20 minutes still to play.

And five minutes later Sharples extended their advantage after Ross Moriarty secured a lineout and Gloucester got their rolling maul going.

The drive got them within reach of the line and when Ben Vellacott fed Sharples, the winger side-stepped his man to touch down for try number five – Twelvetrees adding the extras.

And the sixth came soon after, with Scott grabbing his second by showing great pace to run in a loose ball and set up a simple Twelvetrees conversion.

The visitors were not going out without a fight, though, and Cavubati dived over after stealing the ball.

But Gloucester were not done, either, with Hohneck getting in on the act as he bundled over at the base of a rolling maul – Twelvetrees again successful from the tee.

The Warriors lived up to their name, and had the last word as Fa’osiliva dotted down in the 80th minute, but it was in vain as the home fans cheered in delight at the final whistle.

Wasps 22 Leicester Tigers 16

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Wasps were forced to withstand a ferocious Leicester Tigers comeback but hung on for a 22-16 victory at the Ricoh Arena to return to the summit of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.

First-half tries from Christian Wade, Tommy Taylor and Dan Robson looked to have sewn up the game with the home side 19-0 up.

But Leicester worked their way back into it, and with a try from Peter Betham and the boots of Owen Williams and Freddie Burns, they got back to within three.

That was as good as it got however and Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty late on sealed the win for the home side, who move back ahead of Saracens at the top of the table.

Wasps made the perfect start as Wade went over after just four minutes. Elliot Daly was the provider, playing a delicate grubber that caught out Williams, and the opportunistic Wade was able to beat Freddie Burns to the ball and dot down. Jimmy Gopperth slotted the conversion to make it 7-0.

Leicester were struggling to impose themselves with Wasps forwards and backs combining brilliantly to put them under regular pressure.

And the pack took their chance on ten minutes, showing plenty of patience with a rolling maul to send Taylor over for a second try.

Despite Gopperth’s missed conversion, Wasps were still in control, and it almost got even better when Beale got away down the left, but this time the covering defence held.

The left wing was providing Wasps with plenty of joy however, and a break on that side set up their third. Thomas Young started it, racing away from a ruck before finding Josh Bassett inside him. The winger was stopped about 15 metres out, but the Wasps support was there quickest, and Robson, spotting Dan Cole in front of him, sniped straight over. Gopperth’s conversion stretched the lead to 19-0.

Leicester needed a spark, and almost got it when Burns played a little chip over the defence and collected, but his pass to Mike Fitzgerald outside him was batted down by Kurtley Beale. Williams slotted the resulting penalty, with the Tigers going in 16 points down at the break.

Williams added a second penalty early in the second half as Guy Thompson was penalised at the breakdown, with Leicester looking to edge their way back into the contest.

Their comeback attempt was almost thwarted when Adam Thompstone’s kick was caught by Beale who looked to be away. Unfortunately for the Australian, Leicester had knock-on advantage and got the ball back.

They made the most of that reprieve, scoring a first try of the game through centre Peter Betham. It wasn’t a typical backs try, rather power from close range after Tom Brady had been stopped just short of the line. Burns slotted the conversion to get the visitors back to within a score with half an hour remaining.

Leicester almost had a second try a couple of minutes later when Matt Smith thought he was over on the left, but his foot had just strayed into touch before he could dot down.

Still, Wasps were under pressure having seen their lead evaporate, and weren’t helped by losing James Haskell within a minute of coming on as he got his head on the wrong side while making a tackle and had to come off.

However Leicester’s comeback attempt took a hit when they lost Cole for ten minutes in the bin as he knocked the ball away from Joe Simpson. Gopperth slotted the resulting penalty to ease Wasps nerves.

Bassett almost got their bonus point when he was just beaten to a kick through from Beale by Will Evans and they were again denied from a rolling maul which Leicester managed to hold up over the line.

There was still time for Leicester to come back, but successive knock-ons from Evans and then Betham cost them a last chance of

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Tuilagi out for rest of season

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Manu Tuilagi has reportedly been ruled out for the rest of the season after damaging knee ligaments during Leicester’s New Years Day defeat to Saracens at Welford Road.

The England centre had finally earned a England recall after coach Eddie Jones included him in a 33-man squad for a two-day training camp in Brighton, but those plans have now been shattered in the wake of yet another long-term injury.

The Leicester centre has barely returned from a groin injury which kept him on the sidelines for two months and forced him to miss the November internationals last year. Before that he was out for 15 months with the same injury.

Mail Sport broke the story, claiming Tuilagi will not only miss the Six Nations due to the injury, but his chances of getting picked for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand have also been crushed.

Aviva Premiership Round 12 Wrap

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The English Premiership finished round 12 this past weekend and here is all the results and highlights….

Newcastle Falcons 30 Wasps 34

Jimmy Gopperth rose from the bench to secure a bonus-point 34-30 win for Wasps against Newcastle Falcons and ensure Dai Young’s side will start 2017 leading Aviva Premiership Rugby.

Wasps have scored more tries than any other Aviva Premiership Rugby side this season, but it was Dean Richards’ outfit who had gone over for two tries in five minutes thanks to Sonatane Takulua and Marcus Watson.

Danny Cipriani got Wasps back into contention with a chip-and-chase score after 21 minutes before Christian Wade gave Young’s men an unlikely lead a minute later when he was first to a Dan Robson kick.

But the momentum shifted again in Falcons’ favour, when Rob Vickers went over from close range and stand-off Joel Hodgson added a penalty.

Wasps had a final first-half salvo left through Thomas Young, with Cipriani’s conversion taking them to 22-21 at the break before his injury replacement Gopperth made an immediate impact with a converted try after 46 minutes.

Gopperth and Hodgson traded penalties, before Elliot Daly fired over a long-range penalty and the inspirational Mark Wilson scored Falcons’ bonus-point try.

It was the most breathless start at Kingston Park, Richards’ side gaining possession and full-back Alex Tait plucked a fine line to carve through the unsuspecting Wasps defence before shifting the ball to Takulua for the score.

Hodgson missed the conversion, but from the ensuing conversion the ball was allowed to bounce and Olympic silver medallist Watson collected the bobbling ball before hitting top speed in a flash and then hitch-kicking past the flat-footed Rob Miller.

A try-saving tackle from Opeti Fonua was followed swiftly by a superb rip on Kyle Eastmond by Takulua, with the Wasps centre over the line and a score seemingly certain.

Cipriani made the most of a ragged Newcastle defence to score Wasps’ first try of the evening after 20 minutes.

Falcons had set off on a counter deep in their own territory through Fonua, but when he found Watson, the winger’s offload went astray and as the ball was moved wide for Wasps, Cipriani spotted space, chipped in behind and scored a memorable individual score, which he converted.

In another flurry of action, Wade got Wasps’ second a moment later. Daly broke from deep, shifted to Robson and when the scrum-half put a kick ahead, Wade was first to the bouncing ball.

Cipriani’s conversion took Wasps ahead for the first time after 23 minutes, but Falcons were undimmed, coming straight back into the game after capitalising on a Wasps’ knock-on in their 22.

Fonua was again prominent as Falcons flooded forward before Vickers went over after a series of pick and goes, with Hodgson converting.

Hodgson extended the lead to 22-14 on 33 minutes after Eastmond was penalised for a dangerous tackle, but Young hit a plum short line off Robson to punch over for Wasps on 40 minutes, with Cipriani knocking the conversion over before leaving the field at half-time with an ankle injury.

A Fonua knock on had gifted Wasps possession just after the break and Gopperth finished smartly after six minutes of the first half, before his conversion took the visitors 28-22 ahead.

Hodgson pulled three points back with a penalty, but Gopperth replied two minutes later and despite Josh Bassett being sinbinned for a deliberate knock on, Falcons could not make their man advantage count.

Instead it was England centre Daly who thumped over a long-range penalty on 65 minutes, which took Wasps beyond a converted score.

Takulua had one lively break and the indefatigable Wilson bashed through the Wasps defence for a deserved score to set up a tight finish.

Bath Rugby 11 Exeter Chiefs 17

James Short’s breathtaking second-half double completed a phenomenal Exeter Chiefs comeback win as they downed Bath Rugby 17-11 at The Rec to leapfrog them into third place in Aviva Premiership Rugby.

George Ford had given Bath the lead with a penalty after 18 minutes following a scrum infringement and he doubled that from the tee ten minutes later.

But it was Semesa Rokoduguni who gave the hosts real impetus, first with a searing break that very nearly ended with a try and then by starting a brilliant counterattack before finishing powerfully in the corner.

