LEICESTER TIGERS 33-27 SARACENS
TWICKENHAM - Saturday 27th May 2010
LEICESTER Tigers, playing in their sixth consecutive Guinness Premiership final, were crowned English champions for the second successive season at Twickenham but they were made to fight every inch of the way to their triumph by spirited Saracens.
Glen Jackson, playing his last game before retirement, kicked Sarries into a 3-0 lead with just two minutes gone, Flood cancelled that that out two minutes later when Saracens were pinged for not rolling away and when Martin Castrogiovanni strayed offside in the ninth minute, Jackson clipped over his second penalty to make it 6-3.
Leicester went close to grabbing the final’s first try two minutes later when Hugh Vyvyan’s tackle bundled Tom Croft out in the corner after clever work from Castrogiovanni and Jordan Crane opened Sarries up down the narrow side.
The first try, when it came, saw Leicester’s outside centre Matt Smith finish off a counter from deep sparked by skipper Geordan Murphy, Anthony Allen and Scott Hamilton with Flood’s conversion giving the Tigers a 10-6 lead with 13 minutes gone.
Sarries’ response was immediate and they hit back with a try from skipper and number Ernst Joubert in the 17th minute but Jackson missed the extras and a Flood penalty three minutes later kept Leicester‘s noses in front.
The lead changed hands again in the 25th minute with another Jackson penalty giving Saracens a 14-13 lead, although that only lasted until Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs zipped off the base of a ruck12 metres out to score under the posts, making the conversion simple for Flood.
Seven minutes into the second half, Flood clipped over a penalty to extend the Tigers’ cushion to nine points and that sparked an immediate response from Saracens with flanker Andy Saull setting up a second try for Joubert inside two minutes, which Jackson converted to make it 23-21.
Flood missed a difficult chance to ease Leicester into a five-point lead in the 54th minute, falling short with a long-range penalty but he made amends three minutes later with an inch-perfect three-pointer.
Flood missed again in the 62nd minute and Jackson was unable to punish his miss to get Saracens back to within two points four minutes later.
Saracens butchered a great try-scoring chance with 13 minutes to go when replacement Rees Gill dropped a pass from Justin Marshall five metres from the Leicester line, but Jackson hit the target with a penalty in the 71st minute to raise the tension another notch.
With five minutes to go, Jackson stayed calm to chip over his fifth successful penalty of an increasingly riveting final giving Sarries a 27-26 lead, but Leicester came storming back with a try from lock Louis Deacon, who romped over from 30 metres out with Jeremy Staunton, on for Flood, clipping over the conversion to seal the Tigers‘ triumph.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 19-21 SARACENS
FRANKLIN’S GARDENS – Sunday 16th May 2010
SARACENS backed up an impressive away league win at Leicester on the final day of the regular season with a stunning late victory over play-off semi-final host Northampton Saints at Franklin’[s Gardens to set up a Twickenham final date with defending champions Leicester.
Fly-half Glen Jackson's conversion of a stoppage-time try from hooker Schalk Brits, which was awarded on the TMO’s say-so, broke Northampton hearts and sent the Men in Black marching on to HQ on May 29.
Jackson had earlier added the extras to tries from full-back Alex Goode and wing Chris Wyles as Saracens held their nerve to nick a memorable victory after Saints were unable to manufacture a drop-goal chance for Stephen Myler which could have won the game for the home side at the death.
Tries in each half by props Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati, along with three penalties from Myler, looked to have done enough for Northampton until those dramatic last few moments.
Referee Wayne Barnes had his yellow card out just nine minutes into a feisty encounter, sending Saracens’ back-rower Jacques Burger to the sin bin.
Myler kicked the resulting penalty but 14-man Saracens conjured up a try when Brits made a decisive midfield break and lock Mouritz Botha combined with Jackson to give Goode a clear run to the line with Jackson adding the conversion.
Sarries looked to be heading into half-time with a 7-3 lead but Tonga'uiha had other ideas and the Tongan powerhouse smashed Saracens’ defenders aside in a 30-metre break down the touchline to give his side an 8-7 interval lead.
Myler extended that to 11-7 with his second penalty after the break, but Saracens again hit back with a try which saw Wyles put way by lock Hugh Vyvyan after Saints’ centre Jon Clarke was caught in possession by Goode.
Jackson’s conversion gave Sarries a 14-11 lead before a mammoth penalty from Myler minutes later squared it up again and gave the home side the momentum to build the pressure which saw Mujati burrow over for an unconverted try with gave Saints a precious five-point lead.
But Saracens regrouped and their patience with the clock running down was rewarded when Brits stormed over the Saints line to level the contest at 19-19, leaving the ice-cool Jackson to seal the Londoners’ win with the match-clinching conversion.
LEICESTER TIGERS 15-6 BATH RUGBY
WELFORD ROAD – Sunday 16th May 2010
FIVE penalties from England fly-half Toby Flood steered defending champions Leicester into their sixth-successive Guinness Premiership final after an absorbing tussle at Welford Road saw the Tigers end Bath Rugby’s hopes of booking a fairy-tale trip to Twickenham.
The contest was all-square at 6-6 at the interval after Olly Barkley and Flood had kicked two penalties apiece in a ferociously physical opening 40 minutes played at a blistering pace.
After the interval, though, Leicester’s set-piece power told and three more Flood penalties proved enough to pull the plug on Bath after a game which saw neither side get close to scoring a try.
Recalled by England for the forthcoming summer tour to Australia and New Zealand, Barkley rewarded a promising start from Bath by kicking them into a 3-0 lead in the 12th minute but he missed a chance to double the visitors’ lead five minutes later from a much more difficult angle.
Bath's early confidence saw wing Matt Banahan hauled down just short of the try-line by Scott Hamilton after he stormed on to a short pass from Butch James and Barkley added his second penalty at the end of an absorbing opening quarter to make it 6-0.
Flood got the Tigers on the board in the 23rd minute and Leicester then began to turn the screw up front and Bath had to withstand sustained pressure on their own line to protect a slender lead which evaporated when tight-head Martin Castrogiovanni won a penalty at a scrum.
Flood took on the 40-metre kick and was only awarded the three points after referee Wayne Barnes over-ruled his touch judges, who kept their flags down deeming Flood’s kick a miss, and referred the issue to the TMO who ruled in the Tigers’ favour.
Flood was off-target from wide on the right with a 55th minute penalty shot but he found the range again when Castrogiovanni again proved too hot for David Flatman to handle at a scrum to give the Tigers the lead for the first time in the contest.
Flood’s fourth successful penalty took the home side 12-6 clear in the 64th minute and with eight minutes to go, Flood wrapped the game up with a fifth successful kick at goal.
P: Flood 5
P: Barkley 2
BATH RUGBY 39-3 LEEDS CARNEGIE
THE REC – Saturday 8th May 2010
BATH completed a four-month charge from second bottom of the Guinness Premiership pile in January to play-off semi-finalists at The Rec, where they beat Leeds Carnegie 39-3 to book a date with defending champions Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
The rejuvenated West County outfit’s 11th win in 12 league starts, which has seen them amass 49 points after picking up just 11 in their first ten games, came courtesy of a try double from Nick Abendanon, a touchdown apiece from skipper Michael Claassens, Matt Banahan and Joe Maddock along with 14 points from the boot of Olly Barkley.
Early on, Leeds’ well-organised defence had Bath coughing up possession too easily and when the home side did make a decisive break, Danny Grewcock dived over the line in the 19th minute and was denied a try by the TMO, who ruled he had not grounded the ball.
Andy Gomarsall, playing his last Premiership match, was sent to the bin a minute later and Bath capitalised on the extra man immediately, working the ball wide for Abendanon to grab the opening try in the corner with Barkley adding the conversion.
James was held up over the line in the 25th minute as Bath stepped up the pressure again and they settled for a Barkley penalty and a 10-0 lead when the visitors were pinged for offside.
Skipper Claassens grabbed try number two in the 32nd minute, dummying a pass to Abendanon and then slicing through the Leeds defence to score under the posts with Barkley’s conversion sending Bath in at the interval with a 17-0 lead.
Barkley kicked Bath further ahead four minutes into the second half and Ceiron Thomas finally got Leeds on the board with a 48th minute penalty before Barkley hit the upright with a chance to extend Bath’s lead.
Banahan made no mistake in the 57th minute when he took Barkley’s pass and powered away down the left with Barkley again on target with the conversion and Abendanon tucked the bonus-point score in the bank in the 61st minute, cleverly using Andy Beattie as a decoy runner to make the spec to get over in the corner with Barkley again adding the conversion.
But Barkley was unable to add the extras five minutes from time when Maddock finished off another sweeping Bath attack.
T: Abendanon 2, Claassens, Banahan, Maddock
C: Barkley 4
P: Barkley 2
HARLEQUINS 35-20 SALE SHARKS
THE STOOP – Saturday 8th May 2010
HARLEQUINS ended the Guinness Premiership season with a five-try, five-point victory over Sale Sharks, but the Londoners will not be playing in next season’s Heineken Cup competition after finishing eight in the final Guinness Premiership standings.
Quins took just two minutes to open their account, centre George Lowe streaking clear after Jordan Turner-Hall put him in the clear and they stretched their lead to 12-0 in the sixth minute when David Strettle cottoned on to an Evans cross-kick to notch a try converted by Evans.
Charlie Hodgson clipped three points back with a 20th minute penalty but that was his last contribution as he left the action injured after taking a heavy tackle and when Quins had Tomas Vallejos sin-binned in the 28th minute. Sale took just two minutes more to capitalise with a try from England centre Mathew Tait converted by Lee Thomas to go in 12-10 at the interval.
Quins fell behind early in the second half when Thomas dropped a 47th minute goal but Rory Clegg, on for the injured Evans cancelled that out with a penalty and the hosts stepped up a gear in the 59th minute, notching an unconverted try from Nick Easter.
Quins extended their lead in the 69th minute when Clegg clipped over his second penalty but Sale hit back with a pushover score from Sisaro Koyamaibole and Thomas’ conversion cut the margin to just three points.
Quins, however, struck twice in the last six minutes to put the outcome beyond any doubt, Turner-Hall forcing his way over for the bonus-point score with Clegg converting and Tom Williams skipped over for try number five in stoppage time.
T: Strettle, Lowe, Turner-Hall, Easter, Williams
C: Evans, Clegg
P: Clegg 2
LEICESTER TIGERS 23-32 SARACENS
WELFORD ROAD – Saturday 8th May 2010
SARACENS , who had already scuttled Guinness Premiership play-off semi-final hosts Northampton Saints’ unbeaten home record for the season a fortnight earlier, torpedoed top-of-the-table Leicester Tigers chances of finishing the season unbeaten at Welford Road with a win which shortened the odds on the Londoners ’chances of becoming English champions.
Saracens led 5-0 after five minutes courtesy of two Glen Jackson penalties before Jeremy Staunton got Leicester on the board and the Tigers led when Geordan Murphy sparked an attack which ended with Alesana Tuilagi touching down and Staunton converting for a 13-6 Tigers lead.
Another Jackson penalty kept Sarries in touch and they led again when wing Chris Wyles gathered a bouncing ball in the Leicester 22 with Jackson’s conversion making it 16-13 to Saracens at the interval.
Two minutes into the second half, Saracens stretched their lead to ten points when hooker Schalk Brits intercepted a stray Leicester pass to run in from 35 metres with Jackson again on the mark with the conversion.
Staunton kicked Leicester back into the contest with a 57th minute penalty and after prop Marcus Ayerza touched down with Staunton converting, an exchange of penalties between Jackson and Staunton had the game finely balanced with the Tigers trailing 26-23 going into the final quarter.
But the game slipped away from the home side when flanker Tom Croft was sin-binned and Jackson kicked the penalty to extend Saracens’ lead and Derick Hougaard stitched up the victory for Sarries with a penalty after he replaced Jackson late in the contest.
T: Tuilagi, Ayerza
C: Flood 2
P: Flood 3
LONDON IRISH 7-31 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
MADEJSKI STADIUM – Saturday 8th May 2010
NORTHAMPTON Saints stitched up second place in the final Guinness Premiership standings and confirmed a home semi-final date with Saracens with a comprehensive win over London Irish, who qualified for the Heineken Cup in sixth spot despite their Madejski Stadium defeat.
Stephen Myler opened Saints’ account with a 35-yard penalty in the 18th and he extended their lead to 6-0 with a 35th-minute penalty.
Northampton then made the vital breakthrough try seconds before the break when Chris Ashton sent centre Clarke down the left wing for his eighth of the season and when Ashton went over for Saints’ second try eight minutes after the break the match was as good as over as contest.
A quick tap then fooled the Irish defence and after Soane Tonga'uiha had taken the ball on, Bruce Reihana laid a try on a plate for Ashton, who grounded under the posts for his 23rd of the season to allow Myler a simple conversion.
Myler then clipped over his third successful penalty of the afternoon and after that Saints were 21-0 up and on cruise control.
Exiles supporters finally had reason to cheer in the 65th minute when, after a series of close-quarter attacking phases, hooker Danie Coetzee barged over from a yard with his team's first points of the match with youngster Tom Homer adding the extras.
But Clarke’s second try made sure there was to be no sustained fight-back from the home side as Northampton set themselves up for their semi-final date with Saracens with their 16th victory of the season.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 21-25 LONDON WASPS
KINGSTON PARK – Saturday 8th May 2010
LONDON Wasps missed out on a Guinness Premiership play-off spot despite a hard-fought win over ninth-placed Newcastle Falcons which proved enough to secure a fifth-placed finish and a place in next season’s Heineken Cup.
Wasps led 10-7 at the break thanks to a try from hooker Rob Webber and five points from the boot of fly-half Dave Walder, who took on kicking duties ahead of Melbourne-bound full-back Danny Cipriani in his final appearance for the Londoners, with Jimmy Gopperth scoring a converted try for the hosts.
Newcastle re-took the lead through Grant Shiells' try after the break, but number eight Dan Ward-Smith replied almost immediately for the visitors and a lovely break from scrum-half Joe Simpson sent Paul Sackey, playing his last game for Wasps before he heads for France in the summer, for a wonderful try.
Walder's second penalty then sealed the win for the Londoners before Tim Swinson got a late consolation try, converted by youngster Tom Catterick, for the Falcons, who had to settle for a losing bonus point in their first game under new boss Alan Tait.
T: Gopperth, Shiells, Swinson
C: Gopperth 2, Catterick
WORCESTER WARRIORS 22-23 GLOUCESTER
SIXWAYS – Saturday 8th May 2010
RELEGATED Worcester Warriors bade farewell to the Guinness Premiership on a spirited note at Sixways, where they just missed out on a last-gasp win over local rivals.
The Warriors started well with fly-half Joe Carlisle sparking the move which led to wing Chris Pennell going over for the first try of the match and there could have been another try for the Warriors when veteran Australian full-back star Chris Latham, playing his final game for the club, had a score ruled out because of an offside offence in the build-up.
Welsh fly-half Nicky Robinson got Gloucester in the board with a 35 metre penalty and the visitors led when pressure on the Worcester defence set up Cherry and Whites flanker Akapusi Qera for a try in the corner.
Gloucester went further ahead when Lesley Vainikolo just beat the wide cover for a try, but Worcester went into the break 15-13 in front after Robinson threw a pass on halfway and saw centre Alex Grove pick it off and race unopposed to the posts, leaving Carlisle with a simple conversion.
Robinson's second penalty of the afternoon on the hour gave Gloucester a one-point advantage with an hour gone and hooker Scott Lawson looked to have wrapped up the victory when he emerged from a pile of bodies after an attacking line-out win by Narraway with a try which Robinson converted to extend the visitors’ lead to eight points.
But Worcester piled on the pressure and when Robinson was tap-tackled and lost the ball under pressure in his own 22, Chris Latham pounced for the try and Carlisle’s conversion set up a grandstand finish.
And that saw spirited Worcester denied a last-gasp win when Willie Walker’s drop-goal attempt came back off a post at the death.
T: Pennell, Grove, Latham
C: Carlisle 2
T: Vainikolo, Lawson, Qera
P: Robinson 2
SALE SHARKS 30-32 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
EDGELEY PARK – Friday 23rd April 2010
STAND-IN Newcastle skipper Jimmy Gopperth thrived on the responsibility handed to him by Falcons boss Steve Bates at Edgeley Park, where the 16-year-old Kiwi produced a top-drawer display to steer the Kingston Park side to 32-30 win which guaranteed their Guinness Premiership survival.
Billed as the biggest game in Sale’s history with their survival also at stake, the Sharks, Premiership champions four years ago, were unable to get the win they needed to make themselves safe, although results elsewhere over the weekend later defused the threat of relegation hanging over the Stockport-based outfit.
Gopperth started his fly-half master class with two penalties in the opening 12 minutes to get the Falcons off to a flier and he then cut through Sales’ back line in the 21st minute to score under the posts and added the conversion before opposite number Charlie Hodgson replied with a penalty four minutes later to get Sale on the board.
The home side then grabbed a try five minutes before half-time when full-back Marika Vakacegu bustled over in the corner to restrict Newcastle to a nine-point half-time lead after Gopperth clipped over his third and fourth penalties of the evening.
He racked up another penalty shortly after the restart but Hodgson hauled Sale back into the match with three quick penalties as the Sharks began to dominate territory and possession and a drop-goal from Hodgson then made it all-square with 20 minutes to go.
But Falcons scrum-half Young capitalised on poor Sharks defending to bustle over in the corner with Gopperth nailing the difficult conversion and Hodgson again had to respond with a penalty to keep Sale in touch.
When Kristian Ormsby stormed over for a try in the corner, the home side led for the first time even though Hodgson missed the conversion. He made amends with a penalty to give Sale a two-point lead before Gopperth capped a superb performance with a three-pointer to clinch victory for the Falcons.
GLOUCESTER 34-20 LONDON IRISH
KINGSHOLM – Saturday 24th April 2010
GLOUCESTER torpedoed last season’s beaten finalists London Irish’s hopes of reaching the Guinness Premiership play-offs for a second successive season by handing the Exiles a crushing 34-20 defeat at Kingsholm.
The home side stormed into a 27-3 half-time lead with wings Lesley Vainikolo and James Simpson-Daniel both scoring tries while fly-half Nicky Robinson kicked 19 points on top of a second-half touchdown for replacement prop Alasdair Dickinson.
Irish, twice reduced to 14 men by yellow cards, posted consolation touchdowns by lock Kieran Roche, flanker Steffon Armitage and prop Dan Murphy, while Tom Homer kicked a penalty and ex-Gloucester player Ryan Lamb added a conversion.
Irish were quickly knocked on to the back foot with Robinson clipping over his first penalty before key midfield playmaker Seilala Mapusua limped off with a knee injury, but his replacement, Tom Homer, quickly made an impact by leveling the score with a penalty when Gloucester flanker Akapusi Qera was sin-binned.
Fourteen-man Gloucester forged ahead when Robinson's inch-perfect cross-kick was caught by Vainikolo for a try and Robinson booted three more penalties during a damaging six-minute spell to give the Cherries a 17-3.
When Irish wing Delon Armitage was sin-binned for obstruction, Robinson landed his fifth penalty and Gloucester struck with a 70-metre breakaway try from Simpson-Daniel to go in at the interval 27-3 up after Robinson added the extras.
Irish struck first after the break with an unconverted try from Roche and they followed that up with touchdowns from Armitage and Murphy, one converted by Ryan Lamb, who had replaced Chris Malone at fly-half.
That made a dent in Gloucester’s healthy lead but when Dickenson rumbled over for Gloucester’s third try, the Scotland prop merely underlined the home side’s superiority.
LEICESTER TIGERS 40-22 HARLEQUINS
WELFORD ROAD – Saturday 24th April 2010
TABLE-TOPPERS Leicester are guaranteed a home Guinness Premiership play-off semi-final after they came from 17-16 down at the interval to beat Harlequins, who have now out on a Heineken Cup place for next season by a 40-22 margin.
Looking a touch complacent in the first half, the Tigers were ahead within three minutes when Quins scrum-half Danny Care's pass was neatly intercepted by Toby Flood, who raced away from the halfway line to score and add the conversion before adding a penalty to give Leicester a 10-0 lead.
Care made amends for his earlier error by breaking and kicking ahead, chasing his own kick for a try which Rory Clegg converted to haul it back to 10-7 after just ten minutes.
Flood stretched the Tigers into a 16-7 lead with two penalties but Quins stormed back late in the half with David Strettle and Care combining to send George Lowe away for a try which Clegg converted and Clegg drop-goal penalty then gave Quins the lead for the only time in the contest just before the interval.
Leicester began the second half strongly and when Quins flanker Chris Robshaw was sin-binned, the Tigers stepped up a gear with Flood clipping over the resulting penalty to put them back in front and he then added the conversion on a Matt Smith try after Johne Murphy set the centre up for an easy finish.
And they further extended their lead when Ben Youngs took a quick tapped penalty to score, with Flood converting to stretch their lead to 33-17 after 50 minutes.
And the one-way traffic continued with Leicester awarded a penalty try to stitch up the bonus point before replacement hooker Joe Marler notched a consolation try for Quins in the dying minutes.
T: Flood, Penalty, Smith, Youngs
C: Flood 4
P: Flood 4
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 27-28 SARACENS
FRANKLINS GARDENS – Saturday 24th April 2010
SHANE Geraghty’s nerve let him down at Franklins Gardens when he missed a last-gasp conversion which would have guaranteed Northampton a home semi-final at the end of a thrilling battle with Saracens.
The England fly-half’s miss saw Saracens run out 28-27 winners to give themselves a chance of securing second place in the Guinness Premiership table on the final day of the regular season and grabbing home advantage in a play-off semi-final rematch with Northampton.
England full-back Ben Foden gave Geraghty the chance to seal a home win when he touched down late on but Geraghty, who had replaced Stephen Myler at fly-half, fired his conversion attempt wide, costing Saints a valuable win and ending their unbeaten home record for their season.
Saints took a fifth-minute lead with a Myler penalty but Saracens hit back with a try from skipper Ernst Joubert with Glen Jackson adding the extras before Myler knocked over two penalties to make it 9-7.
Jackson kicked Sarries into 10-9 lead in the 23rd minute but Northampton were awarded a penalty try, converted by Myler when Mauritz Botha was sin-binned for tackling Saints wing Chris Ashton without the ball in front of the visitors’ line.
Saracens reduced the arrears with a Jackson penalty before half-time and Myler responded with a penalty to put Saints back in front five minutes into the second half but, again, Saracens responded with a try when centre Adam Powell touch down with Jackson converting.
As the tension mounted, Saints hit back with Myler’s sixth successful kick to edge into a 22-20 lead and Jackson responded with a 63rd minute penalty which saw the lead change hands for the seventh time in the contest.
And they extended their lead with ten minutes to go when Rod Penny squeezed over for an unconverted try in the corner which looked likely to be enough to win the match until Foden powered over to cut their lead to a point.
But Geraghty, under enormous pressure to win the game for saints at the death, was unable to add the extras.
T: Foden, Penalty
P: Myler 5
BATH set themselves up to claim a play-off place on the final day of the regular season with a 35-19, bonus-point rout of Wasps at Twickenham, where over 60,000 saw the in-form West Country side chalk up their 10th victory in 11 starts to move up to fourth place in the table ahead of their final home game against Leeds Carnegie.
Danny Cipriani knocked over two early penalties to give the hosts a 6-0 lead but Barkley halved that cushion with a 45-metre strike before Bath ran in two tries to take command of the contest.
The first Bath try came out of the blue on 18 minutes when skipper Michael Claassens took a quick free-kick and Butch James ghosted through a gap before delivering a cleverly delayed one-handed pass to Barkley. Nick Abendanon was on hand to send Maddock over for the try and Barkley added the conversion.
Another Barkley penalty on 22 minutes put Bath 13-6 ahead and four minutes later the centre's break split Steve Kefu and Simon Shaw, leaving lock Stuart Hooper, Claassens and Abendanon to present Maddock with another try in the opposite corner.
Barkley was wide with the conversion and Bath then had to contend with the loss of Abendanon to the sin-bin for a block on Tom Varndell and Cipriani clipped over a penalty to send the sides in at the interval with Bath 18-12 ahead.
Wasps came out on the offensive at the start of the second half but Maddock took the wind out of their sails when he intercepted a Cipriani pass and cruised round under the posts to complete his hat-trick with Barkley adding the conversion.
