Gloucester Rugby 31 – 23 Saracens
Gloucester and Saracens both needed a win but in two different ways. Sarries needed a win to boost their chances of getting back to the top of the table but Gloucester just needed a win to stop themselves from getting involved in a relegation battle. Gloucester got the first points through the boot of Billy Burns but Saracens were playing to their usual standards. Schalk Brits was presented with an easy dive over the line after Willi Heinz and Tom Savage fell for a clever dummy. Gloucester had been run ragged in the first 15 minutes and when Heinz’s pass to Burns put the fly half under pressure, Schalk Burger seized his opportunity and won the penalty. Marcelo Bosch stepped up and nailed the penalty from halfway. Tom Marshall had been secure at the back for Gloucester and he managed to bury over the line with the men in red working round the corner well. Burns hit another penalty but Alex Lozowski replied with one of his own and the scores were leveled up. Brad Barritt was then in trouble as he tip tackled David Halaifonua but luckily for the Saracens captain, Halaifonua did not land on his head. Burns hit the resulting penalty though and the Cherry and Whites edged ahead just before halftime. Saracens seemed lacklustered and when Bosch panicked and sliced his chip kick, Gloucester were presented with a chance. They lost it the next phase but yet again, Sarries were caught out and Jeremy Thrush intercepted Will Fraser’s pass and ran in. It was not the usual Saracens and after Lozowski hit another penalty, the comeback was ignited. Saracens set up a good maul platform and the only way it could be stopped was illegally. Paul Doran-Jones changed his bind a collapsed it. Wayne Barnes showed him yellow and then Will Fraser scored after another maul. The scores were tied at 23-23 but were then awarded a penalty which Billy Twelvetrees duly struck. The game was the Cherry and Whites and it was another maul that ended things. Richard Hibbard profited from the maul and drove over. Gloucester denied Saracens a bonus point and (as it stands) are the only team to score 3 tries against Saracens this season.
Leicester Tigers 50 – 17 Bristol
Leicester came off the back of a thrashing of Gloucester where as Bristol had been thumped by Harlequins. Jason Woodward got Bristol off to a three point start but Owen Williams fed a lovely miss pass to Pat Cilliers who handed Thretton Palamo and dived in. Bristol’s defence had been struggling and Owen Williams ran at full pelt and barged his way through for the Tigers second. The next try was not down to Bristol but pure brilliance from Leicester. Williams again cross field kick perfectly and JP Pietersen jugg led with the ball but managed to keep hold and dot down on his return from injury. The game was already lost for Bristol and Leicester snatched the bonus point with Owen Williams again supplying the inside ball to Telusa Veainu who danced his way over from short range. Veainu was a key part in the next try. He claimed a ball that missed touch and put his head down. He stepped superbly and managed to get through. he then found Williams who in turn spun the ball out to JP Pietersen who was in again. WHAT A TRY! Bristol had been shocking but after a well worked move in midfield and a kick and chase that Woodward gathered, it resulted in a try for Rob Hawkins. Bristol were then completely shut out when Brendan O’Connor charged down Tusi Pisi’s kick and it was getting all to easy for Leicester. Sam Harrison then set up Adam Thompstone with a hand off and pass allowing Thompstone to squeeze his way over in the corner. It was relentless power and Greg Bateman profited from some strong maul play. The Tigers had hit the 50 point mark and stopped the power game. Jamal Ford-Robinson was then over for Bristol after charging down Owen Williams kick but it did not matter as Bristol had been well and truly annihilated.
Bath Rugby 22 – 12 Harlequins
Rhys Preistland ensured Bath got off to a quick start with two kicks but Joe Marchant had other ideas. He danced past four Bath shirts and offloaded to Rhuaridh Jackson. The Scot was ripped in the tackle but Marchant dived on it again. Matt Luamanu then worked the ball outwide to Tim Visser who managed to evade the tackle of Semesa Rockoduguni and squeeze in outwide. Preistland struck his third penalty of the match but it was Quins again who were scoring the try. Rob Buchanan found himself in a bit of space and bumped Harry Davies off. He then proceeded to offload fantastically to Marland Yarde who was in. The forwards had played a big role in the game and more strong carries from the Bath pack resulted in Max Clarke going over the whitewash. Harlequins were all but out after another Preistland penalty and they nearly conceded another try. Tom Homer managed to find a gap and burst through. He found Toby Faletau who came back in field. Quins scrambled back but conceded the penalty. Preistland banged it over the posts and Quins had lost despite playing some great rugby at times.