Ford missed the conversion after  31 minutes and, other than a Gareth Steenson penalty, there was no score until James Short’s score in the 73rd minute, set up by Luke Cowan-Dickie’s superb skill before the exceptional Jack Nowell and Steenson paved the way for Short to go over and seal Exeter’s first ever Aviva Premiership Rugby win at The Rec.

Though it took nearly 20 minutes for Ford to record the game’s first points, Bath had an abundance of possession, with Chiefs holding up well in defence – their rush tactics keeping a lid on Bath’s livewire backs.

Rokoduguni very nearly put paid to that good work with a phenomenal break from inside his own half, collecting a high ball and rolling through several tackles before racing clear.

It took a miraculous tackle from England winger Nowell to deny Rokoduguni as the Fijian born flier tied up with the line beckoning.

Ford sent his second penalty over on 27 minutes after superb work at the scrum from new addition to Eddie Jones’ England squad Nathan Catt and Max Lahiff.

Rokoduguni was Bath’s game-breaker again with just under ten minutes to go. First, receiving a kick in the back field, he coasted through three tackles to take Blackadder’s side deep into the Exeter 22.

The ball went left to Matt Garvey, who was pulled down just short and then back wide right to Rokoduguni ten metres out with two men two beat, he hitch-kicked and barrelled through one tackles and as the second challenge came in, he reached to the line to finish.

Ford missed the conversion, but Blackadder’s men went in for the break 11-0 to the good.

Chiefs looked much sharper after half-time, but small mistakes continued to litter their play and Bath produced key turnovers at vital times, with No. 8 Zach Mercer adding to his growing reputation with a resilient defensive performance.

Anthony Watson came off the bench to replace Aled Brew  on 52 minutes for a first appearance since breaking his jaw in October.

Some superb midfield handling from Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Ben Tapuai very nearly put Watson in for a first score, but opposite man Jack Nowell helped deny his England colleague.

With the clock running down, Exeter’s chances looked to be slipping away, but Cowan-Dickie sent Short over in the corner as he burst through a tackle and juggled with a pass before palming the ball to his winger to cross with eight minutes left.

Man of the match Nowell then lit up The Rec as he carved through the Bath defence, the ball was then shifted wide to Steenson, who threw a pass between his lefs for Short to grab a remarkable second and Steenson completed the remarkable smash and grab effort with his second successful conversion.

Sale Sharks 23 Bristol  24

A late Max Crumpton try sealed a dramatic 24-23 win for Bristol over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday.

Sale were the better team in the opening quarter and they moved into a 15-0 lead through Denny Solomona’s effort and a penalty try.

Mark Tainton’s men did well to respond and were only five points in arrears at the interval after Jason Woodward’s three-pointer and Tom Varndell’s touchdown, a score which equalled Mark Cueto’s Premiership try-scoring record.

Although James Mitchell’s three-pointer and Johnny Leota’s try appeared to give the Sharks some breathing space, Rhodri Williams and Crumpton touched down to snatch the win.

Having struggled over recent weeks, the Manchester outfit needed a positive start and they eventually got it when a series of scrum infringements by the visitors ended in a sin-binning for Ryan Bevington.

With the away side under pressure referee Ian Tempest duly awarded a penalty try, a score which James Mitchell converted for a 7-0 buffer. Solomona then crossed the whitewash after he collected Mike Haley’s grubber before Mitchell made it 15-0 in the hosts’ favour with a three-pointer.

Bristol could have folded at that stage but they displayed commendable spirit and deservedly got back into the contest. Woodward initially ate into that lead from the tee before Varndell scampered over following the full-back’s impressive surge.

Sale regained control at the start of the second period when Mitchell kicked a penalty and Dan Tuohy then saw yellow for collapsing a maul. Under duress the visitors succumbed as Leota touched down but, to their credit, Tainton’s side once again displayed their character.

Varndell’s break ended in Williams going over before Rob Webber was yellow carded. Down to 14 men, the hosts failed to cope and Crumpton finished in the corner to reduce the deficit to one point. That left Woodward with a tough conversion but, having nailed pretty much every other effort in the contest, the full-back made no mistake from the tee to secure an incredible win.

Saracens 16 Leicester 12

Saracens started the new year with a win on the road as they beat Leicester 16-12 on Sunday, moving one point behind leaders Wasps.

Injury to Manu Tuilagi was cause for concern early on, the Leicester centre was brought down by three men before limping away from the action.

On the scoreboard, Owen Farrell and Owen Williams kept it ticking over with two first-half penalties apiece to send the sides in level.

 Both players had slightly more erratic second halves from the tee but Farrell was able to add a crucial try which proved to be the difference.

Victory sees Saracens retain second place in the Premiership, behind Wasps. Meanwhile, the losing bonus point does not affect the Tigers’ league position as they remain fifth.

In front of Eddie Jones, England man Tuilagi was forced off with what appeared to be a knee injury with 11 minutes played. Owen Williams kicked a penalty for Leicester once the centre was off the pitch to send Tigers into an early lead.

An offside ruling from JP Doyle gave Saracens a chance to draw level in the 24th minute. Farrell was typically unerring in his execution of the kick to make the score 3-3.

The visitors took the lead with a fantastic penalty kick from Farrell after 31 minutes. Tom Youngs was penalised for not rolling away and Farrell’s kick from 40 metres was successful, nudging Sarries into a three-point lead.

Leicester levelled things up with a second penalty from Williams five minutes before the break. This meant that the sides went into half-time level at 6-6.

Williams nudged Leicester back into the lead six minutes after the break. A long-range effort from 45 metres needed the assistance of the crossbar to go over but it was successful and made the score 9-6.

Sarries scored the first try of the match after 54 minutes. Brad Barritt stole the ball off Williams before playing in the England man who threw a dummy before running clean through past the stationary Tigers defence. Farrell added the extras himself to make the score 13-9.

The visitors nudged themselves into a seven-point advantage with a 71st minute penalty from Farrell. Tigers hit back straight away with a penalty once more from the boot of Williams, but couldn’t find the try to salvage a late win.

Worcester 24 Harlequins 17

Worcester withstood a late onslaught from Harlequins to secure a 24-17 victory at Sixways in the Premiership on Sunday.

It was a bleak first 40 for Harlequins, who found a scoreless half send them 16-0 behind at the break at Sixways.

Dean Hammond went over for the only try of the half as Worcester dominated the first 40. Ben Te’o increased the lead with a second try after the break, and although Matthews and Alofa went over, Worcester held on for their first win since October.

A line-out five metres from the line caused havoc eight minutes in, with Hammond finding the space to cross in the corner for the first score. The conversion followed to put Warriors firmly on the front foot.

Continuing to dominate in the opening half hour, Worcester were able to turn their possession into more points before the break, with Quins struggling to get any momentum. Ryan Mills struck through two penalties to increase the advantage, before two yellows slowed down the play.

The first was issued to Worcester’s Darren Barry for an infringement, followed by Quins also falling to 14. They lost Joe Marler in a desperate defensive moment as the hosts threatened a second try. He missed the first 10 of the second half – as Worcester made it an even worse afternoon for Quins.

Te’o got try number two just after the restart, showing supreme strength to batter his way through the Harlequins backline and over the try line. The half calmed down after full numbers were restored following the late yellow cards, before Quins finally woke up as the second half wore on.

A steady burst of attacks produced their first try, Matthews grounding after the visitors continued to knock at the Warriors door. The try was converted, and the rejuvenated Quins continued to show a new lease on life as they seriously threatened a comeback.

Mills halted that hope though with another penalty edging Worcester into a 24-7 advantage, but it was far from over. Alofa reduced the arrears with a second try with five left to play, before a Tim Swiel conversion and penalty ensured the visitors would take home a bonus point thanks to their late fightback.

Northampton 13 Gloucester 12

A penalty try seven minutes from time gave Northampton a narrow 13-12 win over Gloucester at Kingsholm Stadium on Sunday.

The Cherry and Whites played much the better rugby in the opening exchanges and were rewarded for their intent with a 9-0 half-time lead. All the points came from the boot of Billy Burns.

However, the influence of Teimana Harrison dragged Saints back into the match after the break. Stephen Myler’s boot provided six points while Burns added another to keep Gloucester in the lead.

David Humphreys’ side was put under severe pressure late on and they couldn’t hold out. David Halaifonua’s deliberate knock-on meant that the visitors were awarded a penalty try. Myler was on hand to clinch the win with a conversion under the posts in his 300th Saints appearance.

Gloucester dominated the ball in the opening stages and seized advantage with a penalty from Burns after 10 minutes. Burns doubled the hosts’ lead after 31 minutes, the Saints pack was dominated by a Cherry and Whites scrum to concede a penalty. Burns was reliable in his execution to send his side into a six-point lead.