Cipriani kicked his fourth penalty on the hour to keep Wasps in the hunt but when he knock on in midfield, Bath went back on the attack and James’ superbly weighted pass sent Barkley over for the bonus-point try, which he converted himself to kill the match off as a contest.
Trailing 35-12 with 15 minutes to go, Wasps finally got over the Bath line in the final minute when replacement centre Ben Jacobs grabbed a consolation try with Dave Walder, on for Cipriani, adding the conversion.
P: Cipriani 4
LEEDS CARNEGIE 12-10 WORCESTER WARRIORS
HEADINGLEY – Sunday 25th April 2010
FLY-HALF Ceiron Thomas was the toast of Headingly after he kicked four penalties to earn Leeds Carnegie another season in the Guinness Premiership at the expense of beaten Worcester Warriors, who were relegated to the Championship after six seasons in the top flight.
The Sixways club has flirted dangerously close to the drop in each of the past three seasons but there will be no reprieve for them on this occasion, with their return of just three wins from 21 games leaving them with too much to do with only their final game against Gloucester to come.
Leeds, meanwhile, will head to Bath on the final day of the regular season in ninth spot ahead of Newcastle, Sale and Worcester – their highest league position of the season - with their safety guaranteed.
Thomas kicked four penalties during a dour opening 40 minutes to put Leeds 12-3 up, Willie Walker replying with a penalty of his own for Worcester having missed with an earlier attempt.
Walker then missed two kickable penalties early in the second half before Scotland centre Alex Grove crossed from a Matthew Jones chip for the only try of the contest to narrow the gap.
But it was not enough to save the Sixways outfit, who were left heartbroken when Jones saw a stoppage-time drop goal attempt, which would have taken the relegation dogfight to the last day of their season, charged down by a determined Leeds defence.
P: Thomas 4
BATH RUGBY 34-15 SALE SHARKS
THE REC – Saturday 17th April 2010
OLLY Barkley inspired Bath to a five-try rout of struggling Sale at The Rec to help the home side deliver a fitting Guinness Premiership welcome to new club owner Bruce Craig ahead of their rearranged Round 13 midweek home clash with high-flying Northampton Saints.
With Sale lacking direction from half-back due to the absence of fly-half Charlie Hodgson, Bath’s superior set-piece work earned them the first try when Mears zipped off the back of a 22nd minute catch and drive with Barkley adding the conversion.
From then on, it was all about Bath chasing tries and when Carraro flipped up an offload on the Sale line for Barkley to step over the line beside the posts and add the extras, the writing was on the wall for the Sharks.
Wigglesworth got Sale on the board with a penalty on the stroke of half-time, but two minutes into the second half Carraro backhanded an offload into the arms of Banahan ten metres out and the England wing powered over for try number three.
Maddock then tucked away the bonus-point in the 51st minute, side-stepping past four defenders to cross after Barkley’s superb miss-pass set him up 20 metres out.
Sale mustered a response when Sisa Koyamaibole bustled over in the corner for an unconverted 51st minute try, but it was not to be the trigger for any meaningful or sustained fight-back from the Sharks.
Bath carried on creating chances and their fifth try came in 65th minute from loose-head David Barnes, who burrowed over in the corner off the base of a ruck for an unconverted score.
But Sale had the last word three minutes from time when Kris Ormsby bustled over for their second try from short range with Wigglesworth adding the conversion.
T: Mears, Barkley, Banahan, Maddock, Barnes
C: Barkley 3
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 38-23 GLOUCESTER
FRANKLINS GARDENS – Saturday 17th April 2010
ENGLAND wing Chris Ashton underlined his pedigree as the Guinness Premiership’s top try-scorer with a hat-trick in Northampton’s 38-23 bonus-point win over persistent Gloucester at Franklins Gardens to send the play-off bound Saints top of the table overnight.
The game started with the trading of penalties between Stephen Myler and Nicky Robinson before Saints made the vital early break with Ashton’s first touchdown and Myler kicked the home side into a 10-3 lead with a 28th minute penalty.
But Gloucester hit back inside four minutes when James Simpson-Daniel popped an offload up for Charlie Sharples to nip over for a try with Robinson adding the conversion.
Myler added a penalty to his tally just before half-time to send Saints in 16-10 ahead and Saints went into the interval nursing that six-point lead.
Saints, crucially, were first on the board after the break with Myler’s turnover setting up hooker and skipper Dylan Hartley to cross the Gloucester line from an Ashton offload, but Gloucester responded with another Robinson penalty to stay in the hunt.
The home side then made the vital break when deadly finisher Ashton tore through a gap in the visitors’ defence to chalk up Saints’ third try but Gloucester again hit back with a try from lock Dave Attwood to add to a Robinson penalty when Hartley was sin-binned.
That set up a grandstand finish with just one score separating the teams until Shane Geraghty, on for Myler, clipped over a penalty to take Saints two scores clear and the win was tucked in the bag for the home side in the final minute when Bruce Reihana raced clear and handed Ashton his third try on a plate.
WORCESTER WARRIORS 20-24 LONDON W ASPS
SIXWAYS – Saturday 17th April 2010
WORCESTER were left staring relegation in the face with two Guinness Premiership matches to go despite grabbing a losing bonus-point from a 20-24 home defeat by play-off chasing London Wasps at Sixways.
The stubborn Warriors, who have still to face Leeds Carnegie in a pivotal relegation battle at Headingley, stormed back after two Dominic Waldouck tries and a Tom Rees touchdown had given Wasps a 21-3 lead after just 23 minutes.
Indeed, Wasps just three minutes to open their account, thanks to swift early counter-attack which saw Waldouck power over for a try with Cipriani converting, although Willie Walker kicked a penalty to make it 7-3 with 17 minutes gone .
But Wasps took just two minutes more to post their second try with Waldouck weaving his way through the Warriors defence for a second try which Cipriani failed to convert but the Wasps fly-half made up for his miss four minutes later after Waldouck turned creator to send flanker Rees scampering over for the visitors’ third touchdown.
Stunned into action with the game threatening to get away from them, Worcester hit back almost immediately when skipper Pat Sanderson was driven over from a close-range lineout and Walker's conversion made it 21-10 with 31 minutes gone.
A second Walker penalty hauled Worcester back to eight points adrift before the interval and even a Cipriani penalty early in the second half failed to persuade the stubborn home side to chuck in the towel.
Worcester responded magnificently with Scotland centre Alex Grove chalking up a brilliant breakaway try and Walker’s conversion cut Wasps’ lead to just four points with 14 minutes to go, but the visitors were able to hang on for a narrow victory which left the brave Warriors with a mountain to climb in their remaining games.
SARACENS 37-18 HARLEQUINS
WEMBLEY - Saturday 17th April 2010
HOOKER Schalk Brits inspired Saracens to a five-try, 37-18 bonus-point win over outgunned and outclassed Harlequins at Wembley which kept The Men in Black on course for the Guinness Premiership play-offs and left Quins with a mountain to climb to qualify for next season’s Heineken Cup .
Brits played a decisive role in both of open-side flanker Andy Saull's two first-half tries, producing a delicate offload to Joubert, who stood Quins full-back Mike Brown up and released Saull and Brits then broke to feed scrum-half Justin Marshall, who found Saull on his shoulder for the scoring pass.
Fly-half Derick Hougaard added one conversion to an early penalty but Quins responded when hooker Chris Brooker crossed from close range.
A second Hougaard penalty restored Saracens' 15-point cushion before half-time and man of the match Brits got Sarries off to second-half flier when capitalised on good work from full-back Alex Goode and Marshall to race in for Saracens' third try.
Replacement fly-half Glen Jackson converted, Quins’ problems mounted even further when Brown was sin-binned for a succession of professional fouls and Jacques Burger appeared to score a try which was wiped out by the TMO.
Minutes later, though, Michael Tagicakibau sauntered through the woeful Quins defence for the bonus-point score and Joubert sealed an easy win for Saracens with an interception score.
Quins, beaten but unbowed, refused to lie down, however and they put a more respectable complexion on the score-line with late tries from Ugo Monye and Chris York.
T: Saull 2, Brits, Tagicakibau, Joubert
C: Hougaard, Jackson 2
P: Hougaard 2
LONDON IRISH 13-23 LEEDS CARNEGIE
MADEJSKI STADIUM – Sunday 18th April 2010
LEEDS Carnegie took a massive step towards Guinness Premiership safety with a fully deserved 23-13 win over London Irish in the Madejski Stadium , lifting them into ninth spot in the table ahead of Newcastle, Sale and Worcester with six potentially crucial points in hand over the bottom-of-the-table Warriors.
The Exiles, chasing a play-off place, started well with Chris Malone kicking them into a 3-0 lead in the fifth minute - a lead Tom Homer failed to double when he was off-target with a long-range penalty eight minutes later.
That allowed Leeds fly-half Ceiron Thomas to level it up with Malone on target again in the 15th minute before Thomas struck again to level it up at 6-6 after 21 minutes and he gave Leeds a 9-6 lead ten minutes before the break.
And by the time the interval arrived, Leeds had the first try on board after centre Luther Burrell capitalised on a bad mistake by Irish and England full-back Delon Armitage, pouncing to snaffle the loose ball after Armitage made a mess of taking a high punt in his own 22 to sidestep the covering Peter Hewat for a try converted by Thomas.
Hewat made up for his missed tackle when he took a pass from Jamie Gibson and crossed the Leeds line with Malone's conversion making it 16-13 to Leeds at half-time.
Leeds then grabbed the initiative early second-half although poor decision-making and execution stopped them increasing their lead and that allowed Irish to stay in the contest and gradually regain the upper hand in terms of territory and possession.
But the Exiles, who opted for scrums at four kickable penalties, failed to crack the visitors stubborn defence and they were made to pay for that when Leeds full-back Lee Blackett intercepted a loose pass and sent Jon Goodridge in for the match-clinching try with Thomas‘ conversion denying the Exiles even a losing bonus-point for consolation.
P: Malone 2
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 31-7 LEICESTER TIGERS
KINGSON PARK – Sunday 18th April 2010
LEICESTER Tigers produced an easy bonus-point win over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park , grabbing four tries before half-time to go back to the top of the Guinness Premiership standings while Leeds Carnegie’s unexpected win at London Irish piled the relegation pressure back on their hosts.
The match was over as a contest in just over half an hour with the Tigers running in four converted tries, the first coming when they shoved the Falcons pack off their own ball at a five-metre scrum allowing Lewis Moody to pick up and dart over with Flood converting.
More relentless pressure from Leicester conjured up the second Tigers try four minutes later with
Geoff Parling’s charge and Ben Youngs’ floated pass putting Johne Murphy over the in the corner for another converted touchdown.
And when the under-fire Newcastle pack lost a third successive line-out, Flood cruised through under the posts and added the conversion before Moody shrugged off poor tackling to grab his second try and Leicester’s fourth in the 34th minute.
Newcastle, though, made a better fist of the second half and they hit back with a 48th minute try from Charlie Amesbury, set up by Gcobanai Bobo’s clever kick which saw the bounce evade the covering Scott Hamilton, allowing wing Charlie Amesbury to touch down with Jimmy Gopperth converting.
But Leicester, who made wholesale personnel changes through the second half were able to stifle the Falcons’ attempts to launch any meaningful fight back and a Staunton penalty in the 68th minute was enough to seal un impressive victory for the visitors.
T: Moody 2. Parling, J Murphy
C: Flood 4
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 25-13 GLOUCESTER RUGBY
KINGSTON PARK – Wednesday, 31st March 2010
NEWCASTLE Falcons made the most of midweek home advantage to take a major step towards Guinness Premiership safety with a 25-13 win over Gloucester – their first victory of the season in front of their own supporters in a fixture originally scheduled to be played on Saturday, 9th January.
The Falcons’ win lifted them 10 points clear of bottom spot and effectively banished their relegation worries while depriving Gloucester of a chance to close in on a top-six finish and a Heineken Cup berth for next season.
Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth proved to be the home side’s star turn with six penalties but Gloucester spurned a great chance to grab the early initiative when Charlie Sharples spilled a Lesley Vainikolo pass just short of the Falcons’ line.
That was punished when Bath-bound Newcastle wing Tom Biggs got on the end of a pass from Taine Tu'ipulotu with Gopperth, who had clipped over an early penalty, converting to give the Falcons a 10-0 lead with 15 minutes gone.
Gopperth stretched Newcastle's lead with two penalties early in the second half but replacement centre Tim Taylor, on for the injured Mike Tindall, kept Gloucester in the game with a try converted by Robinson on the hour.
Gopperth stretched Newcastle’s lead to 22-13 five minutes later and he then nailed down the home win four minutes later with another long-range penalty goal.
P: Gopperth 6
SALE SHARKS 19 - 30 SARACENS
EDGELEY PARK – Friday, April 9 2010
SARACENS took a big step towards securing a Guinness Premiership play-off spot at Edgeley Park, beating Sale 30-19 to consolidate their third place behind table-topping Leicester and second-placed Northampton and keep the relegation pressure on hosts Sale Sharks.
Derick Hougaard kicked Sarries 6-0 ahead with two early penalties, but Sale number eight Sisa Koyamaibole spotted a gap in the visitors’ defence and burrowed over from close range with Charlie Hodgson slotting the conversion to give the Sharks a 7-6 lead after 22 minutes.
Hougaard then shanked a drop-goal attempt and pushed a penalty left of the posts but Saracens were back in front when wing Chris Wyles broke through two poor tackles to touch down in the corner with Hougaard nailing the touchline conversion.
Two Hodgson penalties levelled it up at 13-13 and the Sale fly-half had the home side 16-13 up at the interval after he clipped over a drop-goal on the stroke of half-time.
Five minutes into the second half, Hodgson stretched Sale’s lead to six points with another penalty, but Sarries hit back with a try from full-back Alex Goode, who converted his own score.
Goode, who had taken on goal-kicking duties, clipped over a penalty to stretch Saracens lead and centre Brad Barritt made the game safe for the visitors when he finished off Jacques Burger's break down the right with Goode adding the conversion.
P: Hodgson 3
P: Hougaard 2
HARLEQUINS 46-11 LEEDS CARNEGIE
TWICKENHAM STOOP – Saturday, April 10 2010
HARLEQUINS piled the relegation pressure back on to Leeds Carnegie with a six-try rout of the Yorkshire side at The Stoop – a result which extended an unbeaten Guinness Premiership home run stretching back to September and kept Quins’ hopes of qualifying for next season’s Heineken Cup just about alive.
In-form former All Black Nick Evans kicked 3-0 Quins ahead in the seventh minute his quick thinking of Evans helped to create the first Quins try for wing Tom Williams, who took full-back Mike Brown’s long pass over in the corner.
Evans then extended the home side’s lead to 13-0 in the 25th minute with a penalty before Cieron Thomas hit back with a three-pointer for the visitors to make it 13-3 at the interval.
Quins bagged their second try in the 52nd minute when Nick Easter’s break set up Mike Brown to score after David Strettle was hauled down just short of the Leeds line.
Thomas landed a penalty for Leeds on the hour, but their chances of launching a fight-back evaporated when flanker Calum Clark was sin-binned for a late challenge on Evans.
Quins cashed in immediately, running in four tries in nine minutes to wrap the game up with centre George Lowe starting a spell of one-way traffic in the 63rd minute with Quins’ third try and three minutes later the home pack drove hooker Chris Brooker over for the bonus-point touchdown.
Brown grabbed his second try in the 69th minute, winning the chase to a loose ball after Williams was hauled back by Leeds full-back Leigh Hinton and Strettle hammered the final nail in Leeds’ coffin when he streaked over from halfway.
Leeds had the last say in the match with a 79th minute consolation try from flanker Alfie To’oala.
T: Williams, Brown 2, Lowe, Brooker , Strettle
C: Evans 4, Clegg
P: Evans 2
WORCESTER WARRIORS 13 - 23 LONDON IRISH
SIXWAYS – Saturday, April 10 2010
DELON and Steffon Armitage kept the London Irish tries in the family at Sixways, grabbing a try apiece in a 23-13 win over Worcester which kept the Exiles on course for the Guinness Premiership play-offs and piled the pressure on the bottom-of-the-table Warriors.
Worcester wrestled the early initiative away from Irish in the 14th minute when Rasmussen chased and collected a long clearance from Latham, committed last defender Hewat and released Grove to cruise over next to the posts with Walker adding the conversion.
Fast-starting Irish had played most of the first quarter in the Worcester half, but all they had to show for their efforts period after 23 minutes was a Chris Malone penalty.
When Walker knocked over a 25th minute penalty awarded for offside, Worcester were in a handy position and had the Warriors fly-half not pulled a 35-metre effort wide of the mark in the 31st minute, the determined home side could have been further ahead.
But Malone caught Worcester napping when Garvey was penalised for holding on inside his own 22, shaping to go to the corner and then swivelling to pick out Delon Armitage with a cross-kick.
Malone’s conversion looked likely to send the sides in all-square at the interval but Irish went straight back on the offensive and drove Steffon Armitage over for a second try with Malone again adding the extras.
Walker made amends for his earlier miss with a 45th minute penalty to cut the Exiles lead but he then missed a chance to reduce the deficit to just one point five minutes later and Malone punished that miss in the 55th minute to restore the visitors’ seven-point cushion.
With 15 minutes to go and Worcester under increasing pressure, Malone clipped over another penalty to give Irish a 23-13 lead and Matthew Jones, on for Walker, missed a chance to haul Worcester back into losing bonus-point territory three minutes later.
P: Walker 2
BATH RUGBY 21-20 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
THE REC – Tuesday 20th April 2010
A late penalty from Olly Barkley kept Bath on the march towards the Guinness Premiership play-offs, earning Steve Meehan's side a tight and potentially crucial 21-20 victory over Northampton Saints - their ninth win in their last ten league starts - at The Rec.
Already safe in the play-offs and bidding for a home semi-final, Northampton fielded a side showing wholesale changes to the line-up which had beaten Gloucester at Franklins Gardens just four days earlier with Jim Mallinder electing to rest 12 first-team regulars.
Steve Meehan rotated a squad lacking the injured Butch James but his side did enough to close the gap on fourth-placed Wasps to just two points ahead of their Twickenham clash.
But a makeshift Saints side came very close to snatching an away win which would have scuppered Bath’s play-off ambitions when fly-half Shane Geraghty fired a last-gasp drop-goal attempt wide of the target.
A penalty apiece from Barkley and Geraghty made it 3-3 before a well-worked Paul Diggin try while Bath fly-half Nicky Little was in the sin bin gave the hard-working Saints an 8-3 lead midway through the first half.
But Barkley second penalty cut the deficit to two points before England Lions hooker Lee Mears burrowed over for a try which gave the home side an 11-8 half-time lead.
Geraghty squared it up with a penalty just after the interval but Bath went back in front when Matt Banahan capitalised on sustained pressure from the bath pack with Barkley adding the conversion to stretch Bath into an 18-11 lead.
Saints responded and Geraghty clipped over three penalties to give the visitors a 20-18 cushion going into stoppage time, which saw Barkley stay cool under pressure to kick Bath back in and when Geraghty snatched his drop-goal attempt wide, Bath were able to hold on.
SALE SHARKS 17-3 WORCESTER WARRIORS
EDGELEY PARK – Friday, April 2 2010
SALE Sharks earned themselves some valuable leeway in their battle to avoid relegation from the Guinness Premiership with a valuable 17-3 home win which sent visitors Worcester Warriors to the bottom of the table and sent Kingsley Jones’ side six points clear of bottom spot.
Sale’s win – their third successive victory - left Worcester facing a tough run-in against London Irish, Wasps and Gloucester at home before they meet fellow strugglers Leeds Carnegie in what is shaping to be the relegation decider at Headingley on the final day of the season.
The Sharks led hard-working Worcester 9-0 at the break thanks to a penalty and two-drop goals from fly-half Charlie Hodgson.
Warriors counterpart Willie Walker, twice, and wing Chris Pennell were off target early on with penalty attempts for Worcester, who carved themselves a fair share of possession and territory in the first 40 minutes.
Walker eventually got the visitors on the board with a penalty, but it was not enough for Mike Ruddock's side, who lost skipper Pat Sanderson to a neck injury early in the second half.
They were undone when Mathew Tait set up the only try of the contest when he shimmied through a static Warriors’ defence, found Hodgson in support and the fly-half’s floated pass opened it up for Hodgson to barrel over in the corner.
And Worcester were even denied a potentially crucial losing bonus point when replacement flanker Chris Cracknell, who had replaced Sanderson, was stopped just short of the line by the under-pressure Sale defence.
HARLEQUINS 23-14 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
THE STOOP – Saturday 3rd April 2010
HARLEQUINS banished any lingering Guinness Premiership relegation fears they may have had with a valuable home win over Newcastle Falcons thanks to a fly-half master class from former All Black Nick Evans, who chalked up all of the home side’s points with two tries, two conversions and three penalties.
Newcastle, who had worked their way clear of the relegation dogfight with a midweek home win over Gloucester got points ion the board early on with Jimmy Gopperth penalty in the 18th minute but Evans cancelled that out in the 25th minute as Quins began to get into their stride.
And Evans introduced a touch of class in the 32nd minute to grab his first try and the first touchdown of the contest before adding the extras to give Quins a 10-3 lead while opposite number Gopperth was in the sin bin.
Newcastle rallied when Gopperth, back into the action from the cooler clipped Quins lead by three points to make it 10-6 at half-time and when hooker Alex walker bustled his way over the Quins line for an unconverted 47th minute try, the Falcons were 11-10 in front.
Evans responded with a penalty to get Quins back in front but Gopperth again responded with a penalty but when Tom Williams fielded a clearance and counter-attacked from deep, Evans was there to finish a five-man move under the posts with the conversion spelling the end of Newcastle’s resistance.
T: Evans 2
C: Evans 2
P: Evans 3
LEEDS CARNEGIE 7-14 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Headingley – Saturday 3rd April 201
NORTHAMPTON stayed on course for a Guinness Premiership play-off place at Headingley but the second-placed side made heavy weather of their 14-7 win over a second-bottom Leeds Carnegie side still battling hard to avoid the drop.
The Saints had an abundance of possession but they did not get on the scoreboard until Leeds had Kearnan Myall sin-binned and Myler, who missed a penalty and a drop-goal attempt in the first half, converted the resultant penalty.
But Leeds, despite seeing very little of the ball, hit back with a try from prop Juan Gomez, who was driven over from close range in the 27th minute with fly-half Ceiron Thomas’ conversion giving the home side a 7-3 lead, which they deservedly held on to until the interval.
After the break, Northampton continued to dominate territory and possession but their finishing far from clinical until three minutes from time, when wing Bruce Reihana fielded a Myler cross-kick and chipped ahead.
Ben Foden chased and collected the loose ball to get over in the corner and although Myler failed to nail the conversion, that was enough to seal the win for Saints while Leeds picked up a potentially valuable losing bonus-point.
LEICESTER TIGERS 43-20 BATH RUGBY
WELFORD ROAD – Saturday 3rd April 201
DEFENDING Guinness Premiership champions Leicester Tigers underlined their 2009-10 title pedigree with a powerhouse display that brought Bath’s seven-game winning run shuddering to a halt at Welford Road and sent out a chilling warning to their championship rivals.
Leicester went into the clash unbeaten in their last 29 home match in all competitions - a run going back to September 2008, while Bath‘s last win at Welford Road had come a week after England beat Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in Sydney.
This time, Bath arrived at Welford Road as the Premiership’s form side with seven straight wins and 30 points from a possible 35 points under their belts.
But the Tigers were in the driving seat from the moment Alesana Tuilagi scored their opening try inside the first minute and by half-time they had added a well-constructed second try from the big Samoan and a stoppage-time touch-down from lock Geoff Parling to lead 25-13.
When Anthony Allen grabbed the bonus-point score for Leicester early in the second half, the Tigers were safe.
Bath hit back with a first-half Matt Banahan try and a second-half touchdown from Joe Maddock but the West Country side never looked like turning the game around and a late penalty try conceded by Bath’s under-pressure pack merely emphasised Leicester‘s superiority.
T: Tuilagi 2, Parling, Allen, Penalty
C: Flood 3
P: Flood 4
GLOUCESTER 29-28 SARACENS
KINGSHOLM – Saturday 3rd April 201
TEENAGE full-back Freddie Burns was the toast of Kingsholm after Gloucester chalked up a heart-stopping 29-28 Guinness Premiership win over Saracens which kept the Cherry and Whites’ hopes of grabbing a top-six finish and a Heineken Cup place alive.