Worcester Warriors 32 – 48 Exeter Chiefs
Worcester were coming off the back of a marvelous victory over Saracens the week before with Exeter recovering from a thrilling encounter with Wasps. Worcester started as they finished off last week; Francois Hougaard made the break, offloaded to Bryce Heam who then passed back to South African scrum-half. The ball was then recycled and after a few phases, Josh Adams crashed over. Gareth Steenson then got very lucky after deciding to attack from his own 22. He threw a loose pass which sat up for Henry Slade fortunately. James Short then made the burst but was caught just outside the 22. Michele Campagnaro then carried up in the midfield with Steenson picking and going, dummying and scoring a well worked try. Worcester were then on the score sheet again through Perry Humphreys but the Chiefs managed to scrape their way back into the match just before halftime. A lovely floating pass from Phil Dollman made it’s way into the hands of James Short who had the simple task of dotting down. With just a point in it, Worcester were struggling against the Chiefs power. It was made a lot worse for the Warriors when Alafoti Fa’osiliva was shown yellow for a needless, stupid off the ball shoulder check. Exeter kicked the resulting penalty to touch and straight from that, Ollie Woodburn was supplied the pass by Steenson to give Exeter the lead for the first time in the match. James Short was then in for his second try after seeing space in the backfield and showing the dummy to get away. Exeter were really beginning to run away with it and they showed their brute force to get their fifth try. A strong maul inevitably resulted in a try for Sam Simmonds. Worcester did restore some pride after some poor Chiefs defence meant that Heem was presented with an easy run to the line. Exeter were at it again after Henry Slade sublimely offloaded to Camptagnaro who evaded a tackle and ran in under the posts. Henry Slade was yet again involved in a try after a great miss pass gave James Short enough room to snatch his hatrick. It wasn’t all bad for Worcester as Jackson Willison crossed the whitewash and got the bonus point try but it was a big win for Exeter non the less.
Newcastle Falcons 46 – 31 Northampton Saints
Kingston Park has been a tough place for teams to go this season but Northampton were determined to stop that reputation. They started brightly through Ken Pisi in the corner and they extended that further when Api Ratuniyarawa offloaded in his classic Fijian style to set up Jamie Gibson. Newcastle edged back into it through Sonatane Takulua sniping from short range but along with that came another Saints score. Ahsee Tuala found a great pass to Harry Mallinder who raced away and just about managed to plant the ball down in the corner. Nicki Goneva had got a hatrick last week but this week he supplied a brilliant offload ‘out the back’ to Sean Robinson and the lock scored. Rob Vicker was then sent clattering over after some support from his team mates and Newcastle were on the up. They scored again in quick succession after Sinoti Sinoti used his dazzling footwork to make the break and found Takulua who was in for his second. Sonatane Takulua then finished off his hatrick fro Sinoti again making a break, finding Mark Wilson who in turn found the Tongan scrum-half who sped away. The Saints were then caught napping again with Kyle Cooper bundling over untouched from close range and Northampton were in need of a response. Mikey Haywood did gain a try due to some quick ball and he snatched the attacking bonus point. The Falcons were at it again though with Mark Wilson crashing over after a maul to give Falcons an 8 try win. A win that will delight Newcastle but a loss that will haunt Northampton.
Sale Sharks 34 – 28 Wasps
Saracens had picked up a loss in Round 15 so if Wasps could get a win they would cement their place at the top of the table. Sale were never going to make it easy and they proved that they wanted to play with pace; Denny Solomona’s quick thinking a pace got Sale on the score sheet early on. Wasps still managed to keep themselves in the game through the boot of Jimmy Gopperth but it was Solomona again who chipped ahead and exploited a Christian Wade slip to collect the bouncing ball and score. Wasps were being battered in the first half and just to rub salt in the wounds, Denny Solomona crossed over for his hatrick but mostly due to some superb handling from second row Bryne Evans. Wasps could not get a foothold and a dominant maul from the Sharks resulted in Mark Jennings scoring. Wasps were in need of a response and they found that after Kurtley Beale made a telling break and offloaded to Josh Bassett who ran in for Wasps first try. The deficit was then cut to just 10 points with Beale again supplying the pass to Ashley Johnson this time to crash in. Willie Le Roux then marked his debut for Wasps with an assist; he passed the ball back inside to Beale who was in. It was all too little too late however so Sale walked away with a bonus point victory over the table toppers.
More to follow on other games…