The final score of the half came from the boot of Burns in the 35th minute. Matthew Carley spotted a Northampton jersey entering a maul from the side and awarded a penalty to be dispatched once more by Burns to ensure Gloucester held a 9-0 lead at the interval.

Saints started the second-half very well and were rewarded early on with a penalty. Stephen Myler went for the posts and was successful with his attempt, cutting the deficit to six points. Myler cut the deficit even further 12 minutes later with another penalty.

However, Gloucester regained their six-point advantage in the 62nd minute, the penalty coming once again from the right boot of Burns to make the score 12-6. Northampton snatched victory late on in the 74th minute, a deliberate knock-on from Halaifonua led to Matthew Carley awarding a penalty try to Saints with help from the TMO.

Myler added the conversion from under the posts to make the final score 12-13 in dramatic fashion.

Aviva Premiership Wrap

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Sale Sharks 3 Exeter Chiefs 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bath Rugby 14 Saracens 11

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gloucester Rugby 26 Bristol Rugby 18

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Leicester Tigers 19 Northampton Saints 11

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Newcastle Falcons 38 Harlequins 32

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worcester Warriors 12 Wasps 26

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Bothma signs for Harlequin

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Harlequins have announced the signing of Namibia captain Renaldo Bothma, who will join the Premiership club ahead of the 2017/18 season.

The powerful ball carrying number eight will join from the Bulls.

Confirming the news Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston said: “Renaldo is one of the most destructive ball carriers in world rugby and so I am absolutely delighted to have secured his services on a long-term contract.

“As captain of his country, he also brings strong leadership qualities.

“He chose Harlequins over other options around the world and his signing is a major statement of where we want to take this great club over the coming years.”

A product of the Sharks Academy he has played 78 Currie Cup matches, most prominently for the Mpumalanga based Pumas.

In 2015 he made his Super Rugby debut for the Sharks and after spending the 2015 off-season with Japanese side Toyota Verblitz, he joined the Bulls in 2016.

Qualifying for Namibia through his mother, the 27-year-old made his international debut in 2014 against Kenya. Bothma played a key role in helping his country qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and made three appearances in the tournament against New Zealand, Tonga and Georgia.

He was appointed as captain of Namibia in June 2016 and has 13 international caps to his name, scoring 40 points.

Commenting on the announcement, Bothma added: “I’m really excited to move to England next summer and positively impact Harlequins. I’ve signed a long-term deal and I’m wanting to play a big role in helping grow the Club and bring it to even higher heights.

“I’m a big believer in a positive playing environment and from speaking to John Kingston, it is very clear that this is how Harlequins operates. The Club has a great vibe and there is a huge family friendly nature to it.

“I have another Super Rugby season with the Bulls to concentrate on and I will be giving it my all before my move to England.”

Source: Planet Rugby

Aviva Premiership Round 7 Wrap

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Northampton Saints 23 Gloucester Rugby 20

Tom Kessell came off the bench to earn Northampton Saints a much-needed Aviva Premiership Rugby victory over Gloucester Rugby, in a topsy-turvy encounter at Franklin’s Gardens.

The hosts earned themselves a ten-point advantage at the interval, courtesy of Louis Picamoles’ powerful effort and three from the tee from Stephen Myler – the first of which took him past 1500 Aviva Premiership Rugby points.

And while two tries for Gloucester’s Jacob Rowan and Charlie Sharples turned the match on its head, up popped scrum-half Kessell to burrow over the whitewash for what proved to be the decisive score from Picamoles’ offload.

Gloucester started well as Richard Hibbard combined with Mariano Galarza, but as the visitors bore down on Saints line, the ball was lost forwards.

The Cherry & Whites were piling pressure on at the breakdown, and when full-back Ben Foden was caught stranded after a chip through, Matt Scott was straight over the top to win an eighth-minute penalty – although Laidlaw uncharacteristically slid his kick wide across the posts.

Saints threatened on 11 minutes when centre Harry Mallinder found some space which George North exploited to finish brilliantly, but Northampton were then called back for forward pass in the offload.

Saints were again pinged for not releasing on 13 minutes, but the radar was well and truly off for Laidlaw who again failed to make them pay from the tee, this time pushing his effort right.

And the breakthrough finally came after 25 minutes when Ben Foden’s brilliant sniping run allowed Louis Picamoles to take on the ball just five metres out, and the French powerhouse muscled his way through the Cherry & Whites’ defences to score the first try of the game – with the try eventually awarded via the TMO.

Myler made no mistake with the conversion, and that was a significant kick from the fly-half as it took him to 1,500 Aviva Premiership Rugby points.

And the No.10 turned the screw moments later with an arrow-straight 40-metre penalty after John Afoa played it on the floor to make it 10-0 to the Saints.

Laidlaw came good with his third penalty of the night to reduce arrears after Picamoles was pinged on 34 minutes, but Myler restored the ten-point advantage before the break after Alex Waller forced a Gloucester infringement in the scrum.

But some harsh words at half-time from David Humphreys clearly did the trick for Gloucester, who came roaring back five minutes into the second half.

Billy Twelvetrees took advantage of some indecision from the hosts to collect Laidlaw’s box-kick, and the Cherry & Whites spread the ball wide for Rowan to go over in the corner for his first Aviva Premiership Rugby try.

Laidlaw’s touchline conversion bisected the posts, and although another Myler penalty gave Northampton some breathing room on 52 minutes when Tom Savage was offside, the Scottish scrum-half soon cancelled that out when Gloucester won a scrum penalty deep in Saints territory.

England skipper Dylan Hartley was introduced just before the hour mark, but the Cherry & Whites were on the charge and after a brilliant passage of play involving carries from Matt Scott and Ross Moriarty, Twelvetrees put Sharples over in the corner to send his side into the lead for the first time.

Hibbard put in a try-scoring tackle on Harry Mallinder moments later after another thrilling Foden burst, but Northampton were not to be denied.

An excellent lineout play saw replacement Kessell cross the whitewash after Hartley threw long, and Picamoles again was the man to offload at the perfect moment.

James Hook’s penalty attempt from halfway was on target but fell just short on 73 minutes, and Northampton clung on in the dying embers of the match to inflict a first away loss of the season on Gloucester.

Saracens 24 Leicester Tigers 10

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Saracens have enjoyed a great recent run against Leicester Tigers and the Aviva Premiership Rugby champions extended that run with a convincing 24-10 win at Allianz Park.

With just one loss all season, Mark McCall’s side are once more positioning themselves as the team to beat in England, and ran in three tries to extend their lead at the top of the table.

First-half scores from wing duo Chris Wyles and Sean Maitland allowed them to open up a comfortable 17-3 lead at the break.

Billy Vunipola then went over early in the second before brother Mako was sin-binned but Leicester struggled to take advantage initially.

However with virtually his first involvement George Catchpole crossed and the rest of the half saw the visitors on the front foot but unable to go over again, and have still not won away to Saracens since 2012.

Saracens were first on the scoreboard with their ability to do the basics well crucial to Wyles’ score. Winning the ball from a Leicester lineout, they went through three phases in the 22, before was played out to the wing through the hands with Jackson Wray delivering the final pass to the American to cross in the left corner. Owen Farrell converted from the touchline to make it 7-0.

Leicester responded with a penalty from Owen Williams after the home side had failed to roll away at the breakdown while inside their 22.Farrell added a first penalty of the afternoon to stretch Saracens’ lead back to seven, and they had soon extended it with a fine try for winger Maitland. After Alex Goode and Farrell had combined brilliantly, the fly-half drawing the defender before putting Goode through a hole, the full-back then floated the ball out to Maitland to cross. Farrell duly converted to stretch the lead to 17-3.

He could have stretched the lead even further just before the break, but his penalty attempt bounced away off the outside of the post.

Deprived of injured duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje, the pressure was on the Saracens pack to show what they were made of, and they did just that early in the second half.

With a lineout inside the Leicester 22, Saracens turned to their maul, and quickly identified a weak point, powering through a crumbling defence before Billy Vunipola reached over. Farrell again converted.

It looked a long way back for Leicester, but their task was made a little easier just after the hour when Mako Vunipola was sent to the bin for taking out Freddie Burns after a little kick over the top.

Richard Cockerill replaced World Cup winner JP Pietersen with Catchpole and the move paid off. Burns spotted a gap in the Saracens defence and made the initial break and after quick ball from the next phase, Catchpole held off three defenders to crash over. Owen Williams converted.

The victory looked beyond them but there was still a chance of a losing bonus point. However a huge tackle on Ellis Genge from Brad Barritt forced a knock-on and the Tigers never got back into position to score.

Harlequins 36 Worcester Warriors 14

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Joe Marchant’s intercept try brought up the bonus point as Harlequins brushed aside Worcester Warriors in a dominant second half.