The 19-year-old kicked 19 points, knocking over two conversions and five penalties under enormous pressure, to help the home side hang on for the narrowest of victories after Sarries chipped away an 11-point lead to only loose out when Derrick Hougaard missed a penalty with the last kick of an enthralling contest.
Glen Jackson clipped over a penalty to open the scoring and after Burns hit back twice to edge Gloucester 6-3 ahead, Brad Barritt grabbed Sarries first try on the half-hour with Jackson adding the conversion.
Gloucester countered when Tim Molenaar lanced through the visitors defence and centre partner Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu sent Charlie Sharples over in the corner with Burns adding the extras on the way to half-time which arrived with Gloucester 16-13 ahead.
They extended their lead after the break when Burns picked out Sharples with a cross-kick and the winger scored his second try with Burns again converting.
Saracens responded with a try of their own, created by skipper Ernst Joubert and finished by wing Chris Wyles to get back into the contest at 29-21 after Burns had hit two penalties and Hougaard, on for Jackson, kicked his first three-pointer.
That set up a grandstand finish which saw Sarries full-back Alex Goode grab a 75th minute try and Hougaard convert to cut Gloucester’s lead to a solitary point but Hougaard was unable to hit the target with a 52-metre penalty shot at the death which would have won the game for the visitors.
T: Sharples 2
C: Burns 2
P: Burns 5
LONDON WASPS 33-22 LONDON IRISH
ADAMS PARK – Sunday 4th April 2010
LONDON Wasps stole a march on derby rivals London Irish at Adams Park with a 33-22 bonus-point win which lifted Tony Hanks’ side into the fourth Guinness Premiership play-off place and dropped the Exiles to fifth place with a six-point cushion over sixth-placed bath.
Irish suffered a controversial penalty-try setback after only three minutes when Delon Armitage hauled David Lemi down off the ball as he chased a grubber-kick by Joe Simpson and referee Rob Debney went straight under the posts with Dave Walder adding the conversion.
Walder added two penalties to Wasps tally to give them a 16-0 lead inside 16 minutes but two minutes later Seilala Mapusua bustled over the Wasps line from close-range and Ryan Lamb followed up the conversion with a penalty to get Irish up and running.
Back stormed Wasps and Waldouck's kick up the right was chased by Tom Varndell, who beat Delon Armitage to the ball to score an unconverted try and Wasps had a third try on the board before half-time from number eight Dan Ward-Smith, who got over in the corner.
Ten minutes after the break Danny Cipriani, who had replaced Walder at fly-half left Peter Hewat for dead and fed Dominic Waldouck for Wasps' third try in the 50th minute with Cipriani adding the conversion.
But Irish refused to buckle and they shunted Steffon Armitage over the Wasps line for his sixth try in five games to close the gap with an unconverted try and when youngster James Tideswell came off the Exiles’ bench in the 70th minute and scored immediately with Tom Homer converting, Irish looked like they might launch a fight-back.
But Cipriani calmed Wasps’ nerves with a penalty three minutes from time after Peter Hewat was penalised for a high tackle and that proved enough to see the home side to an important win.
T: Varndell, Waldouck, Ward-Smith, Penalty
C: Walder, Cipriani
P: Walder 2, Cipriani
BATH RUGBY 24-12 HARLEQUINS
THE REC – Saturday, 27th March 2010
IN-FORM Bath’s storming progress towards the Guinness Premiership play-off places continued at The Rec, where Steve Meehan’s men barely needed to break sweat to chalk up a seventh straight league win at the expense of outclassed Harlequins.
Quins were on the back foot from the off with their pack conceding a free kick and a penalty, which Barkley effortlessly chipped over from 40 metres out to give Bath a 3-0 lead, inside the first four minutes.
He was to miss two kickable chances to extend Bath’s lead in an opening half-hour dominated by the home side, who notched the first try of the contest in the 36th minute when Barkley side-stepped his way over the Quins line next to the posts and added the conversion.
The visitors, though, after getting nowhere near the Bath 22 in the opening half-hour, responded with two Evans penalties to go in just 10-6 down at the interval.
Eight minutes into the second half, England hooker Lee Mears burst clear from halfway and put Bell away from 20 metres out for a hugely popular try converted by Barkley to take Bath 17-6 clear.
And Bath were eyeing up a try-scoring bonus-point by the 52nd minute when Maddock cruised over in the corner to finish off a superbly crafted five-man move from the home side with Barkley again on target with the conversion.
But Quins had the last word with 76th minute consolation try set up by Evans and finished by replacement wing Tom Williams with Evans adding the extras.
T: Barkley, Bell, Maddock
C: Barkley 3
GLOUCESTER RUGBY 19-0 LEEDS CARNEGIE
KINGSHOLM – Saturday 27th March 2010
WALES fly-half Nicky Robinson was Gloucester's star turn in a hard-fought 19-0 home win over Leeds Carnegie at Kingsholm, scoring all of the Cherry and Whites’ points with a try, a conversion and four penalties to leave the Headingley side empty-handed.
Leeds pitched up at Kingsholm on the back of a three-game winning run which had hauled them off the bottom of the table and they almost snatched an early try when prop Juan Gomez and Fijian centre Seru Rabeni both went close to crossing the Gloucester line.
But by half-time, Leeds had given away three penalties within kickable range and former Cardiff outside half Robinson had converted the lot to give the home side a 9-0interval lead.
Robinson extended that to 12-0 with a fourth successful penalty shot inside a minute of the re-start to give Gloucester a flying start to a second half which was to see them lose England centre Mike Tindall to a groin injury and Wales number eight and club captain Gareth Delve to an ankle injury.
That meant Gloucester made heavy weather of their attempts to break down Leeds’ stubborn defence until Robinson saw a gap between Leeds fly-half Cieron Thomas and inside centre Scott Barrow, nudged a grubber through the gap and beat flanker Hendre Fourie to the touchdown for a try which he then converted himself to seal a comfortable but uninspiring win for Gloucester.
P: Robinson 4
WORCESTER WARRIORS 18-39 LEICESTER TIGERS
SIXWAYS – Saturday 27th March 2010
ENGLAND fly-half Toby Flood steered Guinness Premiership leaders Leicester to an emphatic 39-18 victory at Sixways which piled the relegation pressure on bottom-of-the-table Worcester Warriors.
Flood notched up 24 points, including six penalties and the conversions when full-back Jeremy Staunton, scrum-half Ben Youngs and substitute James Grindal all grabbed a try apiece.
Flood's opposite number Willie Walker kicked six penalties for the home side, who only trailed 13-12 before Leicester’s class told in the second half.
Worcester led 3-0 early after Walker landed an angled penalty but the Tigers eased in front when centre Ben Smith opened up the Warriors’ defence for Staunton to touch down with Flood converting.
Flood then added a penalty following a long-range Walker strike, but Worcester had no intention of playing second fiddle at that stage and two more Walker penalties edged the Warriors 12-10 in front until Flood had the last say of the first half with his fourth on-target penalty kick.
Flood made it 16-13 two minutes into the second half and Walker replied again to keep Worcester in touch until Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs sipped over for the visitors’ second try with Flood again converting.
Flood and Walker again exchanged penalties early in the final quarter and after two more successful kicks from Flood had effectively killed the match off as a contest, replacement scrum-half James Grindal sealed an impressive Tigers win with a last-gasp try converted by the immaculate Flood.
P: Walker 6
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 14-9 LONDON WASPS
FRANKLINS GARDENS – Saturday 27th March 2010
NEWLY-C ROWNED LV=Cup winners Northampton kept their Guinness Premiership title challenge on the boil and the pressure on league leaders Leicester Tigers with a 14-9 win over stubborn London Wasps at Franklin's Gardens.
The Saints, unbeaten in the Premiership on home turf this season led after nine minutes when Bruce Reihana slotted the opening penalty of a tight game.
But Wasps responded through Danny Cipriani, who put the visitors ahead with two penalties of his own.
Shortly before the break, Northampton were back in front thanks to Roger Wilson's try, which sent the two sides in at half-time with Saints 8-6 in front.
And the see-saw battle continued after the interval with Dave Walder's penalty giving Wasps an 11-8 lead until a drop-goal from Stephen Myler restored the Saints' advantage.
And Myler eventually sealed Northampton’s win with a late penalty, leaving Wasps to settle for a potentially valuable losing bonus point.
LONDON IRISH 38-0 SALE SHARKS
MADEJSKI STADIUM – Sunday 28th March 2010
LONDON Irish leapfrogged Wasps into third place in the Guinness Premiership play-off race with a 38-0 bonus-point rout of struggling Sale Sharks at the Madejski Stadium.
England flanker Steffon Armitage scored two tries and wing John Rudd, full-back Peter Hewat and prop Alex Corbisiero also touched down, while fly-half Ryan Lamb kicked 11 points and his late replacement Chris Malone added a conversion in a one-way contest which saw Sharks fail to get on the scoreboard.
From the moment Rudd's opening try gave Irish the lead in the sixth minute, a bumper Exiles crowd was dancing in the Madejski aisles and Lamb eased over three penalties to pass the 500-point career mark in the Premiership to give Irish a 14-0 lead.
Two ties in six minutes after the break from Steffon Armitage, who finished one off in the corner after good work from number eight Chris Hala'ufia and then popped up to touch down right next to the posts, leaving Lamb with a simple conversion, effectively killed the match off a s contest.
The bonus-point score when Lamb and Seilala Mapusua combined to open up the Sale defence and Rudd popped the ball up for Hewat to score in the left corner.
And the Exiles rubbed salt in Sale’s wounds when they opted for the scrum at a penalty awarded when Mathew Tait illegally denied Delon Armitage a try and three forward drives set up replacement loose-head Corbisiero to force his way over with Malone adding the extras.
Defeat left Sale, who have now won just one of their last nine games in all competitions, still with a job on their hands to escape from a three-way battle with Newcastle Falcons and Worcester Warriors to avoid relegation.
SARACENS 58-15 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
VICARAGE ROAD – Sunday 28th March 2010
SARACENS breathed fresh life into their Guinness Premiership title hopes by handing Newcastle Falcons a seven-try Vicarage Road which saw the Men in Black pick up their first four-try bonus point of the season to hang on to third place in the table and push the Falcons deeper into relegation trouble.
Saracens had lost five of their previous six league matches and they were given an early wake-up call when Jimmy Gopperth clipped over a scruffy drop-goal and a penalty to give the Falcons an early 6-0 lead but, inside a minute Sarries hooker Schalk Brits sidestepped his way past four defenders to touch down under the Falcons posts with Jackson kicking the first of seven conversions.
Gopperth clipped over another penalty to give Newcastle a two-point lead before Jackson replied and Sarries had their second try in the bag in the 15th minute when Brits struck again.
Again Gopperth kept Newcastle in the hunt with a penalty but by half-time flanker Andy Saull had barged over for Saracens third try and the conversion and another Jackson penalty had the home side 27-12 in front at the interval.
After the break it was virtually one-way traffic after Gopperth pulled a penalty back in the 50th minute. Jackson cancelled that out and Saracens then stepped up a gear to blow the Falcons away.
Wing Noah Cato cruised over for the bonus-point fourth try on the hour and number eight Ernst Joubert made it five tries six minutes later.
Replacement wing Richard Haughton grabbed try number six late on and Joubert rounded off the rout with a stoppage-time with Jackson’s conversion taking his personal points haul to 23 points.
T: Brits 2, Joubert 2, Cato, Saull, Haughton
C: Jackson 7
P: Jackson 3
P: Gopperth 4
HARLEQUINS 14-11 WORCESTER WARRIORS
THE STOOP - Saturday 6th March 2010
YOUNGSTER Rory Clegg, called up at fly-half by Harlequins after Nick Evans failed a late fitness test, threw a spanner in Worcester’s works at The Stoop with three penalties in a 14-11 Quins’ victory which left the Warriors still involved in the relegation scrap.
Worcester, who had beaten Newcastle last time out at home, made the early running, but Quins grabbed the early initiative with a ninth-minute try from full-back Mike Brown, who was driven over on the right from close range with Clegg unable to add the conversion.
Worcester hit back immediately with veteran Chris Latham setting up an easy score in the corner for wing Miles Benjamin, which went unconverted when Matthew Jones, in for the injured Willie Walker, was unable to add the extras.
Harlequins thought they had a second try in the 20th minute when Lowe chipped ahead and beat the visitors’ defence but referee Martin Fox spotted a knock-on from the Quins winger as he tried to get the ball down.
Quins made a strong start to the second half but they failed to turn pressure into points and they paid for that when Worcester built some momentum which ended with Jones chalking up a penalty to give the Warriors the lead.
Three minutes later, Clegg replied for Quins to square it up but only for as long as it took Jones to notch another penalty when Quins were caught handling in a ruck in the 63rd minute.
Three minutes later, Worcester were pinged for coming in at the side and Clegg punished them to make it 11-11 and he banged a long-range effort over from halfway in the 70th minute, which proved enough to take the game away from the visitors.
P: Clegg 3
LEICESTER TIGERS 35-19 LONDON IRISH
WELFORD ROAD – Saturday 6th March 2010
A magnificent first-half performance saw Guinness Premiership leaders Leicester mark Lote Tuqiri's final appearance with a comfortable bonus-point victory over London Irish at Welford Road.
The Tigers came out of the blocks fast, taking just five minutes to notch a fine try from Alesana Tuilagi down the narrow side thanks to great build-up work from prop Martin Castrogiovanni and inside centre Anthony Allen.
Flood converted and he had made it 13-3 with two penalties by the 20th minute with Irish’s only entry on the scoreboard coming in the shape of a Tom Homer penalty.
And when Lote Tuquiri marked his farewell appearance in style, setting up Leicester’s second try for Scott Hamilton with a superb break from halfway the writing was on the wall for the Exiles.
In fact, the game was effectively over as a contest moments later when Castrogiovanni intercepted an inside ball from Seilala Mapasua and scored under the sticks with Flood adding the conversion to give the hosts a 25-3 lead.
Homer, meanwhile, missed two penalty chances and Flood one before Irish gave themselves some hope when Steffon Armitage finished off a smart line-out move by getting over the line with Homer converting to make it 25-10 at the interval.
Buoyed by Armitage’s try, Ryan Lamb took over the Exiles kicking duties and he trimmed Leicester’s lead to 12 points, but when Chris Hala'ufia was binned for a no-arms tackle on Castrogiovanni in the 52nd minute, the Irish fight-back began to falter.
Staunton, on for the injured Flood, and kicked a penalty and Lamb replied twice to keep Irish just about in the contest, but when Allen rolled through two weak tackles under the visitors’ posts and sent replacement hooker George Chuter over for the bonus-point score, it was curtains for the Exiles.
T: Tuilagi, Hamilton, Castrogiovanni, Chuter
C: Flood 2, Murphy
P: Flood 2, Staunton
SALE SHARKS 7-15 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
EDGELEY PARK – Sunday 7th March 2010
SALE Sharks were sent crashing to the bottom of the Guinness Premiership table and left facing a battle to avoid relegation after a 15-7 home setback against high-flying Northampton Saints saw them collapse to an eighth successive defeat in all competitions.
The outcome, coupled with Leeds’ home win over Saracens and Worcester’s escape from their game against Harlequins at The Stoop with a losing bonus-point left the Stockport side, champions just four seasons ago, two points adrift in the basement.
Northampton, though, made a poor fist of the first half, going in just 7-0 up at the break after starting fly-half Stephen Myler r missed four kickable penalties early on.
That meant Paul Diggin’s try and Myler’s conversion were all that separated the two sides at the end of a first half totally dominated by the visitors.
Home fly-half Charlie Hodgson and returning centre Lee Thomas both missed a penalty attempt apiece in the first half with worse to come from Hodgson late in the proceedings.
Although Saints had looked laboured at times in the first half, Chris Ashton’s well-crafted and finished 12th try of the season and a penalty from replacement fly-half Shane Geraghty proved enough to see Sale off.
Ben Cohen got a late converted try to give the home side some hope but when Hodgson hit the woodwork from bang in front of the posts, the Sharks were left without even a losing bonus point for consolation.
LEEDS CARNEGIE 19-12 SARACENS
HEADINGLEY – Sunday 7th March 2010
LEEDS climbed off the bottom of the Guinness Premiership table for the first time after they chalked up their third league win on the bounce by handing third-placed Saracens their fifth defeat in their six outings since the turn of the year at Headingley.
Top of the table at New Year, Saracens led 9-3 at half-time but Leeds survived the first-half departure of injured fly-half Ceiron Thomas and thanks to the kicking of youngster Joe Ford, they were able to build full-back Lee Blackett’s second-half try and come out on top.
Sarries made the early running and fly-half Derick Hougaard kicked an easy penalty and then extended their lead to 9-0 with a drop-goal and another penalty before Ford, on for Thomas, hit back with a penalty for the home side just before the interval.
Ford hit the target again just after the break to cut Sarries’ lead to three points but a Hougaard drop-goal restored Saracens’ six-point cushion until Ford bisected their posts again to keep Leeds in the hunt.
That sparked the best spell of the game from Leeds and their efforts to put Saracens under pressure were rewarded when Blackett crashed over for the game’s only try went over from close range with Ford adding the conversion.
The tension told in the 66th minute when both hookers, Leeds’ Andy Titterrell and Saracens’ Schalk Brits, were sin-binned for fighting but that had no effect on the outcome with Ford’s late drop-goal sealing another morale-boosting victory for Neil Back’s battlers.
P: Ford 3
LONDON WASPS 24-19 GLOUCESTER
Adams Park – Sunday 7th March 2010
DAVE Walder reminded Wasps there will be life after Danny Cipriani with a 19-point haul which helped to sink Gloucester 24-19 at Adams Park and lifted the High Wycombe outfit into fourth place in the Guinness Premiership table.
The former England fly-half grabbed a try, a conversion and four penalties to turn the Cherry and Whites over after they has fought back from 13-0 to level it at 16-16 before a late try from David Lemi sealed a home victory.
Walder struck two penalties in the opening 16 minutes and then converted his own 24th minute try, latching on to a miss pass from scrum-half James Honeyben to finish off a series of drive by the Wasps pack.
Gloucester hit back with two Tim Taylor penalties before the break but another Walder penalty sent Wasps in with a comfortable half-time lead, despite having replacement scrum-half Warren Fury sent to the sin bin for stamping.
By the time Fury got back into the action early in the second half, Wasps had succeeded in keeping Gloucester at arm’s length but Mike Tindall stormed over for a 52nd minute solo try and Nicky Robinson, who had replaced Taylor, converted.
Gloucester were back on terms on the hour when Robinson rifled over a penalty from 45 metres out but when Akapusi Qera was sin-binned for an off-the-ball tackle, Walder clipped Wasps into a 19-16 lead, which became a 24-16 cushion when Lemi sliced through the Cherries’ defence for an unconverted 71st minute score.
But Robinson reduced the arrears again with a penalty five minutes from time when Wasps a collapsed a scrum to make sure the visitors left Adams Park with a losing bonus point.
T: Walder, Lemi
P: Walder 4
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 13-17 BATH RUGBY
KINGSTON PARK – Sunday, 7th March 2010
NEWCASTLE'S hopes of a rare double over Bath, who they beat 24-6 at The Rec earlier in the season, disappeared when the visitors scored two second-half tries to come back from 10-5 down for a 17-13 win at Kingston Park.
The game had previously exploded into life when Bath went ahead in the 11th minute, when Alex Tait’s failed interception attempt saw Michael Claassens’ pass sent Matt Banahan romping over in the corner to give the visitors a 5-0 lead.
The Falcon’s reply, though, was swift when Jimmy Gopperth stepped through the Bath defence and the home pack piled on the pressure under the Bath posts before they went wide to get centre Rob Vickerman over in the corner.
Gopperth’s touchline conversion gave Newcastle a 7-5 lead after 14 minutes and at half-time they were 10-5 ahead, thanks to a 22nd minute Gopperth penalty, although the Falcons had seen Charlie Amesbury and Danny Williams both waste good try-scoring chances.
Bath changed their front row at half-time, bringing on England trio Lee Mears, David Flatman and David Wilson, but Banahan got Bath on the front foot to set up an unconverted try in the corner for full-back Nick Abendanon.
Ollie Barkley and Gopperth then both missed penalties before Flatman was stopped on the line and Claassens was held up by some great Newcastle tackling, but there was nothing the home defence3 could do to stop former Falcon David Wilson burrowing his way over for Bath's third try in the 64th minute with Barkley adding the conversion.
Gopperth landed a 68th minute penalty to give Newcastle hope at 17-13, but he missed another good chance three minutes later and although the Falcons had Bath pinned back on their own 22 in the dying minutes, they were unable to conjure up another score.
P: Gopperth 2
SALE SHARKS 19-8 LONDON WASPS
EDGELEY PARK – Friday 19th March 2010
CHARLIE Hodgson breathed some badly-needed life into Sale’s faltering Guinness Premiership campaign with a match-winning display which propelled the Sharks to a 19-8 win over Wasps in a re-arranged Round 9 game, lifting the Edgeley park side off the bottom of the table.
Hodgson landed three penalties and the conversion on scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth’s try to rescue the 2005/6 champions, who went into the game against fifth-placed Wasps looking to avoid a ninth straight defeat on the end of an eight-game losing streak.
Sale led 9-0 at half-time and, although Wasps hit back with a 53rd minute try from centre Ben Jacobs, the Londoners never looked like pulling off a win to move back into the Premiership’s play-off places.
Hodgson clipped over his first penalty in the sixth minute and after Dave Walder missed a penalty for Wasps, he extended Sale’s lead in the 27th minute and clipped over another penalty in the 36th minute just after the Sharks had seen a claimed try disallowed.
Danny Cipriani replaced the wayward Walder at the interval and he was immediately involved in the build-up to Jacobs’ try, although the Melbourne Rebels-bound replacement fly-half was unable to add the conversion.
Two minutes later, though Wasps relinquished their foothold in the game with a bout of woeful defending which saw the ball spilled and Wigglesworth pounce for what turned out to be the match-clinching try for Sale.
Hodgson stroked over the conversion and while a penalty from Cipriani just about kept Wasps in touch, Wigglesworth added a late penalty to make sure the Sharks picked up a vital win and Wasps left Edgeley Park empty-handed.
P: Hodgson 3, Wigglesworth
WORCESTER WARRIORS 13-0 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
SIXWAYS – Friday 26th February 2010
NEWCASTLE boss Steve Bates, who was eyeing up Heineken Cup qualification just three weeks ago, and his side are facing a tough Guinness Premiership run-in after a 13-0 defeat at Worcester sucked the Falcons towards the relegation dogfight.
While the Falcons failed to put a point on the board at Sixways, an opportunist 72nd minute try from replacement lock Will Bowley sealed Worcester’s first win in seven league outings and only their third win of the season to lift them into tenth place above Sale Sharks.
Newcastle dominated the line-out battle, but they found the fired-up Warriors’ defence in miserly mood and the Falcons’ scrum, which had been the toast of the Premiership in recent weeks, was in trouble all night with Worcester shunting the visitors of their own ball three times over the course of a disappointing contest.
The Warriors led 6-0 at half-time, courtesy of two Willie Walker penalties – both awarded for front-row scrimmaging offences - as Worcester piled the pressure on at scrum time and Bowley’s try, which saw the gangly lock pick up a loose ball 30 metres out and barrel over next to the posts, left the Falcons with no way back into the match.
P: Walker 2
GLOUCESTER 47-3 SALE SHARKS
KINGSHOLM –Saturday 27th February 2010
SALE SHARKS are facing a tough battle to escape from the Guinness Premiership mire if the way they were comprehensively dismantled by rampant Gloucester, who had the try-scoring bonus point in the bank inside half-an-hour in a Kingsholm mudbath, is anything to go by.
Tim Molenaar, Mike Tindall and Lesley Vainikolo almost opened Sale up in the sixth minute with Gloucester's pack already on top of the job in the scrum and when referee Dean Richards awarded a penalty try to the rampant Cherries a minute later, Robinson added the conversion and the home side was on its way.
Charlie Hodgson had an eighth-minute kick charged down in Sale's half and the visitors were immediately under the cosh again and this time Vainikolo crashed over in the corner to take Gloucester 14-0 clear before Sale had ventured outside their own half.
And when Vainikolo crossed for his second try in the 20th minute, making the most of an overlap created by good Gloucester handling, the partisan Kingsholm crowd had the whiff of a bonus-point try in its nostrils and that arrived with just 27 minute gone when Akapusi Qera strolled through a gap in the stretched Sharks defence with Robinson converting.
Hodgson chipped over a penalty to get Sale on the board just before half-time but there was never any danger of that sparking any kind of fight-back from the comprehensively overpowered and outclassed visitors, although Gloucester took fully 25 minutes to extend their lead after the break.
When they did it was a chip-and-chase score from Nicky Robinson, who spotted another yawning gap in the tiring Sharks defence 25 metres out, clipped the ball under the posts and skated in for try number five before picking himself up to add the extras.
Simpson-Daniel made it a round half-dozen tries for the Cherries in the 70th minute, capitalising when Vacakegu failed to tidy up his kick through five metres out to slide over the line and Gloucester continued to rub Sale's noses in the mud in the 75th minute when replacement flanker Andy Hazell paddled over from 20 metres out with replacement fly-half Tim Taylor converting both late scores.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 19-3 LEICESTER TIGERS
FRANKLIN’S GARDENS – Saturday 27th February 2010
NORTHAMPTON Saints are just one point behind Guinness Premiership leaders Leicester with a potentially crucial game in hand after they produced a highly professional and workmanlike performance to beat their Midlands rivals 19-3 at Franklin's Gardens.
Saints captain Phil Dowson went over in the 44th minute for the only try of the game, while fly-half Stephen Myler kicked the remainder of the hosts' points through a conversion and four penalties.
Ill-discipline cost Leicester dear, with Craig Newby sin-binned on the half-hour mark following his spear tackle on Myler. Tigers shipped six crucial points while their captain was in the cooler.
The visitors' only points came from a 23rd-minute penalty from Jeremy Staunton, which made it 3-3 at the time, and they lacked ideas throughout on a muddy pitch.
That saw the Tigers make the short trip back to Welford Road without even a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.
Saints went into the interval 12-3 in front after fly-half Myler kicked four penalties to Jeremy Staunton’s one and they made the crucial break four minutes into the second half when Dowson picked up from the base of a scrum and crashed over the Tigers line with Myler’s conversion rounding off the scoring.
P: Myler 4
LEEDS CARNEGIE 26-10 LONDON WASPS
HEADINGLEY – Sunday, 28th February 2010
FLY-HALF Ceiron Thomas inspired bottom-of-the-table Leeds Carnegie to a 26-10 Headingley win over Wasps, which saw the Yorkshire side win a home Premiership game for the first time since March 2008, complete a season double over the Londoners and give their chances of escaping relegation a major shot in the arm.
Thomas' assured first-half kicking display put the hosts on course for their first home win in the top flight since March 2008, despite Danny Cipriani's converted first-half try, the Welshman finishing with 18 points to his name.
Leeds controlled the early territory and possession with some robust running from Seru Rabeni and Andy Titterrell and accurate kicking from Thomas, who knocked over two early penalties to give the home side a 6-0 lead.
Cipriani kept up with an audacious counter-attack from the Wasps 22 sparked by David Lemi and he finished off the length-of-the-field move to dive over the line and then picked himself to add the conversion.
Thomas hit back with two penalties before the break to get Leeds back in front and Cipriani replied early in the second half, but Wasps were destined not to trouble the scoreboard operator again.
With nine minutes to go, two more Thomas penalties had given Leeds a precious eight-point cushion and they then sealed a morale-boosting win in style when flanker Hendrie Fourie stole down the blind-side off the back of a rolling maul for the decisive try.
Thomas missed the conversion but his replacement, youngster Joe Ford, was cool enough to knock over a penalty at the death to seal Wasps’ fate.
P: Thomas 6, Ford
LONDON IRISH 29-14 HARLEQUINS
MADEJSKI STADIUM – Sunday 28th February 2010
LONDON IRISH climbed back into the Guinness Premiership’s top four in the Madesjki Stadium, where youngster Tom Homer’s boot contributed 19 points to an emphatic 29-14 win over troubled Harlequins, who dropped to eighth in the table.
The Exiles opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a 30-metre penalty from Homer after Quins lost a line-out on their own 22, but the visitors were 7-3 up in the 19th minute after Nick Evans converted a penalty try awarded against the under-pressure Irish scrum.
Homer reduced those arrears with another penalty and when Chris Hala'ufia slipped a tackle in midfield to send Steffon Armitage scampering over for a try converted by Homer, Irish had a lead they were never to lose.
By half-time, the Exiles were 19-7 ahead courtesy of another Homer penalty and when Nick Kennedy notched their second converted try in the 58th minute, Quins were effectively dead and buried.
Quins continued to battle hard throughout the second half and they had more of the play in terms of possession and territory, but all they had to show for their efforts at the end was a 77th minute consolation try from wing George Lowe, converted by Evans.
T: S Armitage, Kennedy
C: Homer 2
P: Homer 5
SARACENS 14-16 BATH RUGBY
VICARAGE ROAD – Sunday 28th February 2010
SARACENS crashed to their fourth Guinness Premiership defeat in their last five games at Vicarage Road, where a last-gasp Derick Hougaard penalty miss saw in-form Bath continue their march up the table with a hard-earned 16-14 victory.
Fly-half Ryan Davis kicked Bath into a fifth-minute lead from in front of the posts but missed a chance to double their advantage in the 12th minute when Rose penalised Saracens at the breakdown and his kick dipped under the bar.
Hougaard levelled it up with a 17th-minute penalty and Saracens took the lead in the 23rd minute when Wikkus van Heerden snaffled a line-out that Mouritz Botha knocked back but failed to secure, smashing his way through Bath defensive cover in the corner.
Davis knocked over his second penalty on the half-hour to cut Sarries’ lead to 8-6, Hougaard hit the target with a penalty of his own in the 33rd minute and Davis then [pegged the home side’s lead back to just two points before the interval.
After the break, Davis, who was having a mixed afternoon with the boot in the difficult underfoot conditions, missed two penalty shots at goal but when Bath stepped up the pressure at a series of five-metre scrums, Saracens took the set-piece down once too often and referee David Rose awarded a penalty try which Davis converted.
Trailing 16-11, Saracens needed a penalty from Hougaard on the hour to stay in the contest and they could have led when Hougaard tried a drop-goal and hooked his kick wide of the target.
Both Davis and Hougaard then missed with penalties as the clock began to wind down with Bath still two points ahead.
But Saracens had their chance to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat in stoppage time when Bath were pinged for pulling down a rolling maul, but Hougaard was unable to hit the target.
T: Van Heerden
P: Hougaard 3
P: Davis 3
SALE SHARKS 10-19 LEEDS CARNEGIE
EDGELEY PARK – Friday 19th February 2010
FLY-HALF Ceiron Thomas kicked Leeds to their first Premiership win over Sale Sharks, who started the night at Edgeley Park bidding for a win which would have moved them up to sixth place in the table and into the play-off running.
Leeds had failed to overcome Sale in 17 previous attempts but the fly-half's poise and faultless kicking saw him notch 14 points and set up the match-winning try for replacement scrum-half Scott Mathie.
Thomas gave the visitors the lead with a simple drop-goal in front of the posts after two minutes, but Sale hit back with Kristian Ormsby’s try, converted by Charlie Hodgson, before a Thomas penalty cut the Sharks lead to 7-6.
Leeds, crucially, were in front at half-time though after Mathie barged his way over for a try converted by Thomas.
Sale reduced the deficit just after the break when Hodgson kicked a penalty awarded for a high tackle on full-back Marika Vakacegu but Thomas replied immediately, kicking Leeds into what proved to be a winning nine-point lead with 20 minutes to go.
And that proved enough to earn bottom-of-the-table Leeds their third win of the season, pulling them to within a point of 11th=placed Worcester, while Sale were left to contemplate a home defeat which saw them slide down to 10th, just four points off bottom spot.
BATH RUGBY 37-13 WORCESTER WARRIORS
THE REC – Saturday 20th February 2010
BATH continued to turn their season around yesterday at The Rec, where they chalked up their fourth successive Guinness Premiership win on the bounce with a five-tries-to-one 37-13 demolition job on 14-man Worcester Warriors lifting the rejuvenated West Country club into sixth place in the table.
Worcester, who had led Saracens at Wembley a week earlier, were 7-0 in front in the sixth minute when fly-half Willie Walker twisted over the Bath line from short range and then added the easy conversion.
But quick ball from a 20th minute line-out saw Butch James send Joe Maddock over in the corner for the wing’s third try in two matches to cut the Warriors lead to two points and after Walker clipped over a penalty four minutes later to keep Worcester in front, Maddock sliced through the visitor’s defence from 30 metres out, sidestepping three defenders for a stunning try which Ryan Davis converted to give Bath the lead.
Davis then capitalised on increasing Bath pressure to extend the home side’s lead to 15-10 on the half-hour and Worcester’s problems began to mount when flanker Tom Wood was sin-binned for handling in a ruck five minutes before the break.
Bath lost some momentum early in the second half when James had to be helped from the pitch with a shoulder injury, which saw Davis step up to fly-half with the fit-again Olly Barkley slotting in at inside centre.
But when Chris Latham was sin-binned for obstruction on the flying Maddock on the edge of the Warriors 22, Davis clipped over the resulting 53rd minute penalty to get the scoreboard ticking again for the home side.
Walker replied a minute later to keep Worcester in the contest but when Wood was shown a second yellow and then a red card for elbowing Peter Short at a maul, Bath immediately stepped up a gear and skipper Michael Claassens crashed over for their third try in the 59th minute with Davis converting to send the home side 25-13 clear.
Two minutes later, Bath had their third successive bonus point try and the game in the bag with a 32-13 lead after Matt Banahan bustled over in the corner with Davis again on target with a difficult touchline conversion and replacement flanker Jonny Faamatuainu rubbed salt in Worcester’s wounds with three minutes to go, diving on the ball for try number five after Bath’s pack rumbled him over the line.
T: Maddock 2, Claassens, Banahan, Faamatuainu
C: Davis 3
P: Davis 2
HARLEQUINS 13-6 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
THE STOOP – Saturday 20th February 2010
HARLEQUINS produced their best league display for some weeks to bounce back from a heavy defeat at Gloucester a week earlier with a 13-6 win over Guinness Premiership title hopefuls Northampton Saints at The Stoop.
Title-chasing Northampton arrived having won six Premiership games in a row to face a Harlequins team still recovering form a dreadful 46-6 hammering at Gloucester, their third consecutive league defeat.
Quins fly-half Nick Evans kicked the home side into an early 6-0 lead with two penalties before Saints’ first foray into the home side’s 22 saw his opposite number Stephen Myler miss a shot at goal after lock James Percival was ;pinged for entering a ruck from the side.
Saints; however, hung on with scrum-half Lee Dixon denying Quins wing George Lowe a try with some brilliant defending on the try-line until Lowe set full-back Mike Brown up for the only try of the contest in the 20th minute which Evans converted.
Lowe drew the cover before passing out to Mike Brown who thundered over. A fine angled conversion by Evans saw the hot favourites 13-0 behind after 20 minutes –a lead Quins still held at half-time.
Myler’s goal-kicking misery ended when he bisected the Quins posts in the 46th minute to get Saints on the board and nine minutes he cut Quins’ lead to seven points with a second successful penalty.
Evans missed a chance to calm the home side’s nerves but he scuffed a penalty wide and the game died away to a tame finish when Shane Geraghty, on for Myler, dragged a kickable penalty across the face of the posts.
P: Evans 2
LEICESTER TIGERS 33-11 GLOUCESTER
WELFORD ROAD – Saturday 20th February 2010
LEICESTER Tigers moved five points clear of the chasing pack at the top of the Guinness Premiership table after a 33-11 win over Gloucester at Welford Road which featured an impressive display from fly-half Toby Flood in front of England boss Martin Johnson.
The Cherry and Whites, bidding for a seventh successive win in all competitions, were 6-0 ahead early on after Welsh fly-half Nicky Robinson slotted home two penalties, but Flood hit back with three kicks and nine points before Lote Tuquiri ran in the Tigers’ first try, which Flood converted for a 16-6 half-time lead.
Gloucester’s chances of turning the game around after the break evaporated when they went 23-6 down within three minutes of the re-start, courtesy of Leicester full-back and skipper Geordan Murphy’s try and Flood’s conversion.
The visitors did grab a brief lifeline when centre Jonny May, a late replacement for the in-form Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, stepped inside the home defence to notch an unconverted try.
But Flood responded with a fourth penalty and then converted scrum-half Ben Youngs’ try to keep Leicester in pole position for a home play-off semi-final.
Gloucester, meanwhile, dropped to ninth in the table just seven points clear of bottom-of-the-table Leeds.
T: Tuquiri, Murphy, Youngs
C: Flood 3
P: Flood 4
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 12-12 LONDON IRISH
KINGSTON PARK – Saturday 20th February 2010
NEWCASTLE came back from 12-0 down to squeeze two points from a 12-12 draw with fourth-placed London Irish at Kingston Park, where the Falcons’ inability to chalk up home wins again saw them miss out on a chance to move closer to the Heineken Cup qualification places.
What was to develop into a compelling contest in the second half got off to a subdued start with both sides struggling to create scoring opportunities against the other’s well-organised defence and, as a result, the match remained scoreless at the end of the first quarter.
Irish finally burst into to life after the slow start in three very productive minutes which saw them surge into a 12-0 lead thanks to tries from number eight George Stowers and flanker Steffon Armitage and a conversion from Tom Homer.
New Zealand fly-half Jimmy Gopperth got the Falcons' first points on the board five minutes before the break and the teams headed into the dressing rooms at with Irish 12-3 ahead.
The second half saw little try-line action with only Gopperth's boot adding to the score-board, despite the Falcons pack getting a grip on the game to make sure Newcastle had the lion’s share of possession and territory.
That saw Gopperth slot three penalties, one from the very limit of his range, in the second period to level matters it up, but Newcastle, who stayed in eighth place in the Premiership table, were unable to get their noses in front in the dying minutes.
P: Gopperth 4
LONDON WASPS 9-0 SARACENS
ADAMS PARK – Sunday 21st February 2010
MELBOURNE Rebels-bound Danny Cipriani steered Wasps into fourth place in the Guinness Premiership table with a hat-trick of penalties in a disappointing London derby at Adams Park, where Saracens failed to put a point ion the board for the first time this season.
Despite revealing that he is leaving the club to join the Rebels, Australia's new Super 15 franchise, at the end of the season, Cipriani's focus was total as he punished a Saracens side which slid to third place in the table.
Cipriani clipped over his first three-pointer in the second minute after the visitors collapsed a scrum and he made it 6-0 to the home side eight minutes later when Sarries were penalised for not releasing.
With Saracens’ set-piece work poor and their ball-retention poorer, Cipriani just missed a chance to make it 9-0 after 28 minutes, when a penalty fired from inside his own half dropped just under the crossbar.
And two minutes later, he hit the upright with another kick and Sarries job got tougher when prop Richard Skuse was sin-binned in the 38th minute.
Wasps went 9-0 ahead in the 45th minute with Cipriani’s third successful penalty sailing over and the biggest threat a woefully impotent Sarries side could muster during the remainder of a one-sided contest was a string of missed long-range drop-goal attempts from fly-half Derrick Hougaard.
GLOUCESTER 46-6 HARLEQUINS
KINGSHOLM – Saturday 13th February 2010
REJUVENATED Gloucester completed a seven-day LV=Cup and Guinness Premiership double over Harlequins, overpowering and outclassing the Londoners in a six-try romp at Kingsholm to maintain their unbeaten start to 2010.
Gloucester piled the pressure on the visitors from the off at the set-piece scrum and line-out, denying Quins any kind of real attacking platform in the opening 20 minutes -a trend which the visitors were unable to reverse.
By then the Cherry and Whites were 13-3 up, thanks to two early penalties from Nicky Robinson, both conceded by the under-pressure Quins front row at scrums.
A 16th minute try from Lesley Vainikolo, set up by good work from skipper Gareth Delve and Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and converted by Robinson, gave the home side a dream start before Nick Evans replied with a two penalties to haul the visitors back into the contest.
By half-time though, Gloucester had an 18-6 lead and a second try on the board from Tim Molenaar, who appeared to benefit from a knock-on by Vainikolo as both chased Fuimaono-Sapolu’s clever chip into the corner.
Quins thought they were on their way back in the contest four minutes into the second half with tight-head James Johnston heading for the corner, but referee David Rose spotted Evans’ long looping pass out wide going forward.
Gloucester’s handling, however, was far more assured and accurate in the 48th minute when they worked the ball wide to create an overlap for James Simpson-Daniel to power over in the corner with Robinson adding the touchline conversion.
Ten minutes later Tom Voyce, on for Fuimaono-Sapolu, ran in the bonus-point score after Delve charged down Karl Dickson’s kick on the Quins 22.
And the all-action Gloucester skipper rounded off a man-of-the-match performance with an interception, a 50-metre dash and the pass inside for Simpson-Daniel’s second try of the match with four minutes to go.
Two minutes later, Simpson-Daniel clocked up his hat-trick and wrapped up an emphatic Gloucester win with Taylor, on for Robinson, adding the conversion.
T: Vainikolo, Molenaar, Voyce, Simpson-Daniel 3
C: Robinson 3, Taylor
P: Robinson 2
P: Evans 2
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 25-13 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
FRANKLINS GARDENS – Saturday 13th February 2010
ENGLAND discard Chris Ashton grabbed two tries as Northampton, who did not need to be anywhere close to their best, saw off Newcastle Falcons 25-13 at Franklin's Gardens to stay on the Guinness Premiership play-off pace.
When the Falcons lost a crucial early line-out, Saints sent the ball wide for Ashton to score in the corner and Stephen Myler converted to give the home side a 7-0 lead with 10 minutes gone.
The Falcons hit back with a Jimmy Gopperth penalty but Myler cancelled that out quickly.
Newcastle responded with a try from their first concerted attack, driving a line-out for to set up a try for hooker Rob Vickers with Gopperth converting to level the contest up at 10-10.
But by half-time, Saints were 15-10 ahead after Myler sparked an attack from deep, lock Juandre Kruger was hauled down inches from the line and scrum-half Lee Dickson was on hand to pick up and score an unconverted try.
Myler kicked an early penalty after the break to make it 18-10 but Northampton’s discipline deserted them for a spell and Gopperth clipped over a penalty to reduce the deficit with 55 minutes gone.
But a poor pass from Gcobani Bobo sparked another Saints attack and Kruger put Ashton over for the wing’s second touchdown in the 65th minute with Myler adding the conversion for a 25-13 Northampton lead, which proved enough to kill the contest off.
T: Ashton 2, Dickson
C: Myler 2
P: Myler 2
SARACENS 25-20 WORCESTER WARRIORS
WEMBLEY – Saturday 13th February 2010
SARACENS returned to the top of the Guinness Premiership table overnight but only after they staged a late fight-back to overcome spirited Worcester, which had looked set to hand Brendan Venter’s men their third straight league defeat when they led 20-12 early in the second half.
Down to 14 men following Carlos Nieto's sin-binning, Saracens ran out 25-20 winners in front of a 40,163 spectators with fly-half Glen Jackson kicking with six successful penalties from seven attempts and converting scrum-half Neil de Kock's 57th-minute try.
Worcester, who held Saracens to a 12-12 draw at Sixways in November, led 6-0 early on thanks to two Willie Walker penalties and they came close grabbing the opening try when wing Chris Pennell was held up inches short of the try line.
Sarries levelled with two Jackson penalties but Worcester went back in front in the 25th minute following a sloppy error by scrum-half De Kock which set up a try for Warriors back-rower Tom Wood with Walker adding the conversion.
Jackson responded with a 31st-minute penalty to make it 13-9 to Worcester at the interval and he kicked another three-pointer after the break to keep Saracens in the game but their task became more difficult when Nieto was sin-binned and Worcester turned up the wick at scrum time to force a penalty try.
Walker converted to give the Warriors a 20-12 lead, but Saracens hit back with another Jackson penalty before Chris Wyles released De Kock for a length-of-the-field, 57th-minute try which Jackson converted to give Sarries the lead for the first time in the contest.
Jackson’s sixth successful penalty made it 22-20 in the 74th minute and Worcester’s chances of getting back in front evaporated when lock Greg Rawlinson was sin-binned.
T: De Kock
P: Jackson 6
T: Wood, Penalty
C: Walker 2
P: Walker 2
LEEDS CARNEGIE 9-14 LEICESTER TIGERS
HEADINGLEY - Sunday 14th February 2010
LEICESTER Tigers went back to the top of the Guinness Premiership table a point ahead of Saracens after a 14-9 win over bottom-of-the-table Leeds Carnegie, who made the Midlanders fight every inch of the way at Headingley.
Flanker Craig Newby scored the game's only try shortly before the interval but for all their dominance in terms of possession and territory, the Tigers were unable to add more than another nine points to their tally with all of them coming from the boot of Jeremy Staunton.
Leeds' defence was excellent with former Tiger Marco Wentzel and England Saxons flanker Hendre Fourie putting in outstanding displays and their thoroughly deserved losing bonus point kept them within five points of 11th-placed Worcester in the table.
Leicester had the chance to impose themselves on the game as early as the fourth minute but fly-half Staunton was off target with a penalty from the left touchline and that saw his Leeds counterpart Cieron Thomas draw first blood for the home side four minutes later.
Thomas then made it 6-0 before Leicester butchered a 14th minute try-scoring chance when Jordan Crane was forced to knock on inches short of the Leeds line by the covering Rhys Oakley’s thumping tackle.
By the 30th minute mark, Staunton has found the range and clipped over two penalties to make it 6-6 and Leicester got in front in the 32nd minute when Newby picked up the loose ball on the blindside and sprinted over for an unconverted try from 50m out.
Six minutes into the second half, Leicester collapsed a scrum and Thomas cut the deficit to two points but the Welshman missed a chance to give Leeds the lead again from 40 metres out moments later.
Staunton punished that miss with a close-range penalty following a sustained spell of pressure from Leicester to restore the visitors’ five-point advantage.
But stubborn Leeds defending made sure Leicester were unable to extend their lead, despite three attempts to get across the home try-line with powerful driving mauls.
P: Thomas 3
P: Staunton 3
LONDON IRISH 22-35 BATH RUGBY
MADEJSKI STADIUM – Sunday 14th February 2010
BATH Rugby produced their best performance of the season to date in the Madejski Stadium, where they capitalised on a poor display from hosts London Irish on the way to an impressive bonus-point away victory.
Veteran loose-head prop David Barnes, dropped England wing Matt Banahan and right wing Joe Maddock did the damage with first-half tries to leave Irish without a win from their last six matches in all competitions.
And Maddock clinched the bonus point when he raced down the right touchline and avoided Tom Homer's tackle to grab his second in the 68th minute.
The win moved Bath, who had inspirational former South Africa fly-half Butch James making his second appearance after nine months on the sidelines following knee ligament surgery, up from 10th to seventh in the table.
Inside centre Ryan Davis added 15 points from three penalties and three conversions, while Exiles full-back Tom Homer, back after England Under-20 duty, scored all of his side’s points, grabbing a late consolation try, kicking the conversion and clipping over five penalties.
The Exiles were in trouble after Bath grabbed three first-half tries to lead 25-6 at the interval after Barnes stormed over from 25 metres out for their first try, Banahan picked off a poor pass from Chris Malone to streak over from 60 metres out and Maddock finished off a sweeping Bath move triggered by poor line-out work from the home side.
Homer pulled back three second-half penalties but when young Irish flanker Jamie Gibson was denied a try by great defensive work from Ben Skirving, Irish began to run out of steam and any realistic hopes of a prolonged fight-back ended when prop Faan Rautenbach was sin-binned in the 66th minute.
Davis punished the South African’s indiscretion and then converted from the touchline after Maddock scuttled over for his second and Bath’s fourth touchdown two minutes later to seal the West Country side’s win.
P: Homer 5
T: Barnes, Banahan, Maddock 2
C: Davis 3
P: Davis 3
LONDON WASPS 22-16 SALE SHARKS
ADAMS PARK – Sunday 14th February 2010
DANNY Cipriani produced a flawless kicking display with five penalties and a conversion to sink Sale Sharks at Adams Park in a 22-16 win which moved Wasps on to the fringe of the Guinness Premiership play-off battle.