Worcester were bright for much of the first 40 and went into the break at 7-7 after Jackson Willison had responded to Danny Care’s early opening try.

But James Horwill and Mike Brown caught the Warriors cold within the first ten minutes of the second half, and despite a try for a lively Ben Te’o, Marchant killed off the game in the final quarter before Tim Visser finished off proceedings.

The Warriors, who won in Aviva Premiership Rugby at the Stoop last season, looked full of vim and vigour from the off – with England prospect Te’o in particular making great strides through the Harlequins line.

But Harlequins opened the scoring and it was gift – Lamb, moments after missing a drop-goal, found a lurking Tim Visser and no one could catch the Scotland international before he sent Care over.

By the tenth minute Worcester were level as a well-crafted lineout move ending up in the hands of Te’o, who shrugged off a tackle and gave Willison a simple finish.

Big carries from Marland Yarde and Luke Wallace helped Harlequins get on top of the visitors for a spell, but a combination of poor passing and rugged defence – with wing Dean Hammond a standout – quelled the threat.

With Joe Marler sin binned for collapsing a maul, Worcester ended the second half on the ascendancy but could add no further points.

The best chance fell to Alafoti Fa’osiliva and, despite his superb break, the Samoan flanker missed a wide open Willison perched on his shoulder.

Quins raced out of the blocks on the turnaround and Hammond denied Visser before the hosts made the breakthrough.

Former Australia captain Horwill plunged over following an irrepressible rolling maul and Nick Evans’ conversion made it a seven-point lead.

And it seemed as if the Warriors were sinking without trace when Brown scythed through from just inside the 22-metre line and finished.

But to their credit the away side came roaring back as Lamb caused hesitance among the Harlequins ranks with his delayed pass to Willison – with Te’o then getting the try his general play deserved.

Jamie Shillcock, taking over kicking duties from Lamb, reduced the deficit to seven.

Phil Dowson’s intercept nearly gave Worcester parity on the hour but the 35-year-old did not quite have the legs of Visser and was caught five metres short of the line.

Shortly after, Evans penalty stretched Quins’ lead out to beyond a converted try before Marchant slammed the door shut on Worcester.

From the restart, Lamb was again intercepted deep into Worcester territory and the speedy Marchant streaked clear to put Harlequins 29-14 to the good with 15 minutes to go.

Visser then grabbed the try his performance deserved after replacement Alofa Alofa put him through at the death.

Bristol Rugby 13 Sale Sharks 31

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Sale Sharks claimed their first away win of the season, and a bonus point, with a comfortable Aviva Premiership Rugby victory over Bristol Rugby at Ashton Gate on Sunday.

Paolo Odogwu and Mike Haley both crossed for tries in the first half as Steve Diamond’s side – in their first meeting with Bristol since 2009 – opened up a 12-0 lead at the interval.

After the break Byron McGuigan went over while Andy Robinson’s side, who are still waiting for their first win of the campaign, only had two Shane Geraghty penalties to show for their efforts.

Bristol have conceded at least four tries in each of their last five fixtures at Ashton Gate and late on the Sharks secured the bonus point when replacement prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts barrelled over.

There was still time for young flanker Tom Curry to go over for their fifth try while the home side grabbed a late consolation through David Lemi.

The Ashton Gate crowd were in good voice from the outset and Andy Robinson’s men started brightly.

But Gavin Henson – only just back from a dead leg sustained in round one – went off injured while Sale lost their goalkicker Will Addison as well in some bruising early exchanges.

But it was the visitors – who last won on their travels on the final day of last season – who drew first blood just before the 20-minute mark.

With Addison off with a head injury, a penalty that would normally have been kickable was sent to the corner and the Sharks forward pack got to work.

They tied in defenders with a number of short range charges up to the line and when the ball went left Odogwu was too quick to slide over in the corner.

McGuigan took over the kicking duties for the Sharks and missed the tough conversion but the away side were on top and soon had a second.

This time it was Haley – who celebrated his first England call-up on Wednesday – who scythed through the middle after Sam James’ delayed pass released him and the full-back rounded his opposite man to dot down.

This time McGuigan converted and it was 12-0 to the Sharks at the break.

Andy Robinson’s men needed a boost at the start of the second half but instead it only got worse as James conjured up a superb third for the away side.

The fly-half gathered his own dink over the top on halfway, stepped past the covering tackle before firing a superb pass out to McGuigan and the winger won the foot race to touch down in the corner.

This time McGuigan could not add the conversion but the Sharks were 17-0 to the good and Ashton Gate was in a stunned silence.

The hosts needed something to boost them and Shane Geraghty slotted two penalties before the hour mark to trim the lead to 17-6 and when Sale had hooker Neil Briggs sent to the sin bin the hosts sniffed a comeback.

But the Sharks weathered the storm well when down to 14 men and when Briggs returned they had their bonus point score, replacement prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts burrowing over from short range.

McGuigan added the conversion and as the game entered the final quarter the Sharks had already done enough, leading 24-6.

And there was still time for Curry to go over under the posts, collecting Haley’s offload after another searing break from the full-back.

Bristol rallied late on and Lemi went over for a late consolation but the day belonged to the Sharks as their third league win of the season lifted them back into the top six.

Exeter Chiefs 10 Bath Rugby 13

Semesa Rokoduguni broke Exeter Chiefs hearts after his 89th minute try secured a famous 13-10 Bath Rugby win at Sandy Park.

Mitch Lees’ score from a powerful Exeter driving maul looked to have rescued victory for Chiefs, but Bath’s powerful scrum ensured piled on the pressure as the game built to a thrilling crescendo and Rokoduguni added the finishing touched.

George Ford missed two kickable penalties in the first half, while Gareth Steenson knocked over an easy three points to ensure Rob Baxter’s men had the slenderest of leads at the break.

Exeter reverted to their traditional strengths for their only try, but it was not enough as Bath moved clear of Leicester Tigers in third place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table and only two points behind second-place Wasps.

Ford missed an early kickable penalty from in front of the posts and the sides remained scoreless until the 16th minute when Kahn Fotuali’i was penalised for hands in the ruck and Steenson made no mistake with the easy kick.

The Samoan scrum-half looked to make amends moments  later, tapping quickly from a scrum penalty, but after he was pulled back by Ian Tempest for going too early, Ford again missed a straightforward shot on goal.

Bath had the better of possession for the most part, but an interception late in the first half saw Exeter bombarding the visitors’ line only for Dave Lewis to throw two wayward passes that put his side under pressure.

Some superb work at the breakdown from Matt Garvey then releaved the pressure on Bath, as the half ended with a penalty kicked into touch.

Dave Atwood looked to have celebrated his England call-up in emphatic fashion as he powered home from 25 metres immediately at, but Tempest spotted a forward pass and the lock was denied.

It was Ford instead who started the second half on the right foot, putting over a penalty after four minutes, but again both sides saw their build-up play punctuated with handling errors as defence dominated.

England No. 10 Ford struck a vital blow with less than 15 minutes to play, kicking a fine penalty to put Bath ahead for the first time.

But when Chiefs’ pack started to rumble from a way out with ten minutes left, they looked unstoppable and when Lees bundled over, Sandy Park looked set for a hard-fought Exeter win.

After a series of re-set scrums, Ford almost set Rokoduguni away down the right wing with an accurate tackle, but he was collared and Bath recycled the ball.

Bath refused to wilt and Blackadder watched on as England man Rokoduguni barged through several tackles to silence the Sandy Park crowd before Ford knocked over the conversion.

Wasps 31 Newcastle Falcons 6

Joe Launchbury

Jimmy Gopperth grabbed a last-gasp try to earn Wasps a bonus point as they saw off the challenge of Newcastle Falcons to remain unbeaten in Aviva Premiership Rugby at the Ricoh Arena this season.

Wasps arrived into this game unbeaten in their last six fixtures with the Falcons, and at half-time looked odds on to extend that run as they led 17-3 thanks to a Frank Halai score, a penalty try and the boot of Jimmy Gopperth.

And it was a similar story after the interval as despite some Falcons pressure they finished the game with just two Mike Delany penalties to show for their efforts.

As for Wasps, they were able to celebrate two second-half scores from ex-Falcon Gopperth – the last coming in the final play to earn them the bonus point win.

The game started at a ferocious pace with both sides looking for an early score, but after eight minutes there was a lengthy delay in the action as Marty Moore was stretchered off, with Jake Cooper-Wooley replacing him in the Wasps front row.

When play resumed Wasps stole a Falcons lineout 25m from their tryline and charged up the field. Rob Miller went through a hole and although he was halted by Michael Young the home side were awarded a penalty and Jimmy Gopperth nailed the resulting kick for a 14th-minute lead.

That gave Wasps confidence and just moments later Joe Launchbury broke and the ball was recycled to Kyle Eastmond who’s pass was deliberately knocked on by Simon Hammersley. The Falcons full-back was sin-binned and referee Craig Maxwell-Keys awarded the home side a penalty try.

And things got even better for Wasps as just a minute later winger Frank Halai raced onto an Elliot Daly chip over the top to dot down, with Gopperth adding the touchline conversion for a commanding 17-0 lead with a quarter of the game gone.

This woke Newcastle up but after winning a penalty in front of the posts for an illegal tackle on Marcus Watson the Falcons went for the try but couldn’t find a way past some dogged Wasps defending as Ashley Johnson forced the turnover.

Next it was Wasps’ turn to go through phases but the Falcons held firm with Sinoti Sinoti bundling Johnson into touch.

And Newcastle did have something to shout about before the interval as with the last kick of the half Mike Delany slotted a penalty to get the Falcons on the scoreboard.

Visitors Newcastle started the second half on the front foot and Delany kicked his second penalty on 51 minutes to reduce the deficit.

And just after the hour mark the visitors pressed for a try with Daly holding Dominic Waldouck just short of the line on the left flank, with Juan Pablo Socino bundling over only for the TMO to rule out the score when it was adjudged he had knocked on under pressure.

The Falcons kept breathing down Wasps necks but Nathan Huges turned the ball over under the home side’s posts and Gopperth was able to clear.

At the other end it was Wasps’ turn to be denied by the TMO as Guy Thompson raced onto a Danny Cipriani kick and looked to have dotted down, only for Sinoti to have got to the ball first.

But with ten minutes left Wasps were celebrating another try as Launchbury push the hosts forward and Gopperth raced through to dot down before converting his own score for a 24-6 lead.

Wasps went in search of the bonus point fourth try and they got it with the last play of the game, with Gopperth racing through on Cipriani’s shoulder to grab his second score of the game, getting up to add the extras for the 31-6 victory.

Read more at Premiership Rugby 

Clubs warn Eddie Jones over intensity of England training camps

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Eddie Jones, the England coach, will be told to be more considerate with the timing and intensity of his future training camps in a clear-the-air meeting with Premiership directors of rugby on Thursday, write  Daniel Schofield for the Telegraph

Last week, three players suffered long-term injuries at the two-day camp in Brighton, with Wasps flanker Sam Jones breaking a leg in a judo session, Bath full-back Anthony Watson fracturing his jaw and Exeter Chiefs wing Jack Nowell suffering a torn quad muscle.  All three will miss England’s four-Test Old Mutual Wealth autumn series that begins against South Africa on Nov 12.

Sam jones
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A number of other players returned from the south coast to their clubs battered and bruised leading to a war of words between Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union over what was permitted within the camps.

Tempers have appeared to have calmed since then with directors of rugby such as Wasps’ Dai Young striking a more conciliatory note. Young and Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, will be at the meeting in London on Thursday, although a number of coaches, such as Leicester Tigers’ Richard Cockerill, Northampton Saints’ Jim Mallinder, Exeter’s Rob Baxter and Harlequins’ John Kingston, who met Jones on Wednesday, are unable to attend due to other commitments.

Mallinder has already told Phil Winstanley, the Premiership’s rugby director, that England coaching staff need to be more solicitous of Premiership clubs when staging camps during the middle of the season.

Northampton Saints’ Jim Mallinder has been unhappy with how England have treated his players
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“That is certainly my feeling,” Mallinder said. “For England it is getting players together and I guess they are running their camps in isolation to what is happening elsewhere. We know from a club point of view that we are in a series of six really tough games and there are players who have played on a Saturday doing things on a Monday and Tuesday that we would never ask them to do.

“I don’t think that necessarily means that we should be running or dictating what England do in camps or sessions. It would be certainly nice if the England management took us into consideration.

“We had four people there and two [Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes] didn’t train. That didn’t affect them at all. Two of the lads [Teimana Harrison and Paul Hill] had only been on the bench the week before so actually they went into the session really looking forward to it. It was very hard, very physical and they came back really tired, but actually they enjoyed it. If either of them had played 80 minutes the week before then I think we would be having a different conversation.”

Mallinder also confirmed that Hartley, the England captain, had resumed live scrummaging practice, although he would still appear to be unlikely to figure in Northampton’s Champions Cup match against Montpellier on Saturday.

Under the terms of the £225 million deal struck between the RFU and Premiership Rugby this summer, Jones is entitled to call upon players for six days of training time outside of the international window, which this season was divided into three two-day camps. The next is set to be held in January.

Yet the clubs’ frustration is not fixed on a single target. Baxter, the Exeter head coach, was angry at how Nowell’s thigh was initially misdiagnosed by England medical staff and questioned whether the players were being correctly managed physically. McCall, meanwhile, had far less issue with Jones and his methods than he did with how Premiership Rugby had allowed the camp to be staged 10 days before their Champions Cup group stage match against Toulon this Saturday. “My issue was with the timing of the first camp,” McCall said. “I’d have preferred it to be at a different time to allow us to play the way we wanted to for the Champions Cup.

“It’s for Premiership Rugby to answer the question about the lack of constraints and the content. It’s up to Eddie what happens in the camp because that’s what is in the agreement. We can’t blame England for everything. They’re entitled to do what they think is right in these camps.

“This shouldn’t be a fight. The best thing for both parties is for it to be a cooperative relationship and there is no reason why it won’t be.”

Premiership clubs want England to take better care of their players
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Young has also extended an olive branch, saying there should not be a “big brother” in the relationship between club and country.

In some ways, it is a mark of how far that alliance between the RFU and the Premiership has improved that this type of flashpoint has become relatively rare under Jones and his predecessor Stuart Lancaster, whereas once outright hostility was the default setting between club and country.

Cockerill, the Leicester director of rugby, remembers those feuds all too well and also made the point that the players bear some responsibility for overexerting themselves in an effort to impress Jones. “I’ve been involved with it for the last 10 years, I’ve had these arguments with every England coach,” Cockerill said. “There’s no point having the argument because they [the players] will go. To be fair the set-up there has been really positive, they’re well coached, the conditioning is good, the medical is good, people are going to get injured.

“They all want to play against South Africa. They’re going to push themselves, they want to be in the mix, they’re going to under-report their aches and pains. That’s what they do. I was one of those blokes.”

What’s at stake on Thursday? | By Gavin Mairs

What is the meeting about?

Premiership Rugby are hosting a meeting between the club’s directors of rugby and England head coach Eddie Jones at Heathrow. It was a scheduled meeting – one of four each quarter – being hosted by PRL’s director of rugby Phil Winstanley. A number of clubs will not be attending however because of commitments ahead of the start of the European competitions this weekend.

What is on the agenda?

The get-togethers are a designed to improve communication and relationships between the England management team and the clubs over the release and training of players. The fall-out following last week’s England training camp in Brighton will be top of the agenda however, given the injuries to Sam Jones, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell and Premiership Rugby’s criticism of the intensity of the sessions.

What the two parties hope to achieve?

Some of the clubs who are not able to attend are understood to have sent their thoughts about last week’s camp to Winstanley for discussion with Jones. If the criticism of the England camp last week was the first sign of discontent under the Jones regime, there is a strong desire between both parties to make amends.

Are the clubs happy with Premiership Rugby?

While Premiership Rugby pointed the finger at the England management last Thursday over the intensity of the camp, several directors of rugby, including Saracens’ Mark McCall, are frustrated that not enough consideration was taken to agreeing the timing of the camps in the negotiations between Premiership Rugby and the RFU. Premiership Rugby could also be forced to give answers today.

Aviva Premiership Round 5 Wrap

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Worcester Warriors earned their first win of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season this weekend and second row Darren Barry hailed the squad’s spirit following the 11-9 win over Newcastle Falcons.

Wynand Olivier scored the game’s only try when he capitalised on a mistake from Sinoti Sinoti in a tight and physical affair between two teams who have so far struggled for consistency.

The Warriors have drawn twice already this season, against Sale Sharks and Gloucester Rugby, but finally found a way over the line, much to the relief of Barry.

“We spoke about how important this was in the week. I would not say it was a relief but it is nice to get a win, although I think we deserved more from some of our other matches,” he said.

“That is a big thing about the squad this year, we always look after each other.

“The result might not always be perfect and the performance might not always be perfect but you have got 15 guys out on that pitch that will work hard for each other.”

Wasps’ flying start to the season continued with a five-try victory over Harlequins on Sunday afternoon and director of rugby Dai Young hailed his side’s clinical edge.