Sale, who went into the break 10-6 down, got to within three points at 16-13 in the 52nd minute thanks to a try by substitute prop Gavin Kerr but, despite two conversions, a conversion and a late drop-goal from Charlie Hodgson, Sale had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Wasps got their noses in front in the 14th minute when a counter-attack by Tom Varndell set up the opening try for Brad Jacobs with Cipriani adding the extras.
A sweetly-struck Hodgson penalty in the 26th minute got the Sharks off the mark and by half-time a second Hodgson penalty and a reply from Cipriani had Wasps in four points ahead at the break.
But indiscipline crept into Sale’s ranks and Cipriani’s extend their lead again after the interval only to see the Sharks conjure up a try out of the blue for replacement prop Gavin Kerr with Hodgson’s conversion cutting Wasps’ lead to just three points.
Cipriani kept the Sharks at arm's length with a penalty on the hour and when Sale prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts was sent to the sin-bin in the 68th minute for not releasing, it was effectively game over and Cipriani’s fifth successful penalty stitched it up for the home side with Hodgson's 78th minute drop-goal making sure the Sharks were not left completely empty-handed.
P: Cipriani 5
SALE SHARKS P-P SARACENS
EDGELEY PARK – Saturday 9th January 2010
THE schedule meeting of eighth–placed Sale and erstwhile Guinness Premiership table-toppers Saracens at Edgeley Park was postponed, with the endorsement of Premier Rugby, on Wednesday 6th January because of spectator safety concerns and adverse weather conditions.
The relevant match report will appear here when a new date has been arranged and the fixture has been played.
BATH RUGBY P-P NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
THE REC – Saturday 9th January 2010
Premier Rugby confirmed on Wednesday 6th January 2010 that 10th-placed Bath’s scheduled game against Northampton Saints, who started the weekend lying second in the table, was postponed due to spectator safety concerns and the adverse weather forecast predicting further snow falls and heavy overnight frosts.
The relevant match report will appear here when a new date has been arranged and the fixture has been played.
HARLEQUINS P-P LEEDS CARNEGIE
THE STOOP – Saturday 9th January 2010
Seventh-placed Harlequins were forced to postpone their date with bottom-of-the-table Leeds Carnegie at The Stoop on Friday 8th January 2010, when it became clear that spectator safety concerns made it impossible for the game to go ahead.
The relevant match report will appear here when a new date has been arranged and the fixture has been played.
WORCESTER WARRIORS P-P LONDON IRISH
SIXWAYS – Saturday 9th January 2010
Despite a heroic effort by Worcester ground staff to clear the Sixways pitch of snow, the erection of one of Premier Rugby’s hot-air tents and the work of local contractors hired to make access to the stadium safe for spectators, the meeting between 11th-pleced Worcester Warriors and visitors London Irish, who finished the weekend down a place in fourth spot, was postponed on Friday, 8th January 2010.
The relevant match report will appear here when a new date has been arranged and the fixture has been played.
LEICESTER TIGERS 34-8 LONDON WASPS
WELFORD ROAD – Saturday 9th January 2010
DEFENDING champions Leicester Tigers made the most of a weekend of weather-enforced postponements elsewhere to leapfrog from fourth place to top spot in the Guinness Premiership with a hugely impressive bonus-point win over London Wasps at a packed Welford Road.
The Tigers came from behind after they trailed early 8-3 early on to a Danny Cipriani penalty and an unconverted second-minute Mark van Gisbergen try to lead 10-8 at the interval after Toby Flood kicked a penalty and converted wing Johne Murphy’s 40th minute touchdown.
Two second-half scores from former Wallaby Lote Tuqiri – his first in Leicester’s colours - and a penalty try earned by a Leicester pack which dominated Wasps tight eight all the way in the set-piece scrum and line-out.
Flood underlined his claims for an England recall after his early-season injury lay-off with a stop-class display, winning his head-to-head battle with Cipriani hands down in front of watching England boss Martin Johnson, by pulling the Tigers’ strings superbly and kicking 14 points.
T: Tuqiri 2, J Murphy, Penalty
C: Flood 4
P: Flood 2
T: Van Gisbergen
NEWCASTLE FALCONS P-P GLOUCESTER RUGBY
KINGSTON PARK – Sunday 10th January 2010
SIXTH-PLACED Newcastle and Gloucester, ninth in the Guinness Premiership standings, agreed to postpone their scheduled clash at Kingston Park, with the full backing of Premier Rugby, on Wednesday 6th January because of spectator safety concerns and adverse weather conditions.
SALE SHARKS 21-16 HARLEQUINS
EDGELEY PARK – Friday, 1st January 2010
SALE Sharks kicked off 2010 with an important home win over Harlequins at Edgeley Park – their third win over the London side in three weeks after chalking up a back-to-back Heineken Cup double over Quins - to climb into eighth place in the Guinness Premiership table.
Quins trailed 21-9 after 56 minutes but they grabbed a foothold with Tom Guest's try on the hour and winger Ugo Monye went over for what could have been a stoppage-time match-winner had the TMO not spotted the Quins wing’s foot straying into touch.
The pivotal moment in the contest came 40 seconds before the interval, when Sale hooker Neil Briggs tore through the heart of the Harlequins defence and sent James Gaskell over for a glorious 70-metre try.
Charlie Hodgson had just levelled the scores with his second penalty of the half, cancelling out two efforts from Nick Evans, and his touchline conversion gave the Sharks a 13-6 interval lead.
Sale were more purposeful in the second half and they extended their lead when Dwayne Peel and Mathew Tait opened up the Quins defence for Ben Cohen to bulldoze over for his fourth try of the season.
At 21-9, the contest appeared over but the game was back in the balance on 61 minutes when replacement Quins back-rower Guest forced his way over from close range for a try with Rory Clegg converting to cut the gap to just five points.
But Hodgson intervened at the death with a superb tackle to deny Monye and Quins had to settle for a losing bonus point, which dropped them to seventh in the table.
T: Cohen, Gaskell
P: Hodgson 3
GLOUCESTER 13-13 WORCESTER WARRIORS
KINGSHOLM – Saturday 2nd January 2010
REPLACEMENT second row Dave Attwood salvaged a dramatic share of the spoils for Gloucester from a 13-13 draw with local rivals Worcester at Kingsholm, where former All Black Carlos Spencer missed the stoppage-time conversion which would have earned the home side a badly-needed morale-boosting victory.
Attwood struck with just 16 seconds left on the clock after Gloucester had dominated possession and territory in the second half of tense contest which looked to have gone Worcester’s way until the former Bristol lock struck in the dying seconds.
First-half tries from wing Rico Gear and scrum-half Jonny Arr had put Worcester, who were chasing their first Premiership away win for eight months, in the box seat with Willie Walker adding a penalty to give them a 13-8 lead going into the final minute.
The home side had produced an opportunist try from flanker Akapusi Qera and a second-half penalty from Wales fly-half Nicky Robinson, who missed three kicks at goal in what was another indifferent display from Gloucester.
Worcester, who have now drawn four of their last five Premiership games, left Kingsholm in 10th spot in the table, five points ahead of bottom-of-the-table Leeds while Gloucester dropped to ninth place, a point ahead of Bath and a point behind Sale Sharks.
T: Qera, Attwood
LEEDS CARNEGIE 15-20 BATH RUGBY
HEADINGLEY – Saturday 2nd January 2009
BATH Rugby made it back-to--back Guinness Premiership wins for the first time since April 2009 when they ground out a hard-earned 20-15 New Year victory over Leeds Carnegie at Headingley to avoid starting 2010 at the bottom of the Premiership table.
Victory for Leeds, who had beaten Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park a week earlier, would have lifted the Yorkshire side off the foot of the table and above Bath, but the visitors dug deep to seal a vital win courtesy of wing Michael Stephenson's first-half try and five penalties from fly-half Nicky Little.
Joe Ford kicked five penalties for stubborn Leeds but despite a spirited display, they could not penetrate a resolute Bath defence.
Leeds led 6-0 early on courtesy of two penalties from Ford and he struck again to make it 9-6 with 26 minutes gone after Little responded twice to get Bath on the board.
But Bath grabbed the vital try in the 29th minute when number eight Luke Watson broke down the right and popped the ball up for Stephenson to burrow his way over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Little missed the conversion but he and Ford both notched another penalty apiece before the interval and when Ford kicked Leeds into a 15-14 lead in the 45th minute, a tense second half looked on the cards, but two penalties from Little got Bath’s noses back in front and then gave them a five-point cushion.
The visitors’ superbly-organised defence then made sure that Leeds, who finished strongly, never looked like grabbing any kind of score as the clock ran down.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 24-22 LONDON IRISH
FRANKLINS GARDENS – Saturday 2nd January 2010
NORTHAMPTON try machine Chris Ashton grabbed a last-gasp try at Franklins Gardens with Shane Geraghty adding the match-winning conversion with the last kick of an absorbing contest to help Saints clamber above London Irish into second place in the Guinness Premiership table.
Saints fly-half Stephen Myler opened the scoring with an eighth-minute penalty, opposite number Chris Malone had Irish 9-3 up in the 27th minute and Myler was on target again in the 32nd minute to make it 9-6 to the Exiles at the interval.
Three minutes after the re-start, Northampton grabbed the initiative when skipper Phil Dowson was drive over for the game’s opening, but unconverted, try from a line-out but Irish hit back with a try of their own five minutes later when Peter Hewat picked off pass aimed at Ashton on the edge of his own 22 and raced away to score under the posts with Malone adding the conversion.
Malone then made no mistake with a penalty and a drop-goal to kick Irish into a 22-14 lead and Northampton needed a penalty from replacement fly-half Geraghty to get within five points and he was on hand with the crucial stoppage-time conversion to win it for Saints after Ashton snatched the try which ripped victory out of London Irish’s hands.
T: Dowson, Ashton
P: Myler 3, Geraghty
SARACENS 15-22 LEICESTER TIGERS
VICARAGE ROAD – Saturday 2nd January 2010
LEICESTER fly-half Toby Flood stepped up his claim for an England recall by kicking Leicester to a 22-15 Vicarage Road victory which consigned top-of-the-table Saracens to a second successive defeat and helped the Tigers consolidate in the play-off places.
Flood finished with 17 points from four penalties and a conversion while England outside centre Dan Hipkiss claimed the only try of the game on the back of a powerful performance from Leicester's hard-nosed pack.
Saracens hung on for a losing bonus point to stay in top spot but their lead was shaved to just one point over second-placed Northampton Saints and three over third-placed London Irish with defending champions Leicester a point further back in fourth.
The Tigers dominated possession and territory in the opening 40 minutes but trailed they 6-3 after a typically defiant defensive display from Sarries which featured a bone-shuddering hit by Brad Barritt on a try-hunting Lote Tuqiri.
Glen Jackson kicked two first-half penalties to Flood’s one to send Saracens in at half-time with a 6-3 lead and his replacement Derrick Hougaard made it 9-3 before Hipkiss finished off a quick break from scrum-half Ben Young’s and good work from his forwards with Flood adding the conversion.
And Leicester took the game away from Saracens after skipper Steve Borthwick was sent to the sin bin in the 62nd minute with Flood kicking three more penalties in the closing 12 minutes to ease the Tigers to a comfortable victory.
P: Jackson 2, Hougaard 3
LONDON WASPS 6-12 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
ADAMS PARK – Sunday 3rd January 2010
NEWCASTLE Falcons bounced back from a festive home defeat by bottom-of-the-table Leeds to break their Premiership duck at Adams Park with a hard-earned but well-deserved 12-6 win over London Wasps to move up to sixth place in the table.
Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth was the Falcons hero, kicking four penalties from seven attempts to end the Falcons' three-match losing streak in a game where Wasps were desperately short of ideas and never looked like manufacturing a try apart from one first-half effort which saw lock Simon Shaw held up over the line by Newcastle’s former All Black tight-head Carl Hayman.
And Wasps’ miserable afternoon was compounded by a bad afternoon on the goal-kicking front with the previously in-form Dave Walder, who managed just one penalty, having a nightmare from the kicking tee, while Danny Cipriani and Mark Van Gisbergen managed just one successful kick between them.
The tone for the game was set in the opening exchanges which saw Walder and Gopperth swap penalties and the Falcons establish clear superiority in the set-piece scrum and line-out.
At half-time, the Falcons led 6-3 and after they went 9-3 ahead when Wasps again crumbled in a scrum, Van Gisbergen kept the home side just about in the hunt with his 67th minute penalty but Gopperth wrapped it up for the visitors two minutes later.
P: Walder, Van Gisbergen
WORCESTER WARRIORS 6-26 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
SIXWAYS – Saturday 26th December 2009
NORTHAMPTON Saints underlined their play-off pedigree by finishing the festive weekend in third place in the Guinness Premiership table, thanks to a hard-earned, but ultimately comfortable, 26-6 win over Worcester Warriors in a Boxing Day cracker which saw full-back Ben Foden grab star billing for the visitors.
Foden, so often overlooked by England, inspired Jim Mallinder's side in the last quarter of a tight contest, setting up the match-clinching try for wing Chris Ashton after an hour and grabbing a touchdown himself with five minutes to go before back-rower Phil Dowson crashed over for their third try.
Northampton started, surprisingly, with Stephen Myler at fly-half, ahead of England playmaker Shane Geraghty, who had to settle for a seat on the bench along with Ireland open-side Neil Best and Myler justified his selection with two penalties in the opening 13 minutes, kicking the visitors into a 6-0 lead.
But at half-time Worcester, deservedly, were still right in the hunt thanks to a well-struck penalty from Willie Walker on the half-hour and an even better effort from long-range right on the half-time whistle.
Thirteen minutes into the second half Walker missed a chance to square the contest up, pulling a straightforward penalty chance well wide and Saints grabbed the initiative and a ten-point cushion in the 61st minute when Foden picked up a ball spilled by Benjamin on halfway and released Ashton who cruised under the posts making the conversion easy for Myler.
Five minutes from time, Foden crashed through three Warriors tackles for the match-clinching try and Dowson powered over in the corner to notch Northampton's third try in the final minute.
P: Walker 2
T: Ashton, Foden, Dowson
LEICESTER TIGERS 32-6 SALE SHARKS
WELFORD ROAD – Sunday 27th December 2009
LEICESTER extended their unbeaten home record in all competitions to an impressive 24 matches with a win over outclassed Sale Sharks at a packed Welford Road to stay right in the play-off hunt, sealing a bonus-point win with a last-gasp try from Jordan Crane.
That was the only score of the final quarter after the Tigers had claimed their third try with a touchdown from Lewis Moody in the 59th minute.
Sale, showing 11 changes to the side which tackled Harlequins a week earlier in the Heineken Cup, defended tenaciously throughout but failed to turn their own attacking opportunities into a tries.
They mustered just two Charlie Hodgson penalties in a match which Leicester led all the way after Toby Flood opened the scoring with an eighth-minute penalty.
An unconverted try from Johne Murphy extended the Tigers’ lead before Hodgson clipped over a penalty with Flood responding before half-time to make it 11-3 at the interval.
With driving rain making underfoot conditions difficult, Ben Kay rumbled over for Leicester's second try, which Flood converted, and Hodgson then kicked his second penalty to keep Sale just about in the contest.
But Leicester took the game away from the visitors when England flanker and Tigers skipper for the day Moody was driven over from a line-out with Flood converting and, with Sale’s replacement prop Rob O’Donnell in the sin bin, Crane capitalised on Leicester’s superiority at a last-minute scrum to crash over for the score which earned Leicester their fifth match point.
T: Murphy, Kay, Moody, Crane
C: Flood 3
P: Flood 2
BATH RUGBY 24-8 GLOUCESTER
THE REC – Sunday 27th December 2009
BATH broke a winless home Premiership streak stretching back to April with a comfortable win over West Country rivals Gloucester in a derby contest which failed to burst into any kind of life until the final quarter.
Fly-half Nicky Little guided the home side to a badly-need win, landing four penalties and a conversion, helping Bath notch up 21 points after the break for a win which was not enough to lift them out of 11th place in the table.
Gloucester’s Wales stand-off Nicky Robinson booted Gloucester into a ninth-minute lead which was cancelled out by Little to send the sides in at the interval all-square after neither had mustered much to excite a capacity crowd.
Nick Abendanon departed injured at the break with Jack Cuthbert replacing him and, after Little kicked Bath into a 9-3 lead, the replacement full-back burst into the Bath line with 15 minutes to go to grab the game’s first try.
Three minutes later, Matt Banahan picked off a forced pass from Robinson and he galloped away to score under the posts with Little adding the routine conversion to kill the match off as a contest before Scottish Test prop Alasdair Dickinson ploughed over in the final minute to grab a consolation score for the visitors.
T: Cuthbert, Banahan
P: Little 4
LONDON IRISH 23-19 SARACENS
MADEJSKI STADIUM – Sunday 27th December 2009
LONDON Irish ended Saracens' unbeaten start to the Guinness Premiership title race in a Madejski Stadium battle royal which looked to be going the top-of-the-table visitors’ way until the Exiles snatched a memorable victory in a thrilling climax.
Saracens, who had won nine and drawn one of their previous ten league outings, were in front with ten minutes to go, despite wasting several opportunities to extend their six-point advantage by attempting failed drop-goals.
And they paid for that when Irish’s Samoan centre Elvis Seveali'i darted over for the match-clinching score with Chris Malone hammering over the conversion to get the home contingent in a massive crowd dancing in the aisles at the final whistle.
Earlier, Sarries full-back Alex Goode had drilled over a long-range drop-goal in the second minute to get the visitors on the board first and they were 10-0 up when lock Hugh Vyvyan charged down an attempted clearance and Justin Melck pounced to touch down with Glen Jackson converting.
Irish hit back when flanker Steffon Armitage sent number eight Chris Hala'ufia over under the posts with Malone converting to bring the home supporters to life, although Saracens were still in front at the interval after Jackson and Malone exchanged penalties to make it 16-10 to the visitors at the interval.
Seven minutes into the second half, Malone cut Sarries lead to three points with a penalty and Jackson immediately replied but, from then on, Irish threw everything at the visitors and Malone set up the frantic finale with another penalty in the 66th minute, adding the conversion after Seveali’i burst through three tackles in the 70th minute to leave Sarries with just a losing bonus-point to show for their efforts.
T: Hala’ufia, Seveali’i
C: Malone 2
P: Malone 3
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 15-16 LEEDS CARNEGIE
KINGSTON PARK – Sunday 27th December 2009
BOTTOM-OF-THE-TABLE Leeds grabbed a Guinness Premiership relegation lifeline ahead of their New Year basement battle with Bath by edging out hosts Newcastle Falcons 16-15 at Kingston Park to claim their first league win of the season.
The Falcons defied freezing weather to get the game played after squads of volunteers and club officials turned out at Kingston Park from 7.30am for the third successive day to clear snow off the pitch with their hard work rewarded by the Falcons’ biggest crowd of the season.
Fly-halves Jimmy Gopperth, for the Falcons, and opposite number Cieron Thomas dominated the early exchanges, swapping three penalties apiece to make it 9-9 until Leeds grabbed what proved to be the telling score.
That came from former Bristol back-rower Alfie To’oala, who finished off an impressive series of drives from the Leeds pack in the 38th minute with Joe Ford kicking the conversion to give the visitors a 16-9 half-time cushion.
Two Gopperth penalties after the break hauled Newcastle back into the game and Leeds looked to be in trouble when Henry Paul was sin-binned for obstruction in the 71st minute with their lead cut to just a point.
But their slender lead stayed intact when Gopperth spurned a drop-goal chance in the final minute and run the ball instead and when Falcons full-back Alex Tait knocked on, relieved Leeds were home and hosed.
P: Gopperth 5
HARLEQUINS 20-21 LONDON WASPS
TWICKENHAM – Sunday 27th December 2009
LONDON Wasps hung on to chalk up a narrow win over Harlequins at Twickenham in front of a record 76,716 Guinness Premiership crowd which kept the High Wycombe side bubbling just under the play-off bubble with a game in hand over all four sides ahead of them in the table.
And they won despite an indifferent kicking display from fly-half Danny Cipriani, which marked is return from a hairline leg fracture with five misses from seven attempts at goal before he made way for Dave Walder, who calmly eased the visitors over the finishing line in front.
Never more than competent in open play, Cipriani made way for Walder with 57 minutes gone in a game which Wasps had led 11-6 at the interval.
Wasps got their noses in front in the second minute when scrum-half Joe Simpson touched down after lock George Skivington broke from inside his own half and hacked on for Simpson’s pace to do the rest, but Quins quickly hit back with two Nick Evans penalties to lead 6-5.
Cipriani then landed both of his penalties to give Wasps an 11-6 half-time lead.
After the break and Cipriani’s departure, Walder landed a tricky penalty but Quins hit back to reduce their lead to a solitary point when England scrum-half Danny Care zipped over for a close-range try and Evans converted.
Wasps' response was quick and they produced their second try of the match when Walder and man of the match Simon Shaw combined with number eight Dan Ward-Smith to send blind-side flanker John Hart over with Walder slotting the conversion.
And that proved to be enough, despite a late unconverted try from David Strettle for Quins which set up a tense finish.
T: Care, Strettle
C: Evans 2
P: Evans 2
LEEDS CARNEGIE 27-30 HARLEQUINS
HEADINGLEY – Friday 4th December 2009
TWO first-half tries from back-rower Chris Robshaw helped Harlequins squeeze out a narrow away win over battling Leeds Carnegie at Headingley which lifted the Londoners into sixth spot in the Guinness Premiership table.
Robshaw’s double proved crucial as Harlequins had to withstand a stirring second-half fight back from bottom-of-the-table Leeds to maintain a climb up the table which has seen them lose just once – at Northampton - in their last six league games.
Robshaw summoned sheer brute power to burrow over the Leeds line twice as Harlequins built a 24-13 interval lead.
Richard Welding’s 12th minute try, converted by Joe Ford, had Leeds ahead early on and two Ford penalties later in the half kept them alive at the halfway stage in a contest which looked like getting away after Robshaw touched down twice and centre George Lowe also scored with Nick Evans, who also knocked over a first-half penalty, converting twice.
But Leeds head coach Neil Back has fashioned a side with guts and, after an Evans penalty early in the second half made it 27-13, they hit back with two tries in seven minutes from Kearnan Myall and Tom Denton, both converted by Ford, to salvage a thoroughly deserved losing bonus point.
That left Leeds, who have now lost three on the bounce since their unexpected maiden Premiership win at Wasps, three points adrift of fellow struggles Bath at the bottom of the Premiership table.
T: Welding, Myall, Denton
C: Ford 3
P: Ford 2
GLOUCESTER 25-13 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
KINGSHOLM – Saturday, 5th November 2009
WALES international fly-half Nicky Robinson’s trusty left boot lifted Gloucester into ninth place in the Guinness Premiership table at the expense of Newcastle Falcons, who saw Robinson compile a 20-point haul at Kingsholm to sink the visitors.
Robinson kicked five penalties, a drop-goal and a conversion to add the extras to an early Charlie Sharples try, earning Gloucester only their fourth win of a difficult campaign which had seen them lose seven of their previous eight games in all competitions.
Gloucester made a bright start and they deservedly went ahead when Sharples cottoned on to an overlap to touch down in the corner with Robinson converting before Falcons fly-half Jimmy Gopperth fired over two penalties in reply.
A Robinson penalty edged Gloucester into a 10-6 lead and two more penalties from the Welshman early in the second half stretched the home side’s lead ahead to 16-6 and he looked to have taken the game right out of Newcastle’s reach with another two three-pointers as the game moved into its final quarter.
A short-range Robinson drop-goal and another penalty then killed the Falcons off although they did hit back with a consolation try from replacement full-back Alex Tait, converted by substitute fly-half Rob Miller in stoppage time.
P: Robinson 5
P: Gopperth 2
LONDON IRISH 16-16 WORCESTER WARRIORS
MADEJSKI STADIUM – Saturday, 5th December 2009
LONDON Irish missed a chance to keep the pressure on Saracens at the top of the Guinness Premiership table at the Madesjki Stadium, where they dropped two points in a 16-16 stalemate with draw specialists Worcester Warriors.
The Exiles failed to take advantage of Warriors lock Greg Rawlinson’s early trip to the sin bin and they went behind when Worcester fly-half Willie Walker clipped over two penalties to go past the 100-point mark for the season.