Guy Thompson, Dan Robson and Elliot Daly all crossed for tries in just 12 first-half minutes to lead 26-18 at the break and Christian Wade, Kyle Eastmond and Josh Bassett all crossed the whitewash in the second period.

“We were ruthless without a shadow of doubt – we had four visits to their 22 in the first half and scored four tries,” Young said.

“That’s something we’ve talked about constantly, and which has been a drum I’ve been banging since I’ve been here and it’s perhaps taken a while to sink in.

“I thought we showed some real attacking intent and scored some great tries, and the real exciting factor for me is that there is still a lot more to come from us.”

Saracens are three points behind Wasps at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table after their 39-0 victory over newly-promoted Bristol Rugby.

And Saracens director of rugby highlighted Alex Lozowski, recently called up to the England squad, for his impressive performance and 14-point haul which included two tries.

“He was third choice at Wasps last season, but Owen (Farrell) has got an injury, and he has been chucked in at the deep end and done pretty well,” Young said.

“We saw a player with real growth and potential. What he needed was some time in the saddle and just playing games, and he is getting that now with Owen’s injury.

“I thought it was a really good professional performance by us. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought we dominated the game and dominated field position.”

Elsewhere around Aviva Premiership Rugby, George North’s powerful try and assist for Rory Hutchinson saw Northampton Saints fight back from 13 points down to beat Exeter Chiefs 20-19.

Harry Mallinder kicked ten vital points for the home side who inflicted the Chiefs third defeat of the season despite Olly Woodburn’s try.

In the South-West derby, Bath Rugby came out on top to maintain their place in the top four with a 15-6 win over near-neighbours Gloucester Rugby.

Anthony Watson and Matt Banahan both scored tries to give Bath the local bragging rights and leave Gloucester with just the sole victory this season.

Finally, Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks shared seven tries but it was the Sharks who came out on top at the AJ Bell Stadium with a 34-30 win.

Mike Phillips, Johnny Leota and Paolo Odogwu all crossed the whitewash in the first half while centre Peter Betham replied for the Tigers with a pair of scores himself.

Halani Aulika got the try bonus point for the home side in the second half with Adam Thompstone earning a losing bonus point for the Tigers late on.

Will Addison kicked 14 points for the Sharks while opposing fly-half Owen Williams knocked over three penalties and three conversions for the Tigers who stay fourth.

Sunday

Wasps

Tries: Johnson, Thompson, Robson, Daly, Wade, Eastmond, Bassett
Conversions: Gopperth 6

Harlequins

Tries: Roberts, Chisholm
Conversions: Swiel
Penalties: Swiel 2

Referee: Greg Garner
Attendance: 16,004

Worcester Warriors

Tries: Olivier
Penalties: Heathcote, Lamb

Newcastle Falcons

Penalties: Delany (2), Hodgson

Referee: Tom Foley
Attendance: 6,375

Saturday

Northampton Saints

Tries: North, Hutchinson
Conversions: Mallinder 2
Penalties: Mallinder 2

Exeter Chiefs

Tries: Woodburn
Conversions: Steenson
Penalties: Steension 4

Referee: Matthew Carley
Attendance: 13,901

Sale

Tries: Phillips, Leota, Odogwu, Aulika
Conversions: Addison 4
Penalties: Addison 2

Leicester

Tries: Betham 2, Thompstone
Conversions: Williams 3
Penalties: Williams 3

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Attendance: 7,509

Gloucester Rugby

Penalties: Hook, Laidlaw

Bath Rugby

Tries: Watson, Banahan
Conversions: Ford
Drop-goals: Ford

Referee: J P Doyle
Attendance: 16,115

Friday

Bristol Rugby

Saracens

Tries: Lozowski 2, Wyles, George, Kruis
Conversions: Ben Spencer 2, Lozowski 2
Penalties: Ben Spencer 2

Referee: Ian Tempest
Attendance: 11,592

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Aviva Premiership Wrap Round 3

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Saracens 27 Northampton Saints 12

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall admitted that Northampton Saints had been the better side in the first half at Allianz Park before they eventually came back for a third win of the season.

The defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions had the wind at their backs in the first half, but turned around 9-9, and trailed early in the second half after a fourth Stephen Myler penalty.

But Alex Waller’s yellow card, followed by Jamie George’s opening try, turned the tide and from their Saracens never looked back in a 27-12 success, much to McCall’s delight.

McCall said: “We were second-best in the first half. We allowed some things to get under our skin a little bit. Their line speed was tremendous, and we couldn’t get any quick ball.

“We weren’t quite ourselves in the first half, but I thought in the second half we did a phenomenal job. The most encouraging thing was that we found a way to win while not being at our best.”

It was a frustrating result for Northampton, who have a good record at Saracens and performed well in the first half with France No.8 Louis Picamoles particularly prominent with ball in hand.

But they paid the price for indiscipline, with Waller followed by Sam Dickinson into the bin, and Jim Mallinder admitted they couldn’t afford to do that against a team of the calibre of Saracens.

He said: “They (Saracens) are tough enough to beat when you have got 15 men, but when you are down to 14 for 20 minutes (Dickinson was sin-binned later in the game), you are really up against it.

“I thought we did pretty well for 55 minutes, or so. We put them under pressure, and we defended with the passion and intensity that we needed to.

“They were spilling ball and we were beginning to get into them, and then a moment of madness, really, from Alex Waller started our downfall.”

Saracens

Tries: George, Penalty

Con: Lozowski

Pen: Lozowski 5

Northampton Saints

Pen: Myler 4

Bath Rugby 37 Worcester Warriors 22

Leroy Houston praised the support he received as he enjoyed a memorable return to The Rec with a try and a 37-22 victory for Bath Rugby over Worcester Warriors.

The Australian back rower left the club to rejoin Queensland Reds at the end of last year but was recalled to the West Country as injury cover and his name received a huge response from the Bath faithful prior to kick-off.

And despite trailing 17-6 at half-time, Houston was one of four Bath try scorers in the second half as Anthony Watson, Matt Banahan and Semesa Rokoduguni all crossed for the win.

“It felt like I had never left. I was just happy to be back with the boys,” said Houston.

“The support here is unbelievable. I’m still on a high because they show me so much love. I didn’t expect to score a try at all.

“I’m here for six weeks, just covering for Taulupe Faletau, until he gets back from injury. Then I’m back to Australia with the Reds.

“I’m hoping to get back into contention for the Wallaby autumn tour coming up.”

The Warriors had started well with Niall Annett and Dean Hammond crossing in the first half as they outplayed their hosts for the first 40.

Perry Humphreys also crossed the whitewash to put Worcester within touching distance of a try bonus point but they left The Rec completely empty-handed.

Worcester head coach Carl Hogg praised the endeavour his side showed in the first half and George Ford’s quality in capitalising on Warriors mistakes after the break.

“I thought in the first half we were excellent. Ball in hand, we showed real enterprise and caused Bath some issues defensively,” he said.

“The game obviously swung on a 10-minute window in the second half when we made back-to-back errors and someone of George Ford’s quality exploited it.

“We showed great endeavour in our first two games against Sale and Gloucester, predominantly defensively.

“But ball in hand we showed real threat and looked very lively. In the second half we didn’t get so many opportunities. I think we did enough to get something out of the game.

“We did have teenagers out there like Jamie Shillcock and Dean Hammond. Unfortunately, we lost Dean to injury but we brought on another teenager in Josh Adams.

“It’s great experience for them to play here at the Rec against a side with so many international players. It will stand them in good stead.”

Bath

Tries: Watson, Banahan, Rokoduguni, Houston

Cons: Ford 4

Pens: Ford 3

Worcester

Tries: Annett, Hammond, Humphreys

Cons: Heathcote 2

Pens: Heathcote

Exeter Chiefs 36 Harlequins 25

Head coach Rob Baxter admits a weight has been lifted off Exeter Chiefs’ shoulders after they clinched their first Aviva Premiership Rugby win of the season in emphatic style.

Chiefs were simply irresistible in the opening 40 as Lachie Turner and England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie ran in doubles to leave Harlequins stunned.

Harlequins – who had two Tim Swiel penalties and a Rob Buchanan try to show for their first-half efforts – were then left staring at a 36-13 scoreline early in the second half as Cowan-Dickie rumbled over for his hat-trick try.

To their credit they came roaring back through Danny Care and Charlie Walker efforts, while Tomas Francis was red carded for Exeter eight minutes before time, but the damage had been done.

“We have been under a bit of pressure after two losses but it was fantastic to win and get a bonus point as well,” Baxter said.

“We did enough and scored some good tries but we are frustrated by our second-half performance. We should have controlled territory a bit better than we did but I am pleased with the character shown by us.