Irish finally responded when Worcester flanker Tom Wood followed Rawlinson into the cooler for a high tackle with Lamb knocking over the resulting penalty but Walker hit back again before Lamb scored another three-pointer to make it 9-6 to the Warriors at the break.
Irish got their noses in front for the first time in the match when wing John Rudd crashed over for the only try of the match early in the second half with Lamb making light work of the simple conversion.
But their lead only lasted until the referee awarded Worcester a penalty try for handling in the scrum and Walker’s conversion gave the battling visitors a 16-13 lead.
Lamb stepped up to crack over a penalty on the hour to square the match up and, after Walker missed a relatively straightforward penalty, neither side could manufacture a winning score of any kind.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 15-13 BATH
FRANKLINS GARDENS – Saturday 5th December 2009
FOURTEEN-MAN Bath left Franklins Gardens still anchored in the Guinness Premiership’s bottom two after Northampton Saints wing Chris Ashton made the most of a 66th minute red card for England wing Matt Banahan to snatch a home victory for from the jaws of a likely defeat.
Banahan got his marching orders from referee David Rose on the say-so of touch judge Bob Mullis for reckless use of the boot on Saints replacement fly-half Stephen Myler with Bath 13-8 ahead and looking the more likely winners.
Bath, who had won just twice in 13 games in all competitions this season, had edged into a five-point lead courtesy of a 72nd minute Nicky Little penalty and Northampton’s unbeaten home record was in real danger when Banahan was dismissed.
But Ashton, who had notched his fourth try in two games in the first half, nipped over in the corner with 46 seconds left on the clock to tie it up at 13-13 and the nerveless Myler then hammered over the touchline conversion to sink the visitors, who have now gone seven games without a win.
Shane Geraghty kicked the Saints in front early on with Little replying to make it 3-3 and Ashton extended the home side’s lead to 8-3 at half-time with an unconverted 34th minute chip-and-chase try.
And when Shontayne Hape squeezed over the corner in the 47th minute to give Bath a lead which Little’s conversion extended, the out-of-sorts Saints were in trouble until Ashton and Myler came to their rescue at the death.
T: Ashton 2
P: Little 2
SARACENS 15-13 SALE SHARKS
VICARAGE ROAD – Saturday, 5th December 2009
TOP-OF-THE-TABLE Saracens extended their unbeaten Guinness Premiership run to ten games with their ninth win of the season after a nail-biting battle with Sale Sharks at rain-lashed Vicarage Road, where fly-half Derrick Hougaard was the start of the show for Brendan Venter’s side.
The South African stand-off kicked five penalties from of seven attempts to help Saracens open up a six-point lead over a chasing pack still led by London Irish, who dropped two points at home in a 16-16 draw with Worcester.
The Sharks, who left Watford lying ninth in the table, were playing their first game in a fortnight following the controversial postponement of their home game against Wasps and they trailed to early on to a Hougaard penalty.
Sarries had a claimed try by Carlos Nieto disallowed by the TMO in the 15th minute and full-back Alex Goode squandered a great chance with a knock-on close to the Sale line and they paid for that in the 28th minute when Charlie Hodgson’s cross-kick set up a try for Saisa Koyamaibole.
Hodgson converted to give Sale a 7-3 lead and he clipped over a 38th penalty to send the visitors in 10-9 up at half-time after Hougaard had landed two more first-half penalties.
After the break, Hougaard restored the hosts' lead and after missing with a penalty for the second time in the match, Hougaard hit the target to give Sarries a 15-10 lead, which was cut a two-point margin when Hodgson made sure Sale escaped with a losing bonus point with a 74th minute penalty to set up a tense finish.
P: Hougaard 5
P: Hodgson 2
LONDON WASPS 24–22 LEICESTER TIGERS
ADAMS PARK – Sunday, 6th December 2009
Wasps withstood a late fight back from rivals Leicester to secure a precious Guinness Premiership victory at a packed Adams Park.
After the hosts had gone ahead through a Paul Sackey try, four penalties from Toby Flood put the Tigers in the ascendancy but Steve Kefu crossed to restore Wasps' lead at the break.
Dave Walder's solid kicking increased the advantage and Wasps hung on despite a last-minute try from Jordan Crane, which earned Leicester a bonus point to keep them ahead of their rivals in the table.
Given torrential rain overnight, Wasps were relieved they did not have the embarrassment of having to call off a home game. However, on Sunday the buzz among their supporters concerned the return of Danny Cipriani, on the bench for the first time since suffering a broken leg on October 4 but unused.
Paul Sackey gave Wasps an early 5-0 lead after scrum-half Joe Simpson tapped a penalty and sent the England wing crashing through three poor tackles for an unconverted try in the corner.
But Toby Flood eased over three penalties to give Leicester a 9-5 lead before Steve Kefu scored a stunning try under the posts with Walder converting and by half-time another penalty apiece from Walder and Flood had Wasps 18-12 in front.
Two more Walder penalties stretched Wasps’ lead after the interval to give Wasps a 12-point cushion by the hour mark and even when Flood clipped over a penalty to make it 24-15 Leicester looked almost dead and buried.
But the reigning Guinness Premiership champions conjured up a last-minute try from Jordan Crane and Aaron Mauger’s conversion made sure the Tigers left High Wycombe with a losing bonus point.
T: Sackey, Kefu
P: Walder 4
P: Flood 5
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 8-28 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
KINGSTON PARK - Friday 27th November 2009
FORMER Wigan rugby league star Chris Ashton stepped up his claim for an England call-up with a stunning try hat-trick to help Northampton Saints outclass Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park – Saints’ fourth straight win in all competitions.
Ashton grabbed his first and unconverted, score in the seventh minute when the Falcons were caught napping by a quick tap penalty under their posts and a cute floating pass from Saints fly-half Shane Geraghty.
Home fly-half Jimmy Gopperth got the Falcons on the board with a 15th minute penalty, but Geraghty cancelled that out quickly to give his side an 8-3 lead, but by half-time it was 8-8 after Tom Biggs made the most of good work from Gopperth and lock James Hudson to squeeze over with Gopperth’s conversion coming back off a post.
Early in the second half, loose-head prop Soane Tonga'uiha offloaded to send Ashton over for Saints’ second try with Geraghty adding the extras and a third Geraghty penalty had Northampton 21-8 in front with 67 minutes gone.
Geraghty then capped a fine display from Saints and sealed an impressive win on the road with a clever cross-field kick to set up Ashton’s hat-trick score before adding the conversion.
WORCESTER WARRIORS 12-12 SARACENS
SIXWAYS – Friday 27th November 2009
GUINNESS Premiership table-toppers Saracens dropped their first points of the season at Sixways, where a spirited display from stubborn Worcester Warriors earned the home side their second successive 12-12 draw and ended the visitors’ eight-game winning run.
Warriors fly-half Willie Walker kept the home side in it with four penalties out of four and has scored all his team's points in their last three matches, while Worcester have now gone some four hours without scoring a try.
Worcester lead 9-3 at the break thanks to Walker's accurate boot although the big, noisy crowd had little to enthuse about in terms of attractive running rugby with Sarries intent on kicking in a bid to dominate the territorial battle.
But, while Walker nailed every one of his kicks at goal, opposite number Derrick Hougaard missed a drop-goal attempt and two out of three penalties in the first half.
Saracens soaked up an opening bout of Warriors pressure after the break and Hougaard landed three penalties to give the visitors a 12-9 lead, which looked like being enough to extend their winning run to nine matches.
But the Warriors had other ideas and Walker stepped up late on to calmly clip over a penalty from close to the touchline to make sure the home side grabbed a deserved share of the spoils.
P: Walker 4
SALE SHARKS P-P LONDON WASPS
EDGELEY PARK – Friday 27th November 2009
Attendance: Not recorded
BATH 0-16 LONDON IRISH
THE RECREATION GROUND – Saturday 28th November 2009
FLY-HALF Ryan was the star turn in a 16-0 London Irish win over troubled Bath, scoring a full house of a try, a conversion, a penalty and a drop-goal to send the Exiles back into second place in the Guinness Premiership table and cut table-toppers Saracens’ lead to four points.
In horrendous overhead and slippery underfoot conditions, Lamb missed an early drop-goal attempt and a kickable penalty but he ran in the match’s opening try when he charged down Bath full-back Nick Abendanon’s attempted clearance kick, gathered the loose ball and scuttled over next to the posts.
Lamb added the conversion and by half-time, Irish were 10-0 up courtesy of a 24th minute penalty from Lamb’s right boot, while woeful Bath were unable to get a foothold in the contest because of the Exiles’ complete domination of the set piece.
Bath had two let-offs in the second half when Abendanon failed to gather a loose ball in the in-goal area and Irish wing John Rudd pounced only to see his efforts nullified by the TMO.
Lamb responded to that setback with a second penalty in the 64th minute to give Irish a 13-0 cushion.
The TMO again saved Bath on the hour when a Lamb grubber kick cannoned off Matt Banahan into Peter Hewat's arms and the combined efforts of Little, Banahan and Shontayne Hape kept the Australian wing out in the corner.
Lamb then landed a smartly-taken 66th-minute drop goal as Bath’s scrum began to fall apart under pressure and, despite some late pressure from the home side, they never looked like breaking their points duck.
P: Lamb 2
HARLEQUINS 35-29 GLOUCESTER
THE STOOP – Saturday 28th November 2009
HARLEQUINS grabbed a valuable bonus-point Guinness Premiership win at the Stoop to maintain their climb up the table at the expense of struggling Gloucester, who got within a converted score after a tremendous second-half fight-back.
Gloucester put the first points on the board with a Burns penalty followed by an unconverted try from skipper Gareth Delve, but Quins hit back through Samoa captain George Lowe with Nick Evans converting.
By half-time, Quins were 18-16 to the good after Charlie Sharples scored the first of two tries for Gloucester, Evans hit back with two penalty goals, Gloucester responded again with Burns penalty and Evans ran in an unconverted try of his own.
Quins’ third try came early in the second half when number eight Nick Easter powered over under the posts with Evans converting and when Lowe stormed over for his second touchdown, Quins looked to be in command.
But Gloucester were not finished yet and Robinson clipped over a penalty and they made the most of a spell in the sin bin for Quins lock James Percival top notch a second Sharples try with Robinson converting to make it 32-26.
But Gloucester got no closer and a penalty apiece in the closing minutes from Evans and Robinson closed out the scoring.
T: Lowe 2, Evans, Easter
C: Evans 3
P: Evans 3
LEICESTER TIGERS 36-9 LEEDS CARNEGIE
WELFORD ROAD – Saturday, November 28th 2009
LEICESTER Tigers flexed their muscles with a five-try, second-half demolition job on bottom-of-the-table Leeds Carnegie at Welford Road, running in 33 unanswered points after the visitors fought hard enough to go in on terms at half-time.
Lat the break it was 6-6, courtesy of two penalties for Toby Flood, who was starting his first game of the season after an injury lay-off, and a brace of replies from Leeds youngster Joe Ford.
The second half, though, was a very different story and after the Tigers were awarded a penalty try for a string of scrum offences by the visitors, Leicester stepped up the pace and blew Leeds away.
Flood, who finished the game with 17 points to his name, set up a touchdown for Anthony Allen and the England fly-half then capitalised on great work from Lote Tuquiri to grab a try himself.
Replacement Brett Deacon drove over from close range in the 58th minute with Flood kicking his third conversion and Lewis Moody, who had spent ten first-half minutes in the sin bin, rounded off a powerful display from the home side with the try of the game, which was converted by Jeremy Staunton.
T: Allen, Deacon, Flood, Moody, Penalty
C: Flood 3, Staunton
P: Flood 2
WORCESTER WARRIORS 12-12 BATH RUGBY
SIXWAYS – Friday 20th November 2009
WORCESTER Warriors and Bath Rugby had to settle for two Guinness Premiership points apiece from an edgy battle at Sixways which saw two sides clearly determined not to lose, first and foremost, fail to produce enough of a spark of invention to come out on top.
Bath had the better of the try-scoring chances with veteran lock Danny Grewcock forced to spill the best opportunity of the match on the Worcester line in the first half by the combined defensive efforts of left wing Miles Benjamin and inside centre Sam Tuitopou, who spent ten second-half minutes in the sin bin for a high tackle on Bath’s Michael Stephenson.
And in the second half, a lightning counter-attack from full-back Nick Abendanon off turnover ball almost saw Bath grab a try when he released right wing Matt Carraro on the outside only to see the Australian muscled into touch by the covering Chris Latham.
That meant that an at-times turgid contest saw every point on the board come from the boot with Warriors fly-half Willie Walker and Bath counterpart Ryan Davis, who had Bath 6-3 up at the break, finishing with four penalties apiece.
P: Walker 4
P: Davis 4
GLOUCESTER 12-9 LEICESTER TIGERS
KINGSHOLM – Friday 20th November 2009
HIGHLY-RATED teenage fly-half Freddie Burns’ burgeoning reputation as an up-and-coming Guinness Premiership playmaker was given a major boost by a cool performance which featured two penalties and two drop-goals to help Gloucester gun down Leicester Tigers at Kingsholm.
But it could have been very different had former Wallabies wing Lote Tuqiri, making his Premiership debut for the visitors, held on to a pass from former Gloucester centre Anthony Allen with the Gloucester line wide open in the dying seconds.
Gloucester went into the last play of a hard-fought battle leading 12-9 after Tigers’ scrum-half Ben Youngs had just missed a kickable penalty which would have levelled the scores, but the home crowd ended up dancing in the Kingsholm aisles when Tuqiri’s uncharacteristic handling error let the home side off the hook.
Earlier, the accurate Jeremy Staunton had kicked Leicester into an early 3-0 lead before Burns notched two penalties and a drop-goal with Staunton clipping over a second penalty, which sent the home side in 9-6 up at the interval.
Burns’ second drop-goal early in the second half made it 12-6 with Staunton replying to make it 12-9 with 46 minutes gone.
Leicester’s chances of turning the game around looked slimmer when full-back Scott Hamilton was sin-binned midway through the second half and they evaporated completely when Tuqiri, fatally, took his eye off the ball at the death.
P: Burns 2
DG: Burns 2
P: Staunton 3
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 26-17 HARLEQUINS
FRANKLINS GARDENS – Saturday 21st November 2009
POWERHOUSE prop Soane Tonga’uiha made one try and scored another at Franklins Gardens to help Northampton Saints preserve their 100% home record for the season with some ease at the expense of Harlequins, who handed ‘Bloodgate’ wing Tom Williams his first start since he completed a four-month RFU ban.
Quins, bidding to go a fifth Premiership game unbeaten, slipped behind after just three minutes when veteran All Black Bruce Reihana capitalised on a chip forward from centre Jon Clarke to touch down an unconverted try in the corner and fly-half Stephen Myler then rewarded his side’s early defensive efforts with a monster 52-metre penalty to give the home side an 11-0 lead.
But Saints’ open-side Neil Best was sent to the sin bin six minutes before the break for a woefully late challenge on Quins number eight Tom Guest and Quins stand-off Nick Evans got Quins on the scoreboard with the resulting penalty.
Myler gave Saints an 11-point cushion three minutes after the break and when Tonga’uiha‘s powerful line break bought him the time to put lock Juandre Kruger over for Saints’ unconverted try, the home side were 19-3 in front.
Quins finally got over the Saints line when replacement wing Josh Drauniniu went over in the corner for an unconverted score, but Saints responded when Tonga’uhia thundered down the blind side for a try converted by Myler.
Quins, though, had the final word when Drauniniu picked off a stray pass from Saints replacement back-rower Scott Gray on his own side’s 22 and raced 70 metres to touch down under the posts with full-back Mike Brown adding the conversion.
T: Reihana, Kruger, Tonga’uhia
P: Myler 3
T: Drauniniu 2
C: Evans, Brown
LEEDS CARNEGIE 17-24 SALE SHARKS
HEADINGLEY – Sunday 22nd November 2009
Attendance: 5, 955
PROMISING young back-rower Carl Fearns came off the bench to grab a valuable away win for Sale Sharks at Headingley with a late match-clinching try which denied Neil Back’s bottom-of-the-table battlers a first ever Guinness Premiership win over their nearest neighbours.
Widely tipped to go straight back down to the Championship in May, last season’s National 1 champions showed they are finding their feet in the Premiership by outplaying stuttering Sale in every department early on.
Converted tries from full-back Lee Blackett and centre Scott Barrow gave the Yorkshiremen a deserved 14-3 interval advantage with Sale’s Charlie Hodgson struggling to find his goal-kicking range.
And Leeds looked to be on course for a second successive Guinness Premiership victory when fly-half Ceiron Thomas added a penalty to extend their lead shortly after the start of the second half.
But Sale came roaring back with tries from England World Cup-winning wing Ben Cohen and scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth to get back on terms.
And Fearns, just 20, sealed Sale’s win when he burrowed over the Leeds line from the base of a five-metre scrum in the 74th minute with Hodgson adding the conversion.
T: Blackett, Barrow
C: Thomas 2
T: Cohen, Wigglesworth, Fearns
C: Hodgson 3
LONDON IRISH 11-15 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
MADEJSKI STADIUM – Sunday 22nd November 2009
LONDON IRISH slipped to their first Guinness Premiership defeat since the opening day of the season at the hands of battling Newcastle Falcons, who climbed into the top half of the Guinness Premiership with another precious away victory and a third win on the bounce.
Last season's Premiership finalists paid the price for a disjointed, error-strewn performance and Newcastle, who had chalked up a rare bonus-point away win at Bath a couple of weeks earlier, took full advantage with a battling display to beat the Exiles in their own back yard for the first time in eight attempts.
The home side’s Tongan number eight Chris Hala'ufia scored the only try of a poor quality contest.
Fly-half Ryan Lamb and wing Peter Hewat both missed chances to kick Irish into an early lead and Falcons fly-half Jimmy Gopperth punished Irish indiscretions to give the visitors a 9-0 lead by the half-hour mark.
Lamb finally got the home side on the board with a 40-metre penalty five minutes before the break but by half-time Gopperth had bisected the Exiles’ posts again to send the visitors in 12-3 up at the interval.
Exiles full-back Jamie Lennard, a summer recruit from Doncaster, slotted a smart drop goal on 50 minutes, prompting Irish to send on veteran player/coach Mike Catt and fly-half Chris Malone in a bid to get a better foothold in the match and both had a hand in the move which led to Hala’ufia’s try.
But after pulling it back to 11-12, Irish were unable to get their noses in front and Gopperth’s fifth successful penalty of the match sealed the Falcons’ win in the 75th minute.
P: Gopperth 5
SARACENS 22-6 LONDON WASPS
VICARAGE ROAD – Sunday 22nd November 2009
SARACENS opened up a six-point lead over the chasing pack at the top of the Guinness Premiership table after they claimed their eighth successive victory and maintained their 100% start to the current campaign with a comfortable Vicarage Road win over London Wasps.
Without England captain Steve Borthwick, who had been on Test duty against the All Blacks a day earlier at Twickenham, Saracens were still able to field a strong side while Wasps clearly missed the impetus normally provided up front by Borthwick’s England teammates Tim Payne, Joe Worsley and Simon Shaw.
Given a rare start with regular fly-half Glen Jackson handed a weekend off, Derrick Hougaard clipped Saracens in front early on with a drop-goal but Wasps opposite number Dave Walder responded quickly with a penalty.
Saracens were back in front when hooker Schalke Brits stormed over for a try with Hougaard adding the extras but, again, Walder responded with a penalty to make it 10-6 at half-time.
The first scoring chance of the second half went to Wasps but Walder's fired his kick wide from halfway but that was the visitors’ last chance to increase their points tally and Hougaard wrapped up the win for Sarries with two more penalties and a second drop goal ten minutes from time.
P: Hougaard 3
DG: Hougaard 2
P: Walder 2
SALE SHARKS 28 – 23 GLOUCESTER
EDGLELEY PARK – Friday, 30th October 2009
ENGLAND’S Autumn Test plans were dealt a blow when Martin Johnson’s first-choice outside centre Mike Tindall limped off with a hamstring injury just 16 minutes into Gloucester’s Guinness Premiership defeat at Sale.
Tindall’s injury was a recurrence of a problem which had already sidelined him for three weeks this season and it did little help Gloucester’s plight as they outscored their hosts three tries to one and still lost out to indiscipline – they had wing Charlie Sharples sent off in the first half - and the boot of Sharks fly-half Charlie Hodgson.
With 66 minutes gone, however, the Cherry and Whites were still in the contest after lock Will James scored a converted try and when prop Greg Somerville went over two minutes from the end, an against-the-odds Gloucester win looked on the cards.
Earlier, Sale had taken a 16-8 lead into the interval after Hodgson kicked them in front with the first of seven penalties – an effort cancelled out by a Nicky Robinson drop-goal.
Two more Hodgson penalties and the conversion after Lee Thomas grabbed Sale’s only try of the match in the 28th minute gave Sale the edge before Tom Voyce burrowed over for an unconverted try just before Sharples was sent off for reckless challenge on Marika Vakacegu.
Robinson cut the gap to five points shortly after the restart with another penalty but Hodgson added two more to put Sale 22-11 ahead by the hour mark. Six minutes later, Gloucester were right back in the game when James crashed over with Robinson converting to cu the deficit to three points.
But two Hodgson penalties made sure Somerville’s later try was only enough to earn Gloucester a losing bonus point.
P: Hodgson 7
T: Voyce, James, Somerville
BATH RUGBY 11 – 12 SARACENS
THE RECREATION GROUND – Saturday 31st October 2009
SARACENS chalked up their seventh Guinness Premiership win on the bounce to stay top of the table with a 100% record, thanks to a narrow win at The Rec which a late try by captain Michael Claassens, following penalties from Ryan Davis and Jack Cuthbert, set up a tense finale; but Saracens never looked in any danger of defeat and should have won by a wider margin.
With their England captain Steve Borthwick watching from the stands, Saracens grabbed a flying start with a fourth-minute try from flanker Andy Saull, which was set up hooker Schalke Brits’ 40-metre break and good support play from centre Brad Barritt.
Glen Jackson’s conversion made it 7-0 and it took Bath 10 minutes to reply with a penalty from Bath stand-off Ryan Davis.
But, with Saracens punching holes through the poor home defence with ease, the visitors were 12-3 up at the break after wing Noah Cato broke through David Flatman's tackle for their second try.
A long-range penalty from Bath’s stand-in full-back Jack Cuthbert cut Sarries’ lead to 12-6 early in the second half, but Jackson missed two penalties and Cato squandered a chance to stitch the game up for Sarries when he spilled a scoring pass right on the Bath line.
Five minutes from time with Saracens down to 14 men because prop Rhys Gill was in the bin, Bath nicked a try back when skipper Michael Claassens nipped over from close range with Davis unable to add the conversion to get the home side in front for the first time.
And Saracens then survived nine minutes of injury time to snatch their first league win at The Rec since 2004.
P: Davis, Cuthbert
T: Saull, Cato
HARLEQUINS 9-9 LONDON IRISH
THE STOOP – Saturday 31st October 2009
RECOVERING Harlequins denied London Irish a sixth Guinness Premiership victory of the season and extended their own unbeaten run to four matches at The Stoop, where young fly-half Rory Clegg kicked a last-gasp penalty to earn Quins two precious points.
Clegg, making his first start for Quins since his summer move from Newcastle, booted the Quins in front with a fourth-minute penalty and then traded misses with Irish counterpart Ryan Lamb before Lamb wiped out Quins’ lead in the 16th minute.
Lamb then kicked Irish 6-3 ahead with a 25th-minute penalty, but Clegg restored parity with his second three-pointer, eight minutes before the break.
Clegg's boot let him down in the 50th minute when he pulled a penalty wide after his own clever chip behind the Irish defence forced the visitors to kill the ball at the ensuing breakdown.
Lamb was then short with a penalty attempt from just inside his own half and Irish were soon relying on the superb covering defence of Steffon Armitage to keep Quins at bay. But the Irish defence responded well when Mike Brown looked like scoring when he ran on to a chip from Hewat only to see Armitage pick the kick off to defuse the threat.
Clegg hit the left upright with a drop-goal shot in the 57th minute as Quins finally began to exert some pressure but the score stayed level at 6-6 going into the final 20 minutes.
A raft of substitutions made the match becoming even more disjointed and sloppy handling errors from both sides made a try from either look unlikely.
Hewat then stepped up when Quins were pinged for not rolling away at a ruck, taking over kicking duties with Lamb off the pitch and he slotted a penalty to give the Exiles the edge with eight minutes to play.