“We were far from being at our best but I am not that upset that Quins came back into it. They are a successful Premiership side and they have got some dangerous players, who can score some good tries.”

The opening-day victory over Bristol Rugby remains Harlequins’ only success this season and director of rugby John Kingston concedes his side did not help themselves by committing avoidable errors before the break.

“We gave away two soft tries in the middle of the first half when we were 6-5 up,” he said.

“One of them was a simple overthrow and the second came from poor tackling from the first phase.

“It was very difficult to come back from there and we didn’t start the second half as well as we would have wanted. It was a question of too little, too late and the bottom line is that we were punished for too many errors at key points.

“We have to alienate those errors, and it is not about work ethic, but Exeter did take every opportunity that came their way.”

Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Turner 2, Cowan-Dickie 3
Conversions: Steenson 4
Penalties: Steenson

Harlequins
Tries: Buchanan, Care, Walker
Conversions: Swiel 2
Penalties: Swiel 2

Sale Sharks 13 Gloucester Rugby 26

Gloucester Rugby skipper Greig Laidlaw insists his side now have the necessary resolve to challenge at the top end of the table after securing their first win of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season.

Scrum-half Laidlaw took home the man of the match award as he kicked 16 points in his side’s 26-13 win over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Charlie Sharples and John Afoa got the tries for the visitors while Cameron Neild and Sam James crossed for the home side.

The Sharks have only lost twice in their last 14 home games but it was the Cherry & Whites that beat them both times.

And Laidlaw admits his side must kick on from this victory after agonising defeat at home to Leicester Tigers was followed up by a draw with Worcester Warriors in the first two rounds.

“It’s always a bit unnerving when you don’t win either of the first two but we believe in ourselves this year,” said Laidlaw.

“Two weekends on the road and we got two points last week and are absolutely delighted to win here.

“It was a bit about keeping our nerve, when you play in the Premiership you are always going to be under pressure at times in the game and we kept our cool, stayed in our defensive system and we were able to stay alive for the most part.

“We rode the storm just after half-time, managed to grab a bit of field position and pick up a few penalties.

“I think some of our attacking game in that first half was brilliant and that is something we have been working on.

“We want to go out and win games, we don’t want to play not to get beat, we are testing ourselves so there are going to be mistakes but we have to keep backing ourselves.

“We were disappointed as a playing group last season, after we cross the line it’s up to the players –there’s only so much the coaches can do.

“And as players we just feel we don’t want to finish that far down the table this season. Is it going to be tough? Yes it is. But we showed tonight that we can win tough games.”

Sale have now won one and lost two of their three games this season, a fine victory over Harlequins sandwiched between losses to Newcastle Falcons and Gloucester.

And Steve Diamond has warned his side that they must improve if they are to repeat their top-six finish of last season.

“Gloucester played very well, they scored two very good tries and they capitalised on our ill discipline,” said Diamond.

“We were a poor second so credit to Gloucester.  We tried to play a bit too much rugby against a good side like Gloucester, you just can’t do that especially with a world-class goalkicker like Greig Laidlaw.

“We got into those defensive positions, we offended and he kicked the goals. It’s a hard night’s punishment but if you do that against sides like that you lose.

“We certainly have to be a lot better than that – our endeavour as a side can never be questioned but certainly we weren’t very street-wise.”

Sale Sharks

Tries: James, Neild
Penalties: Addison

Gloucester Rugby

Tries: Afoa, Sharples
Conversions: Laidlaw 2
Penalties: Laidlaw 4
Referee: Ian Tempest
more to follow….

Aviva Premiership Round 1 wrap

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Aviva Premiership Round 1

Director of rugby Dai Young was delighted to see his Wasps side adapt to his half-time call for urgency, and singled out the returning Danny Cipriani as a decisive factor in their victory over Exeter Chiefs.

Exeter had led 17-8 at the break, but Cipriani showed his class on the blind-side to set up Dan Robson’s score early in the second half as Wasps prevailed 25-20 in a thrilling encounter.

And after losing to the West Country side three times in four matches last season, Young was delighted to have righted some wrongs against the Chiefs – and particularly impressed with Cipriani’s influence in the performance.

“Danny has fitted in well, we have always known that he has X-factor, the challenge has always been with Danny to do the bread and butter stuff, not to get to excited and try to do everything on his own,” he said.

“In the first half he was frustrated because we weren’t working hard enough and he was forced into kicking the ball.

“I am pretty pleased really; he and Jimmy Gopperth worked well together, I thought that would give us another dimension.

“We challenged the players at half-time to work harder and get into shape quicker, get us over the gain-line, give us some front-foot ball and we knew the opportunities would arise.”

It was a first opening day win since 2011 for Wasps, while Saracens also got their campaign underway with a London Double Header success over Worcester Warriors at Twickenham.

While the 35-3 final scoreline suggested a comfortable afternoon for Mark McCall’s side, he insists there is still plenty of work to do having led just 6-3 at the break.

But Schalk Burger, Alex Lozowski and Jamie George all scored, and while Ben Spencer’s superb individual try secured a bonus-point win, McCall believes it was not exactly what Saracens deserved.

“I actually thought our skill level wasn’t great as a team, we could have passed the ball a lot better than we did and we made a lot of errors with the ball – some of which was forced by Worcester, the rest was forced by ourselves and we will have to do a little bit of work on that,” McCall explained.

“Overall I am not too happy, I am happy we got five points, we’re always happy to win, but that was a hugely rusty performance.

“I thought we defended well for the whole game, so that is something to hang our hat on.”

Elsewhere, in what proved to be the game of the Aviva Premiership Rugby weekend on Friday, Leicester Tigers delivered an extraordinary comeback against Gloucester Rugby – although director of rugby Richard Cockerill was far from content with the display.

A poor opening saw the Tigers 31-7 down, but a resurgent fightback saw them level the game at 31-31 before Sam Harrison bundled over a last-gasp try to steal the victory.

And while Cockerill was delighted with the comeback, he insists it’s not something they can make a habit if they are to be challenging for honours come the end of the Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign.

He said: “I’m delighted with the win and the resilience that the players showed. That is something we have been working on in pre-season and we needed every ounce of it tonight.

“But I was so disappointed with the first 50 minutes because we were pretty woeful and we need to put that right very quickly.

“To be fair we were pretty calm at half-time. We wanted to come out and still play positively because that was the only way to get back in the game, and try and score first to put the pressure back on them.

“Credit to the players, we got our composure back, we scored, and Gloucester ran out of steam.”

In the second fixture of the London Double Header, Harlequins pulled off a comeback win against newly-promoted Bristol Rugby, recovering from a 14-3 deficit t prevail 21-19 at the home of rugby.

Finally, four George Ford penalties were enough for Bath to win 18-14 against Northampton, while Sinoti Sinoti scored Newcastle’s only try, edging Sale out 19-17.

SUNDAY

Wasps 25

Tries Gopperth, Robson, Taylor

Conversions Gopperth 2

Penalties: Gopperth 2

Exeter Chiefs 20

Tries: Waldrom, Chudley,

Conversions: Slade 2

Penalties: Slade 2

Referee: Thomas Foley

Attendance: 13,555

SATURDAY

Saracens 35

Tries: George, Lozowski, Burger, Spencer

Penalties: Lozowski 3

Conversions: Lozowski 3

Worcester Warriors 3

Penalties: Lamb

Referee: Matthew Carley

Attendance:  47,029

Northampton 14

Tries: Groom 2

Conversions: Myler 2

Bath 18

Penalties: Ford 4

Drop-goals: Ford 2

Referee: JP Doyle

Attendance: 14,987

Harlequins 21

Tries: Yarde, Marchant

Penalties: Evans 3

Conversions: Evans

Bristol Rugby 19

Tries: Varndell, Pisi, Edwards

Conversions: Henson 2

Referee: Luke Pearce

Attendance:  47,029

FRIDAY

Gloucester Rugby 31

Tries: Scott 2, Sharples, Purdy

Conversions: Laidlaw 4

Penalty: Laidlaw

Leicester Tigers 38

Tries: Tuilagi, Pietersen, Harrison 2, O’Connor

Conversions: Burns 3, Harrison 2

Penalty: Burns

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Attendance: 14,298

Newcastle Falcons 19

Tries: Sinoti

Conversion: Delany

Penalties: Delany 4

Sale Sharks 17

Tries: Leota, McGuigan

Conversions: Mugford 2

Penalty: MacGinty

Referee: Greg Garner

Attendance: 5,523

Standings after Round 1

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McCall backs his men to deliver

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Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes his young squad can deliver once again in both the Premiership and Champions Cup this season.