But, with the clock ticking into the final minute of stoppage time, Clegg booted over his third penalty of the afternoon to make sure Quins pocketed a share of the spoils.
P: Clegg 3
P: Lamb 2, Hewat
LEICESTER TIGERS 29 – 15 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
WELFORD ROAD – Saturday 31st October 2009
LEICESTER drew on the their massive strength-in-depth – they had 19 players unavailable due to injuries or Test call-ups – to maintain their 13-month unbeaten record at Welford Road with a convincing win over Northampton Saints in a highly compelling East Midlands derby.
The Tigers took time to settle and were 7-0 down after five minutes after allowing the dangerous Bruce Reihana to launch a counter-attack with support from fly-half Stephen Myler and Chris Ashton, who combined to send debut lock Christian Day crashing over.
Myler converted but Staunton settled Leicester’s nerves with two well-struck penalties before Argentina international wing Lucas Amorosino scorched over from long range after Anthony Allen intercepted a sloppy pass from Myler.
Staunton's conversion was followed by two long-range penalties, with a glaring missed penalty from Myler sandwiched in between, but Saints hit back with a try before the break when Reihana set up Ashton down the right.
Staunton slotted his fifth penalty early in the second half but Saints cut the deficit back to seven points again when Myler found the target with a penalty.
And Leicester had a let-off when Northampton scrum-half Lee Dickson had his claim for a try ruled out by the television referee for being in touch before he grounded the ball.
That proved crucial and Allen dashed Northampton's hopes of salvaging a bonus point when he latched onto a stray pass and went over for an interception try which Staunton converted to seal Leicester’s win.
T: Amorosino, Allen
C: Staunton 2
P: Staunton 5
T: Day, Ashton
LONDON WASPS 9 -15 LEEDS CARNEGIE
ADAMS PARK – Sunday, 1st November 2009
LEEDS Carnegie Ceiron Thomas was the toast of the Yorkshire club and its travelling supporters after he booted five penalties at Adams Park to give the bottom-of-the-table side their first Guinness Premiership victory since they beat Newcastle Falcons in March 2008.
Thomas emerged as the star turn in a dour try-less encounter which ended with hosts Wasps being booed off their own pitch at the end of a poor performance from a visibly complacent home side.
Leeds came out firing straight from the kick-off and Thomas kicked them ahead with only two minutes on the clock and their 3-0 lead survived when Wasps fly-half Dave Walder’s decision to set up an attacking line-out from a penalty was squandered by hooker Joe Ward’s poor throw-in.
Wasps blew another try-scoring chance from a penalty scrum, turning the ball over tamely, but Walder took no chances in the 18th minute, slotting a penalty over to make it 3-3.
Four minutes later, Leeds squeezed Wasps in a scrum to earn a penalty and Thomas was again on target with Walder replying in the 24th minute to level it up again but by half-time Thomas had knocked over two more penalties to send Leeds in 12-6 up at the interval.
Wasps squandered a good try-scoring chance early in the second half when the normally deadly David Lemi spilled the ball in the act of touching down but with the game moving into its final quarter, Walder clipped over his third penalty to cut the visitors’ lead to 12-9.
Thomas missed a chance to double his side’s cushion in the 64th minute but four minutes later he was bang on target and Wasps were unable to make any more inroads before the home supporters made it very clear at the final whistle that they had been totally unimpressed by what they had seen from the home side.
P: Walder 3
P: Thomas 5
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 14 – 3 WORCESTER WARRIORS
KINGSTON PARK – Sunday 1st November 2009
NEWCASTLE Falcons followed up their bonus-point win at Bath with a home win over Worcester Warriors, but Steve Bates’ side made heavy weather of their 14-3 victory which came courtesy of the home pack’s powerful set-piece work and dominance at the breakdown.
Both sides found the swirling wind and soaking wet pitch a problem in the opening minutes, but Newcastle served notice of their intent early on when they hammered the Worcester pack at three successive scrums and a rolling maul.
The Falcons kept up the pressure at successive five-metre scrums and, when Mark Sorenson was pulled down just short, hooker Rob Vickers picked up to be driven over for the game’s only try in the 15th minute.
Gopperth kicked a 28th-minute penalty to make it 8-0, defying the awful conditions to hit the target and he added a second penalty nine minutes into the second half when Worcester strayed offside.
The Warriors, though, saw more the ball after the break and Willie Walker kicked a much-needed penalty to get them back into the game at 11-3 in the 61st minute.
But Newcastle upped the pressure in the last 10 minutes and Gopperth slotted his third penalty in the 75th minute to put the Falcons out of reach.
P: Gopperth 3
BATH RUGBY 16 - 27 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
THE REC – 24th October 2009
BATH’S miserable season went from bad to worse with a four-try, bonus-point home hiding dished out by Newcastle Falcons, who won for the first time in the Guinness Premiership and handed the home side their sixth defeat in eight starts this term.
After an error-strewn opening 20 minutes, Falcons fly-half Jimmy Gopperth missed the chance to kick the Falcons head, pulling a simple penalty well wide and four minutes later, opposite number Nicky Little punished his miss when he gave Bath a 3-0 lead.
Bath added to their lead with a try from Matt Carraro off turnover ball, hooker Pieter Dixon firing out a long pass to the Aussie centre who squeezed over in the corner for an unconverted try.
But Newcastle bounced back on the stroke of half-time when full-back Charlie Amesbury shrugged off a weak tackle from Little and wriggled past Nick Abendanon on the line to score in the corner with Gopperth converting to make it 8-7 at the interval.
Three minutes into the second half, Abendanon launched a counter-attack and Carraro’s offload put Bath skipper Michael Claassens over to give Bath a 13-7 lead, which lasted just three minutes until James Hudson went over in the corner to finish off a well-structured attack from the Falcons.
From there, Bath simply fell apart and Newcastle ran in two tries in 10 minutes to kill the home side off.
First, Falcons scrum-half Mickey Young scampered 80 metres after intercepting a Dixon pass in his own 22 with Gopperth converting.
And then, after Bath’s replacement fly-half Ryan Davis clipped over a drop-goal, Amesbury ran on to a perfectly weighted grubber from Gopperth to grab his second try of the game.
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 21 – 16 SALE SHARKS
FRANKLIN’S GARDENS – 24th October 2009
SALE SHARKS centre Andy Tuilagi’s spell in the sin bin cost his side two tries and any chance of causing an upset at Franklin’s Gardens, where Northampton Saints maintained their unbeaten record this season in all competitions.
Saints full-back Ben Foden and wing Bruce Reihana scored the damaging tries in a decisive three-minute period at the end of the first half, but Sale gave themselves a glimmer of hope when flanker James Gaskell nipped down the blindside from a scrum and Charlie Hodgson’s late penalty made sure the Sharks picked up a losing bonus point.
Foden's try brought the game to life at the end of an error-riddled first half in which Geraghty's early penalty was cancelled out by a long-range effort from Hodgson.
Hodgson and Reihana were both off target with further penalty attempts before Tuilagi's sin-binning for tangling with Chris Ashton.
Northampton maintained the pressure and they stretched their lead with the final play of the half, when Reihana broke a weak tackle by Mark Cueto and touched down with Geraghty unable to add the conversion.
Geraghty kicked a penalty early in the second half, but Sale fought back and when Northampton failed to control a scrum near their line, the ball squirted out and Gaskell scored with Hodgson converting.
Hodgson added another three points when Saints’ replacement number eight Mark Easter was yellow-carded for killing the ball and when Sharks had Brent Cockbain sent to the cooler, Stephen Myler cancelled Hodgson’s effort out.
But, just when Sale thought they had missed out on a losing bonus point, Saints pushed up offside in front of their own posts and Hodgson clipped the ball over to close the gap to just five points.
WORCESTER WARRIORS 22 - 26 HARLEQUINS
SIXWAYS – 24th October 2009
HARLEQUINS fully deserved their 26-22 Guinness Premiership victory over Worcester, overcoming the loss of England number eight Nick Easter to a leg injury before half-time while the Warriors grabbed a losing bonus point with a late converted try from Callum Black.
Quins led after just two minutes, converting good line-out work into the opening try for scrum-half Danny Care, which Nick Evans converted.
Worcester responded with a Willie Walker penalty, but Harlequins restored their advantage minutes later when Evans kicked another penalty, after Rico Gear was penalised for an illegal tackle on Mike Brown.
Quins looked the more dangerous side, but Worcester got the next score when Walker kicked a 35-metre penalty 12 minutes before the break, which arrived with Quins’ Ceri Jones in the sin bin and the visitors 13-9 ahead after Walker clipped over a drop-goal.
Walker cut Quins’ lead to 13-12 with added a 45th minute but Rory Clegg, on for the injured Evans, kicked a 40-metre goal and then added the conversion to a try from Brown to give the visitors a 23-12 lead going into the final quarter.
Walker and Clegg exchanged penalties as the tension mounted with Worcester pushing hard for a lifeline and their efforts were rewarded when Black scored at the death with Walker kicking the conversion.
LONDON IRISH 18 – 12 LEICESTER TIGERS
MADEJSKI STADIUM – 24th October 2009
Ryan Lamb kicked London Irish to the top of the Guinness Premiership overnight with six penalty goals for an 18-point haul which went part of the way to erasing the Exiles’ bitter memories of their Premiership final defeat by Leicester Tigers at Twickenham in May.
Leicester edged in front with a 16th minute penalty from Jeremy Staunton but three minutes later with the Tigers’ under-pressure scrum struggling, Lamb was able to cancel that out.
When Steffon Armitage was held back off the ball by Jordan Crane, Lamb kicked Irish into a 6-3 lead and the Exiles then saw a 34th minute score chalked off with referee Wayne Barnes ruling that a Lamb pass to Sailosi Tagicakibau went forward.
Another Lamb penalty had Irish six points clear at the interval and Staunton reduced the deficit two minutes into the second half but Lamb struck again to keep the home side’s noses in front.
Staunton's third penalty goal punished Irish prop Paulica Ion for straying offside and when Lewis Moody was sent to the bin in the 67th minute for breaking his bind at a scrum to scrag Paul Hodgson illegally, Lamb added another three points to the Irish tally.
Leicester, however, refused to buckle and, with Staunton hobbling, replacement scrum-half Ben Youngs kicked a 71st-minute penalty to keep the Tigers in the hunt until Lamb sealed the home side’s win with his sixth penalty in the 74th minute.
GLOUCESTER 6 – WASPS 35
KINGSHOLM – 24th October 2009
ENGLAND discard Mark Van Gisbergen scored two tries to help Wasps swarm to a thumping bonus-point over Gloucester at Kingsholm, where three second-half tries put paid to any notion of a Cherry and White fight-back.
Former All Blacks fly-half Carlos Spencer booted two out of four penalties but they were Gloucester’s only scoring contribution, despite the home side enjoying the lion’s share of possession and territory.
The Londoners, who started out third in the Premiership table, grabbed the only try of the first half when scrum-half Joe Simpson and fly-half Dave Walder combined to put centre Dominic Waldouck over with Walder converting.
Two Walder penalties added to Gloucester’s problems, sending Wasps in 13-6 up at the break.
Early in the second half Wasps made the vital break, taking a 12-point lead when David Lemi slipped Van Gisbergen round the outside of the Gloucester defence for their second try with Walder again adding the extras.
Wasps made absolutely certain of victory in the last 10 minutes when the outstanding Simpson off-loaded to skipper Serge Betsen, who dived over under the posts with Walder’s job simple when it came to adding the extras.
And with Gloucester’s disillusioned support heading for the exits, Van Gisbergen stitched up the bonus point with his second try and Wasps' fourth touchdown two minutes from time.
P: Spencer 2
T: Waldouck, Betsen, Van Gisbergen 2
C: Walder 3
P: Walder 3
SARACENS 21 – 15 LEEDS CARNEGIE
VICARAGE ROAD – 25th October 2009
SARACENS maintained their perfect start to the Guinness Premiership campaign with a 21-15 win over relegation favourites Leeds Carnegie at Vicarage Road – their sixth victory on the bounce - to go to go back to the top of the table.
Saracens had Leeds on the back foot from the kick-off and Glen Jackson kicked them in front with two penalties, although each was quickly cancelled out by his opposite number Cieron Thomas to make it 6-6 after 25 minutes.
Thomas was sin-binned for Leeds in the 33rd minute after deliberately handling in a ruck to deny Saracens a try-scoring opportunity and Sarries finally broke the deadlock when hooker Schalk Brits broke through and Kameli Ratuvou smashed his way over for an unconverted try.
Leeds reduced the deficit to two points when Thomas kicked his third successful penalty two minutes after the break only for Saracens to score their second try, this time a converted score from Ratuvou.
Another Thomas penalty kept Leeds in touch, but when he missed on the hour the writing was on the wall for the visitors and replacement fly-half Derrick Hougaard wrapped up the home win with a 77th minute penalty.
But Thomas clipped over a drop-goal two minutes later to make sure that hardworking Leeds headed north with a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.
T: Ratuvou 2
P: Jackson 2, Hougaard
SALE SHARKS 8 - 11 LONDON IRISH
EDGELEY PARK 2nd October 2009
LONDON Irish try machine Sailosi Tagicakibau claimed his sixth try of the season on a windy Friday night at Edgeley Park to help London Irish hit the top of the Guinness Premiership overnight, thanks to a hard-fought 11-8 victory over hosts Sale Sharks.
A penalty from Irish full-back Peter Hewat got the Exiles on the board in the 23rd minute, but Sale hit back with a surging break from centre Andy Tuilagi which gave Sale the attacking platform for tight-head Eifion Roberts to drive over for an unconverted try.
The Samoan flier Tagicakibau struck in the 37th minute to finish off a superb break by his fellow South Sea islander Elvis Seveali'i, and though Hewat's conversion attempt came back off a post, the Exiles’ victory was over-shadowed by a serious injury to wing Adam Thompstone, who suffered a break and dislocation of his ankle early in the second half.
The Australian, however, clipped over a penalty from distance shortly before half-time to send Irish in 11-5 up at the interval.
A penalty from stand-in stand-off Nick Macleod cut the Exiles’ lead to three points early in the second half but Sale struggled to make much more headway against a resolute Irish defence.
The Exiles continued to dominate at the breakdown and that made sure they had little problem in keeping Sale at arm’s length until the unlucky Thompstone’s replacement, Peter Richards, was sent off following a clash with Sale hooker Neil Briggs.
Even then, Sale were unable to dent a 14-man Irish defence and they had to settle for a losing bonus-point.
LEICESTER TIGERS 19 WORCESTER WARRIORS 14
WELFORD ROAD 3rd October 2009
DEFENDING Guinness Premiership champions Leicester had fly-half Jeremy Staunton to thank for a 19-14 win over spirited Worcester and the preservation of their year-long unbeaten record at Welford Road, where Worcester have failed to win in nine visits.
Lewis Moody’s first-half try set up Leicester’s win but it took a drop-goal and a penalty from Staunton late on to torpedo Worcester after flanker Tom Wood grabbed a second-half touchdown to keep the visitors in the hunt.
The Tigers were behind after just 23 seconds when Worcester fly-half kicked the first of three first-half penalties, while Staunton made a less than auspicious start, missing a pot at goal in the 11th minute and a drop-goal attempt four minutes later.
The former Ireland fly-half did eventually hit the target, though, and after he and Walker had exchanged penalties, the game was tied at 6-6.
Then Moody struck, touching down from a line-out with Staunton adding the difficult conversion before Walker smashed over a long-range penalty goal to make it 13-9 at the interval.
Wood’s second-half touchdown gave Worcester a 14-13 lead with Walker unable to get the conversion over and Leicester had to dig deep to respond.
Within three minutes of Woods’ try, Staunton slotted a drop goal to get the Tigers into a 16-14 lead and he then missed a chance to stretch their cushion when he hooked a penalty wide.
But Staunton made no mistake when Worcester took down a scrum late on and his third successful penalty goal proved enough to see Leicester home, although the warriors left Welford Road with a well-deserved losing bonus-point.
P: Staunton 3
HARLEQUINS 13 BATH RUGBY 11
THE STOOP 3rd October 2009
ENGLAND number eight Nick Easter was the toast of The Stoop after his last-gasp try and a stoppage-time conversion from Nick Evans helped Harlequins come from behind to beat Bath and chalk up their first Guinness Premiership victory of the season.
Bath, with just one win under their own belts this season, looked like they were going to hang on for win number two until the TMO ratified Easter’s close-range dive over the line in front of England manager Martin Johnson and attack coach Brian Smith.
Bath took control to such an extent that Quins were reduced to scrapping just to escape from their half early on with referee Wayne Barnes awarding three penalties against the home side in the opening 10 minutes.
Bath fly-half Nicky Little clipped two between the posts to give Bath a 6-0 lead, but Quins’ fly-half Nick Evans hammered over a 40-metre penalty in the 16th minute to halve the visitors’ cushion.
Evans hooked his next shot at goal wide from 30 metres out in the 33rd minute and Bath almost punished that just before the interval when a searing break by Little looked to have released Matt Carraro for the first try.
Ugo Monye, who made a strong case for consideration as the answer to England’s full-back problems, had other ideas and he snuffed out the danger with a tremendous last-ditch tackle.
Quins had a claimed try chalked off in the 54th minute when the touch judge spotted a knock-on by Gonzalo Tiesi before Monye dived over to touch down and Evans missed a chance to level it up with a penalty in the 63rd minute.
With a minute of normal time left, Evans kicked his second goal of the night to level it up at 6-6, but the Quins’ defence opened like the Red Sea to allow Shontayne Hape to stroll over for an unconverted try which gave Bath what looked like a winning lead.
But Quins, backed by a vociferous home crowd, cranked up the pressure in stoppage time, leaving Easter and Evans to get them dancing in the aisles at the death.
P: Evans 2
LEEDS CARNEGIE 10 - 26 GLOUCESTER
HEADINGLEY 4th October 2009
Attendance: 5, 371
WORLD Cup-winner Mike Tindall showed England what he can give them in next month’s Autumn Tests against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand with a man-of-the-match display for Gloucester in a comfortable Guinness Premiership win over relegation prospects Leeds Carnegie at Headingley.
The England veteran created a try for James Simpson-Daniel and scored to dispatch bottom-of-the-table Leeds, who had Hendrie Fourie and Ceiron Thomas sin-binned either side of half-time, to a fourth straight Premiership defeat.
Seru Rabeni, who moved to Headingley after a summer move to Gloucester fell through, sparked a third-minute try from Leeds, surging through the Cherries’ defence to release full-back Jon Goodridge.
He offloaded to Leeds skipper Marco Wentzel, who released Tom Denton to cross for a try converted by Thomas, who was to add a penalty to Leeds’ tally before the interval.
A penalty from Nicky Robinson got Gloucester off the mark in the seventh minute and a second penalty in the 15th minute closed the gap, but Gloucester failed to make the most of a man advantage before the interval with flanker Fourie in the cooler.
Thomas took his turn in the bin in the 51st minute and this time Gloucester capitalised when former French Test hooker Ollie Azam crashed over from close range for a try converted by Robinson.
Two minutes later, Gloucester were in the driving seat when Tindall made a midfield break and sent Simpson-Daniel over in the left corner for an unconverted try.
Robinson added another penalty in the 73rd minute to give his side further breathing space and Tindall sealed the Cherry and Whites’ win with an unconverted try in the right corner.
LONDON WASPS 20 - 15 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
ADAMS PARK 4th October 2009
FORGOTTEN man Dave Walder was the star of the Adams Park show when Tony Hanks' rejuvenated London Wasps picked up their fourth win in five Guinness Premiership starts at the expense of Northampton Saints.
Wasps raced into a 17-3 half-time lead thanks to Danny Cipriani's try and four Walder penalties and although Northampton improved massively after the break, four penalties from Shane Geraghty and one from Bruce Reihana were not enough to earn the visitors more than a losing bonus-point.
Walder was in ruthless form, kicking his first penalty in the fourth minute. He followed that up with another in the 18th minute after lock Richard Birkett was hauled down in the air at a line-out and he booted his third eight minutes later to put Wasps 9-0 up.
Geraghty then skewed a long-distance penalty wide and Ben Jacobs should have scored Wasps' first try when he ran onto Dominic Waldouck's pass and then spilled the ball 10 metres out with Tom Varndell free outside him.
Walder slotted his fourth penalty just before half-time, which arrived with Wasps well clear after Cipriani, playing at full-back, beat Saints wing Chris Ashton to Joe Simpson’s up-and-under and touched down in the corner.
Geraghty finally hit the target with a penalty in first-half injury-time to get Saints on the board and he whittled away at the home side’s lead after the break with a second penalty in the 54th minute.
His third penalty four minutes later made it 17-9 and that gave Saints some momentum with Walder off- target with a relatively simple penalty attempt in the 64th minute.
He made up for that when he landed a drop-goal and Geraghty then hooked a simple 75th minute penalty wide before landing a more difficult attempt to make it 20-12.
Reihana then stepped up with a late, long-range penalty goal to make sure Saints left Adams Park with a losing bonus-point.
P: Walder 4
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 15 - 22 SARACENS
KINGSTON PARK 4th October 2009
SARACENS may not be pretty, but they are effective as a Sunday afternoon Round 5 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park proved, sending Brendan Venter’s side back to the top of the Guinness Premiership table after their fifth straight win in five outings this season.
An interception try from Richard Haughton plus a try, two conversions and a penalty from fly-half Derick Hougaard gave Sarries a 17-15 half-time lead before wing Chris Wyles sealed their win with a late second-half touchdown.
Five penalties from the boot of fly-half Jimmy Gopperth in an intense first half kept the Falcons in the hunt, but they made little of any chances that came their way and they are still looking for their first win after five Premiership outings.
The home side got off to the worst possible start when scrum-half Micky Young's pass was picked off by Haughton, who strolled over under the posts with Hougaard converting in the fifth minute.
Gopperth got the Falcons on the board with two penalties after some enterprising attacking play, Hougaard hit back to put Sarries 10-6 up and then Gopperth banged over three successive penalties to give the home side a 15-10 lead.
Saracens blew a great try-scoring chance in the 33rd minute after Wikus van Heerden made a midfield break only to see Wyles drop the ball with the line at his mercy.
But Hougaard then dummied his way over the line and converted to make the most of a good scrimmaging effort from the Sarries pack.
Trailing by two points at the break, Newcastle made a purposeful start to the second half, but they wasted a three-man overlap and blew a great chance to get back in front.
Hougaard then missed with two long-range drop-goal attempts before he made way for Glen Jackson, who started with a missed drop-goal attempt himself as Sarries tried to edge further clear.
Their dominance finally told, though, when Fijian centre Kameli Ratuvou got his hands out of an attempted tackle and offloaded to Wyles, who crossed for Saracens’ second try with four minutes to go.
P: Gopperth 5
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 17 - 17 HARLEQUINS
KINGSTON PARK 25th September 2009
TROUBLED Harlequins stayed winless and in 11th place after Round 4 of the fourth round of the 2009/10 Guinness Premiership championship, but there was signs that their season was gathering momentum in a 17-17 draw with Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
For the Falcons, sitting in ninth place after Round 4, it was the third win to slip away from them this season and both sides have yet to chalk up their first win of the new campaign.
A Nick Evans penalty gave Quins an early 3-0 lead but the Falcons responded in the ninth minute when stand-in skipper Jimmy Gopperth picked off a loose pass in midfield with Charlie Amesbury and scrum-half Mickey Young creating space for Tane Tu'ipulotu to crash over for a converted try.
And when the mercurial Young squirmed to within striking distance, lock Tim Swinson was able to barge over the line with Gopperth adding the conversion to give Newcastle a 14-3 lead.
Newcastle then wasted a a good chance to extend their lead before half-time and Quins blew a great chance to get back into the contest before half-time when England scrum-half Danny Care spilled a pass just five metres from the Falcons line.
After the break, Quins stepped up a gear and Evans reduced the deficit to 14-6 with a penalty.
And they were right back in the match when British Lions tourist Ugo Monye, staking an early claim to the England full-back slot ahead of November’s Autumn Test series, burst into the Quins line to grab a well-worked and well finished, but unconverted try.
A long-range penalty from Gopperth protected Newcastle's lead, stretching their cushion to 17-11 before Evans again hit back with the boot.
The New Zealander then levelled it up with his fourth successful penalty goal after Falcons centre Rob Vickers was sent to the sin bin.