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The Allianz Park giants won both competitions last term, with their young English contingent starring before going on to triumph in Australia.

Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, George Kruis and the Vunipola brothers all impressed and McCall is confident they can kick on in the coming year.

“We’ve got a pretty impressive young group and I couldn’t speak more highly of them,” he told Premiership Rugby at Thursday’s launch.

“After the Grand Slam last year – they are all 25 and under and are English internationals – to come back and perform the way they did for their club was incredible really.

“The age profile of our group is good, they are highly motivated and hopefully better things are ahead.

“They are unbelievably motivated, there is a Lions Tour and we said at the end of last season that for us it didn’t feel like the culmination of seven years, it felt like the start of something.”

Saracens’ most notable arrival ahead of this season is Springbok flanker Schalk Burger, who McCall says has been an instant hit at the club.

“We have grown as a club and we need to remember the underlying factors which have made us successful over the past couple of years,” he said.

“If we do stay true to those things, then hopefully we will give ourselves a chance.

“We haven’t had too many changes, we have only had three or four new players.

“Schalk Burger has essentially taken the place of two players – Ernst Joubert and Jacques Burger – we thought it was important that we brought in a very experienced player and Schalk has made a great impression over the first couple of weeks.”

Mirror, Mirror who is the highest paid of them all

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David PocockWallabies flanker David Pocock could become the world’s highest-paid rugby player if he accepts a suggested multi-million dollar deal to play in England.

According to Britain’s The Daily Telegraph, English club Wasps have contacted Pocock’s representatives and indicated they’d be prepared to offer the 27-year-old a package in excess of the £1.4 million ($3.1 million) a season that French outfit Racing 92 are paying World Cup-winning five-eighth Dan Carter.

Pocock is off contract at the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season and is considering a one-year sabbatical from Australian rugby to study in the UK.

But the report claims Pocock is open to the possibility of playing in England having enjoyed his time in the country during last year’s World Cup.

Pocock is seen as the ideal replacement for Wallabies veteran George Smith, who is leaving Wasps at the end of the season.

Any deal will likely only be short term, with Pocock intending to play at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

His departure could prove costly for the Brumbies, who are losing Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore to the Queensland Reds and fellow international Matt Toomua to English club Leicester at season’s end.

It follows news fringe England playmaker Danny Cipriani will return to Wasps in a bid to revive his international career.

Cipriani played 95 games for the high-profile club between 2004 and 2010, before his brief Super Rugby stint with the Melbourne Rebels and most recently Sale Sharks.

The 28-year-old is hoping to impress new national coach Eddie Jones after missing the final cut for England’s World Cup squad.

-AAP

Saracens suffer first defeat…

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Saracens were defeated 29-23 in a closely fought Aviva Premiership London derby away to Harlequins at The Stoop.

For the first time in the Aviva Premiership this season Saracens have tasted defeat, and for Harlequins, it was just their second win in fifteen meetings between the two London sides.

In a highly charged contest a late Ben Botica penalty and a try from Harlequins lock James Horwill snatched a late win for Conor O’Shea’s side, with other scores coming from hooker Rob Buchanan and young back rower, Jack Clifford.

Saracens tries came from Neil de Kock and Billy Vunipola, with outside half Owen Farrell kicking 13-points. The turning point of the game came in the 66th minute when replacement loose head Rhys Gill was red carded for a dangerous tackle on Harlequins centre, George Lowe. Replacement Ben Botica eased the Stoop’s nerves with a 37-metre penalty in the driving rain before Horwill crossed for a try on 80 minutes.

This game was one that wasn’t ever far from controversy. There were red and yellow cards, big hits and plenty of talking points to chew over in an entertaining Premiership game in south west London.

The first half was bruising spectacle. Both sides were in an uncompromising mood in the opening exchanges with a series of bone crunching tackles entertaining the packed out crowd. One hit that was questionable was one from Harlequins’ lock James Horwill on his opposite number, George Kruis. The former Australian skipper went into a breakdown with a swinging arm and didn’t miss the back of Kruis’ head. The Sarries lock forward was stretchered off, and was replaced by Maro Itoje. Horwill was yellow carded, and was lucky that Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys didn’t produce a red one.

The man who replaced Kruis, Maro Itoje, was superb throughout the contest. He was menacing at the lineout, aggressive in his carries and was a man possessed in his defensive work.

It was up front where Saracens would inflict some early damage on Harlequins. With their set-piece picking up from where it left off a week earlier against Leicester Tigers, forcing their opponents into conceding a plethora of scrum penalties. After Horwill’s swinging arm penalty, Harlequins were penalised on six occasions at the scrum. Despite the continuing infringements, Mr Maxwell-Keys refused to produce a card for the Quins front row, with Joe Marler in particular not enjoying his contest against the in-form Sarries tight head, Petrus Du Plessis.

Sarries remained patient, and their persistence paid dividends when Neil de Kock dived on the ball at the base of another strong Saracens scrum to score the first try of the game. Owen Farrell converted to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

The opening quarter was one way traffic. Sarries set-piece dominance continued but it was the home side who scored next. A well-worked line-out move released Quins skipper Danny Care through the heart of the Saracens line-out, he raced away and passed to Rob Buchanan who dived over in the corner. Evans couldn’t convert.

Again the game continued its physical nature. Will Fraser (another Saracens player who impressed in defeat) folded Quins centre Jamie Roberts in half with a superb tackle, and his back row mates Billy Vunipola and Jackson Wray also were in the thick of the action.

Billy Vunipola then crossed for Saracens second try of the afternoon. In his 50th appearance for the club the England man powered over to score in the 26th minute on the back of another dominant Sarries scrum. Farrell once again, converted.

By this time Quins were growing into the contest. Nick Evans kept the Stoop scoreboard ticking over with a penalty before Jack Clifford scored right before half time. Former All Black Evans converted to give his side a 15-14 lead at the break.

Saracens quickly regained the lead in the second half, when Owen Farrell sent over 44th minute penalty after Harlequins flanker Luke Wallace was off his feet at the breakdown. Ten minutes later Farrell added another three points as Sarries lead 20-15 going into the final quarter of the game.

Evans left the fray on the hour mark for Ben Botica, and his replacement was soon on the score board when he sent over a penalty after Saracens were penalised at the breakdown.

Farrell responded with another penalty before replacement prop Rhys Gill received his marching orders for a clumsy tackle that Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall concede post game, deserved a red card.

Down to 14-men Saracens were up against it. They defended manfully but ill-discipline continued to creep in at the breakdown offering Harlequins opportunities to post points.

Botica kicked both penalties edging his side in front by a solitary point. Sarries rallied and had a great opportunity to snatch a win late on when they set up for a last gasp drop goal with both Charlie Hodgson and Owen Farrell set in the pocket with just 90 seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately for Saracens the ball squirmed out of a breakdown and was gleefully scooped up by Harlequins before Jack Clifford raced 60 metres to safety. Sarries scrambled well but conceded a penalty in their desperate attempt to regain possession. Harlequins kicked for the corner and from the lineout, Horwill crashed over to score. Botica missed the conversion which meant Saracens recorded a losing bonus point.

Saracens

15 Alex Goode;14 Chris Ashton;13 Marcelo Bosch;12 Duncan Taylor; 11 Mike Ellery;10 Owen Farrell;9 Neil de Kock;1 Mako Vunipola; 2 Jamie George ©;3 Petrus Du Plessis;4 Jim Hamilton;5 George Kruis; 6 Jackson Wray;7 Will Fraser;8 Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders;17 Rhys Gill;18 Titi Lamositele;19 Maro Itoje; 20 Jacques Burger;21 Richard Wigglesworth;22 Charlie Hodgson; 23 Nick Tompkins.

Scores

Tries: De Kock (10); B. Vunipola (26).

Cons: Farrell X 2

Penalties: Farrell X 3

Red card: Gill (65).

Harlequins

15. Mike Brown;14. Marland Yarde;13. George Lowe;12. Jamie Roberts; 11. Ross Chisholm;10. Nick Evans9. Danny Care (C);1.Joe Marler; 2. Rob Buchanan;3. Adam Jones;4. James Horwill;5. Charlie Matthews; 6. Chris Robshaw;7. Luke Wallace;8. Jack Clifford.

Replacements: 16. Dave Ward;17. Seb Adeniran-Olule;18.Joe Gray;19. George Merrick; 20.Harry Sloan;21. Karl Dickson;22. Ben Botica;23. Charlie Walker.

Replacements used Ward for Buchanan(62); Botica for Evans(53).

Scores

Tries Buchanan (21);Clifford(39); Horwill(80).

Cons: Evans

Penalties: Evans, Botica X 3

Yellow card: Horwill (2).