But when Evans missed with a late drop-goal attempt, Quins chances of snatching their first win of the season evaporated.
T: Tu’pulotu, Swinson
C: Gopperth 2
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 30 - 10 LEEDS CARNEGIE
FRANKLINS GARDENS 26th September 2009
NORTHAMPTON Saints’ playmaker Shane Geraghty stepped up his bid to land the England number 12 shirt for England’s November’s Tests against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand with a sparkling display at Franklin’s Gardens to steer the home side to a four-try, bonus-point win over bottom-of-the-table Leeds Carnegie.
The star of the Saints show, 23-year-old Geraghty, grabbed seven points with the boot – two conversions and a penalty – scored one try and had a hand in a double for in-form inside centre Jon Clarke.
Leeds made an encouraging start to the match, dominating at the breakdown early on, but they managed to notch a lone Cieron Thomas penalty before Saints got into their stride and Geraghty began to put his stamp on proceedings.
Geraghty, who missed an eighth-minute penalty, made amends in the 19th minute when he skipped over for Northampton’s first try, which was set up by clever work from scrum-half Lee Dickson.
His conversion attempt came back off an upright, but his boot did not let him down when he produced a beautifully weighted grubber through the Leeds defence to help Chris Mayor lay on the first of two tries from Clarke.
That triggered a devastating spell from Northampton, who clocked up three tries in five minutes to whip the match out of Leeds’ reach before half-time.
More superb work from Geraghty, who chipped into the other corner for Clarke, earned Northampton their third try of what was becoming a one-sided contest.
And an excellent team effort saw wing Chris Ashton capitalise on slick build-up work from Ben Foden, Bruce Reihana, Mayor and Ashton to grab the home side’s bonus-point score with the contest just 32 minutes old.
Leeds, though, refused to lie down and fly-half Thomas took a five-point bite of Northampton’s lead on the stroke of half-time when he got on to the shoulder of full-back Jonny Hepworth and went to go over for a scored converted by Henry Paul.
With the game in the bag barring mishaps, Northampton throttled back in the second half and kept Leeds at arm’s length with ease with Geraghty and Reihana both adding penalties to seal a comfortable victory for high-flying Saints.
T: Clarke 2, Geraghty, Ashton
C: Geraghty 2
P: Geraghty, Reihana
WORCESTER WARRIORS 24 - 18 SALE SHARKS
SIXWAYS 26th September 2009
TRIES from twin touchline terrors Marcel Garvey and Miles Benjamin helped Worcester Warriors chalk up their first Guinness Premiership home win over Sale Sharks since the Sixways side stepped up to English rugby’s top flight.
Their previous seven meetings at Sixways had all gone the Sharks’ way but, despite outscoring Sale by two tries to one, skipper Pat Sanderson’s side needed a committed defensive effort in the second half to hold on for their second win of the new season.
Worcester edged in front with Willie Walker drop-goal in the second minute after clever play from centre Sam Tuitupou and flanker Tom Wood.
And when Sale full-back Nick Macleod knocked on at the edge of his side’s 22, Worcester conjured up a first-phase try from Garvey, who shrugged off a poor Chris Bell tackle to cross the Sharks’ line.
Walker converted from wide out and Lee Thomas, again standing in for toe injury victim Charlie Hodgson, got Sale on the board with a penalty to make it 10-3.
Bell then atoned for his earlier mistake with Sales’ opening try, taking lock James Gaskell’s pass over in the corner after Macleod split the home defence. Worcester blew a great chance to stretch their lead after good work from Benjamin and Tuitupou ended with Walker spilling a scoring pass on the Sale line.
Walker salvaged three points with a penalty when play was pulled back for an earlier Sale offside offence, Thomas missed a chance to cancel that out when he pulled a penalty shot wide and Walker punished that miss just before half-time to give the Warriors a 16-8 half-time lead.
Worcester started the second half in style with Netani Talei and Sanderson opening up Sale's defence for Benjamin to apply the finishing touch with their second try, leaving Sale 13 points adrift and playing catch-up.
Tait zipped through the home defence for a brilliant try, converted by scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, under the posts to cut Worcester’s lead to six points but Walker pulled it back out to nine with a penalty off the inside of an upright.
And Thomas then popped up with the drop-goal which earned the Sharks a losing bonus-point which they held on to when walker fluffed a late penalty.
T: Garvey, Benjamin
P: Walker 3
BATH RUGBY 20 - 20 LEICESTER TIGERS
THE REC 26th September 2009
GUINNESS Premiership champions Leicester Tigers finally broke a try drought stretching back to last season's Guinness Premiership final – some 278 minutes without crossing the whitewash – at The Rec but, despite tries from hooker Mefyn Davies and England centre Dan Hipkiss, they had to settle for two points from a 20-20 draw with Bath.
The home side’s Fijian fly-half made sure the home side was first on the scoreboard in the seventh minute with a penalty, but Tigers’ Jeremy Staunton replied with a penalty almost directly from the restart before Little edged his side ahead again on 12 minutes.
Another exchange of penalties than took the score to 9-6 with both sides trying to play expansive rugby in near perfect conditions.
Tries looked on the cards and the opener came from Leicester when Davies crashed over for only the second touchdown of his Premiership career with Staunton adding the extras to give the Tigers an 13-9 lead.
By half-time, though, Bath had responded to take a 14-13 interval lead courtesy of England wing Banahan, who powered his way through Johne Murphy’s last-ditch tackle for a try in the corner.
Little added a penalty to Bath’s tally early in the second half but then had to spend 10 minutes in the sin-bin for a high tackle on Leicester full-back Geordan Murphy who, moments later, had to leave the action with a dislocated shoulder after a try-line collision with Joe Maddock.
Bath held out while Little was in the cooler but they then conceded the try which looked to have put Leicester in the driving seat when Hipkiss scampered over in the corner with Staunton clipping over the conversion to give the Tigers a 20-17 lead.
Bath, though, fought back in the dying minutes to salvage two points from a hard-fought draw with a fifth successful penalty from Little.
P: Little 5
LONDON IRISH 28 - 16 LONDON WASPS
MADEJSKI STADIUM 26th September 2009
SAMOAN flier Sailosi Tagicakibau grabbed a touchdown double to take his tally to five in three games, helping London Irish - the Guinness Premiership’s top points-scorers this season – to a comfortable victory over Wasps in the Madejski Stadium.
And England hopeful Ryan Lamb added another 15 points to his Premiership-leading points tally against A Wasps line-up which had made the trip to Reading with a 100 per cent record from their first three outings of the new campaign.
The Exiles notched their first try after just two minutes when Seilala Mapasua’s direct approach unsettled Wasps’ defence and, from the ensuing scrum, full-back Peter Hewat created the overlap for Tagicakibau to exploit.
Danny Cipriani then hit back with a long-range penalty, missed two more and then added a second from in front of the posts as Wasps began to settle.
But Lamb then ripped the ball away from Wasps inside centre Dominic Waldouck and broke with Thompstone and Mapusua in support before he chipped over a drop goal.
Lamb followed that up with two penalties to give the Exiles some breathing space and it looked ominous for Wasps when lock Richard Birkett was sin-binned for killing the ball at a breakdown.
Irish, though, made little headway in his absence and Cipriani and Lamb duly swapped penalties early on in a second half that came alive when Thompstone was sin-binned for an illegal try-saving tackle on Waldouck.
Referee Dave Pearson awarded the penalty try, Cipriani converted and battling Wasps had the Exiles pegged back to 17-16 with a grandstand finish looking on the cards in an increasingly second half.
But Irish moved 23-16 ahead with a long-range drop-goal by Hewat and a penalty from Lamb, who both made the most of some forceful work from the Irish pack.
And the home side wrapped up victory in the 62nd minute, when Wasps’ centre Ben Jacobs’ pass aimed at Paul Sackey, was picked off by Tagicakibau, who then cruised over for the decisive score.
T: Tagicakibau 2
P: Lamb 4
DG: Lamb, Hewat
SARACENS 19 - 16 GLOUCESTER RUGBY
VICARAGE ROAD 26th September 2009
SARACENS had the Barbarians’ early-summer star turn at Twickenham, South African hooker Schalke Brits, to thank for a 19-16 home win over Gloucester which maintained their 100 per cent start to the season and moved them in pole position at the top of the Guinness Premiership table after four rounds.
Sarries’ bustling hooker grabbed the late match-clinching try and fly-half Glen Jackson booted 14 points to help the Watford-based outfit win, despite losing skipper Steve Borthwick’s hand on the tiller when he had to be withdrawn injured early on.
Saracens were up against it right virtually from the off after Gloucester scrum-half Rory Lawson grabbed a second-minute try to capitalise after Scotland flanker Alasdair Strokosch nicked a Sarries’ thrown-in 10 metres from their own line with Wales fly-half Nicky Robinson converting
The home side then put boot to ball to repel lively Gloucester and they got back into the game with two Jackson penalties before Borthwick left the action with a badly gashed eye following a clash with Cherries hooker Olivier Azam.
Robinson extended Gloucester’s early lead to 10-6 with a penalty and both he and Jakcson were to add three more points apiece before an uninspiring first half ended with Gloucester four points ahead.
Jackson, who had missed a penalty late in the first half, started the second half with a drop-goal to get Sarries within a point, but Robinson responded almost immediately at a stage in the match where both sides looked devoid of attacking ideas.
A bulldozing run from Lesley Vainikolo, though, drew in a clutch of Saracens defenders and his over-the-top pass sent Robinson clear into space out wide, but he was halted by a superb tackle from Saracens' England Under-20 international Alex Goode.
Sarries then sent on former All Black Justin Marshall at scrum-half and he orchestrated a series of drive from Saracens which ended with Brits diving over the line for what proved to be the match-winning try.
And Gloucester’s chance of snatching a draw vanished when Robinson missed a stoppage-time drop-goal attempt, forcing them to settle for a losing bonus-point.
P: Jackson 3
P: Robinson 3
SALE SHARKS 12 - 25 BATH RUGBY
EDGELEY PARK 18th September 2009
BATH Rugby finally got their first win of the season at Edgeley Park – their first Guinness Premiership win in Stockport since 2003 - thanks to a fighting rearguard action against Sale Sharks which saw Bath hold out with 13 men on the pitch after try-scorer Matt Banahan and replacement back-rower Andy Beattie were both sin-binned in the closing stages.
Steve Meehan's men kicked off bottom of the table after back-to-back defeats by Gloucester and Wasps , but two tries from man-of-the-match outside centre Matt Carraro and one from Banahan saw a Bath side showing five changes break their duck.
Sale were again missing talismanic fly-half Charlie Hodgson and Welshman Lee Thomas again deputised in the number ten shirt, kicking Sale into an early 3-0 lead which Nicky Little quickly cancelled out but by the 12th minute Sale were 6-3 up thanks to another Thomas penalty.
By the 23rd minute, Thomas had extended Sale’s lead to 9-6 but Bath burst into action and Carraro handed off Ben Cohen’s tackle to cross in the corner with Little converting to send the visitors in 13-9 up at the interval.
Four minutes into the second half, Banahan charged over next to the posts with Little’s popped pass making the finish easy for the England winger to make it 18-9.
And when Shontayne Hape sent midfield partner Carraro over again with Little adding the extras, Bath were in the driving seat with a 25-9 lead and looking for the fourth bonus-point try.
But Thomas hit back with a fourth penalty for stubborn Sale, who piled the pressure on Bath in the closing minutes.
That saw the visitors forces to dig deep to hold on with two men in the cooler for a comfortable win which lifted them off the bottom of the table.
P: Thomas 4
T: Carraro 2, Banahan
GLOUCESTER RUGBY 14 - 27 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
KINGSHOLM 19th September 2009
NORTHAMPTON, who found wins on the road difficult to come by last season, handed Gloucester their biggest home Guinness Premiership defeat since 2005 at Kingsholm with budding England fly-half Shane Geraghty grabbing the star billing.
The Saints eased to a comfortable victory thanks to tries in either half from powerhouse prop Soane Tonga'uiha and strong-running centre Jon Clarke.
Geraghty, meanwhile, kept the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties and a conversion, and former All Black wing Bruce Reihana chipped in with two long-range penalties.
The home side managed to grab what turned out to be a consolation touchdown through recalled flanker Akapusi Qera, who capitalised on a scything first-half break from wing Lesley Vainikolo.
Fly-half Nicky Robinson added three penalties, but Gloucester finished well beaten with a vast proportion of the home contingent in the crowd voting with their feet and heading for the exits early.
A late starting change – wing James Simpson-Daniel was ruled out by illness with Tom Voyce called up to deputies – did little to help the Cherries’ cause, which took another hit two days after the match when club captain Gareth Delve was handed a three-week ban at an RFU disciplinary hearing for striking London Irish forward George Stowers the week before in a 40-5 Exiles win in Reading.
Tonga'uiha made the most of good work by fellow prop Santiag Bonorino for Saints first try with Geraghty converting and a 50-metre Reihana penalty has Saints 10-0 up before Gloucester had seen much of the ball.
A Robinson's penalty and Qera’s try got Gloucester back in the contest, but Geraghty booted three penalties to two from Robinson to give the Saints a 19-14 half-time lead.
Northampton then dominated the third quarter, slicing open Gloucester's defence with ease for Clarke’s try with Geraghty the architect and Reihana’s second long-range penalty wrapped up a handsome Saints victory.
P: Robinson 3
HARLEQUINS 9 - 22 SARACENS
THE STOOP 19th September 2009
SPRINGBOK fly-half Derrick Hougaard booted 17 points – three penalties, two drop-goals and a conversion - at The Stoop to help Saracens maintain their 100 per cent start to the Guinness Premiership campaign at the expense of trouble Harlequins, who sank to the bottom of the table after a third straight defeat.
After enduring a summer of off-field controversy, Harlequins’ reply consisted of three Nick Evans penalties in a match dominated by Brendan Venter’s new-look side, while England attack coach Brian Smith’s trip to The Stoop to watch Quins centre Jordan Turner-Hall, who suffered a shoulder injury, and Sarries midfield man Brad Barritt in a game where expansive rugby was in short supply will have taught Smith little or nothing about either player.
Saracens played to Hougaard’s strength - his kicking game – but Quins led early on thanks to an Evans penalty and the New Zealander then almost set up a try for George Lowe with a lightning break, only for Sarries wing Noah Cato to snuff out the danger.
A second Evans penalty doubled Quins’ lead, but Hougaard hit back with a drop-goal and a penalty to level it up at 9-9 just before the interval.
Four minutes into the second half, Saracens got their noses in front when Ratuvou raced over for the only try of the contest in the right corner –a try set up by Andy Saull.
Hougaard converted that to give Sarries a 16-9 lead and after Evans responded with this third penalty, Sarries kicked the game out of their sight with a monster 55-metre Hougaad drop-goal.
Saracens' US Eagles winger Chris Wyles was sent to the sin-bin for tripping Quins’ England flier David Strettle, but Saracens failed to make the extra man count until Quins lock Jim Evans was sin-binned and Hougaard knocked over the penalty which sealed the visitors’ victory.
P: Evans 3
LEICESTER TIGERS 15 - 6 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
WELFORD ROAD 19th September 2009
DEFENDING Guinness Premiership champions Leicester Tigers set a welcome new record – a record Welford Road attendance of 24,000 with 10,000 fans seated in their magnificent new £14 million Caterpillar Stand – and one very unwelcome one in a stuffy win over Newcastle Falcons.
The Tigers needed five Jeremy Staunton penalties to clip the Falcons’ wings as their try-less run stretched to four hours and 19 minutes - back to last season’s Guinness Premiership final at Twickenham, making for the longest barren run in the club’s history.
So far this season, Irish fly-half Staunton is the only Tiger to trouble the Premiership’s record-keepers, notching 27 points in Leicester’s first two games and all 15 of their points against Newcastle.
Staunton grabbed his first three-pointer in the third minute with Falcon’s young fly-half Rob Miller – in for injured Kiwi Jimmy Gopperth – replying two minutes later.
Two more Staunton penalties in a three-minute spell midway through the first half and another from long range with the last kick of the half then had Leicester, who had enjoyed most of the possession and territory without a sniff of the try-line, leading 9-3 at the break.
Six minutes into the second half, Staunton missed after Newcastle dropped a scrum and Miller hit back with his second successful kick of the contest in the 53rd minute to keep the hardworking and well-organised Falcons in the hunt.
England flanker Tom Croft did cross the Newcastle line in the second half only to have his effort disallowed for a deflection off referee Andrew Small and Staunton had what he thought was a try chalked off when the TMO spotted a knock-on in the build-up to his dive over the whitewash.
Leicester made a raft of second-half substitutions to try and make the try-scoring breakthrough but their own desperation undid them far too often and that left Staunton to wrap up the win with his fifth penalty of the match late on after Falcons lock James Hudson was penalised for a high tackle on Allen.
P: Staunton 5
LEEDS CARNEGIE 7 - 56 LONDON IRISH
HEADINGLEY 20th September 2009
LONDON Irish underlined their Guinness Premiership title aspirations with an emphatic seven-try demolition job on Leeds Carnegie at Headingley, where Exiles wing Adam Thompstone grabbed a second-half hat-trick in a one-sided rout.
Beaten by Leicester Tigers in last season's Guinness Premiership final, Toby Booth’s side had far too much quality and cutting edge for their hosts who, on the strength of their results thus far this season, have a long battle on their hands to avoid relegation.
A penalty try and a Chris Hala'ufia touch down in the first half set Irish up for a one-way traffic second half which produced five tries and their second bonus-point victory of the new campaign.
Leeds fought hard but their only consolation was a superb converted first-half try from flanker Kearnan Myall, who picked off a loose pass for a well-taken interception score converted by Ceiron Thomas but by then Irish were firmly in the driving seat with a 16-0 lead.
Lamb missed a penalty in the second minute before Irish were awarded a penalty try which Lamb converted and he then added three penalties in quick succession to give the Exiles the clear edge before Myall struck for Leeds.
Hala'ufia crossed in the right corner and Lamb added the extras to make it 23-7 before Nick Kennedy was sin-binned in the countdown to half-time after an altercation with Leeds scrum-half Andy Gomarsall.
Early in the second half, Elvis Seveal’is set up Thompstone’s first try under the posts and Hala'ufia burrowed over in the right corner to secure the bonus-point score and Irish were out of sight on the hour after Thompstone chalked up his second try of the mis-match.
The Exiles number eight then blotted his copybook with a trip to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle, but 14-man Irish barely dropped the pace and Thompstone’s third try in the 72nd minute had Leeds’ fans heading for the exits.
That left Tagicakibau’s late score to rub salt in the home side’s gaping wounds with Lamb landing his sixth conversion to seal a superb personal display and an all-too easy Irish victory.
LONDON WASPS 23 - 3 WORCESTER WARRIORS
ADAMS PARK 20th September 2009
ENGLAND Saxons pair Tom Varndell and Dominic Waldouck staked their claims to possible Autumn Test call-ups at Adams Park by inspiring Wasps to a third straight Guinness Premiership win at Worcester Warriors’ expense which left the High Wycombe outfit hot on Saracens’ tails at the top of the table.
Varndell, rejuvenated after his summer move from Leicester, grabbed his fifth try of the new campaign late on and Waldouck, called up in place of the injured Steve Kefu at short notice, played the key creative role in an impressive Wasps display.
And Wasps and England also saw wing Paul Sackey ease his way back into competitive rugby with a successful comeback after completing his recovery from a broken leg
Wasps twice passed up shots from penalties early in the match, opting for the driven line-out but the Warriors’ defence kept them at arm’s length, forcing George Skivington to cough up possession and winning great turnover ball at a ruck in front of their own line.
Waldouck then set up the game’s opening try for skipper Serge Betsen, popping the ball up for the French Test veteran to touch down when Warriors full-back Chris Latham got to him, leaving Cipriani with a simple conversion before the interval.
Worcester fly-half Willie Walker, who had a rare off-day with the boot, added a scuffed drop-goal attempt to a first-half penalty miss as the warriors tried to battle their way back into the contest.
Cipriani punished Walker’s inaccuracy with a penalty to stretch Wasps’ lead and he then clipped over two drop-goals to stretch Wasps into a winning lead with just a lone second-half penalty from Walker to give Worcester any consolation.
Varndell then applied the finishing touch in stoppage time, gathering a clever chip ahead from the impressive Waldouck to dive over for his fifth try in three games for his new club.
T: Varndell, Betsen
C: Cipriani 2
DG: Cipriani 2
WORCESTER WARRIORS 27 – 7 LEEDS CARNEGIE
SIXWAYS 11th September 2009
WORCESTER bounced back from their last-gasp away defeat on the opening weekend of the season at Northampton to brush newly-promoted Leeds Carnegie aside at Sixways, climbing briefly to the top of the Guinness Premiership table in the process.
A second-half surge inspired by fly-half Willie Walker saw Worcester score 14 unanswered points in 10 minutes to climb firmly into the driving seat with Leeds’ defeat suggesting Neil Back’s side faces a long survival battle.
Showing two changes to the side which blew a 17-0 lead at Franklin’s Gardens, Worcester led early on through a Walker penalty, but Leeds hit back with a superbly crafted try from Hepworth, who sliced through the Warriors' midfield defence with Thomas adding the conversion.
The visitors’ 7-3 lead lasted just four minutes – the time it took for grove to notch the Warriors’ first try with Walker converting to give the home side a 10-7 half-time lead.
Whatever Warriors boss Mike Ruddock had to say at the interval then paid handsome dividends as his side took the game away from Leeds with a blistering start to the second half.
That saw Walker take the game by the scruff of the neck with two penalties and a 40-metre drop-goal in a four-minute spell.
And while Leeds tried hard to prise open Worcester’s grip on the game, Walker’s intelligent playmaking set up Garvey and he effectively killed the game off as a contest with a try midway through the second half.
Even a yellow card for Grove failed to weaken Worcester's domination and Walker completed a 17-point haul with a late penalty to wrap up an emphatic home win.
T: Grove, Garvey
P: Walker (4)
BATH RUGBY 15 - 17 LONDON WASPS
THE REC 12th September 2009
ENGLAND Saxons scrum-half Joe Simpson produced a virtuoso performance in the Recreation Ground sunshine to help Wasps sting struggling Bath, without a win after two Guinness Premiership outings, maintain their 100 per cent start to the new season.
The Wasps youngster’s speed and direct approach set up a win which saw Wasps successfully hang on to take the points, courtesy of two tries from Tom Varndell and one from David Lemi after they had prop Tim Payne sent off late in the second half for a second yellow-card offence.
Bath number eight Ben Skirving's try - in the 20th minute of second-half stoppage time – almost got Bath off the hook but fly-half Ryan Davis missed the touchline conversion which would have earned the home side a share of the spoils.
Davis, who missed three first-half penalties at Gloucester last Sunday, slotted the angled conversion after Bath skipper Claassens surged over for the opening try in front of a record 11.300 Rec crowd to give the home side a 7-0 lead early on.
Cipriani did not help Wasps’ cause by missing two penalties and he then missed a conversion after a Simpson break helped to set up Varndell’s first touchdown.
A Davis penalty then sent Bath in 10-5 but a sniping run from Simpson opened Bath up down the narrow side and Varndell shrugged off a weak Joe Maddock tackle to grab his second try of the contest to level it at 10-10.
Cipriani, who converted just one of five kicks at goal, then released centre Steve Kefu early in the second half and his pass sent Lemi scorching over in the corner with Cipriani adding the conversion to give Wasps a 17-10 lead at the break.
Wasps made a half-time switch, sending on Dave Walder, who slotted in at fly-half with Cipriani dropping to full-back and Mark Van Gisbergen making way.
But while Wasps retained their lead, they came under increasing pressure from Bath, which led to Payne’s eventual dismissal.
Bath the blew a gilt-edged chance to get their noses in front when Jack Cuthbert’s pass to Matt Banahan, who got over the line in the corner, went forward and than Davis missed his chance to earn Bath a draw after Skirving crashed over in the corner.
T: Claassens, Skirving
SARACENS 19 - 16 NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
WEMBLEY STADIUM 12th September 2009
SARACENS survived a dramatic late fight-back from Northampton Saints in front of a 44,832 Wembley crowd to maintain their winning start to the new Guinness Premiership campaign with a 19-16 victory, which left them sitting behind leaders London Wasps on points difference.
Trailing 16-3 after England Saxons wing Noah Cato notched an interception try two minutes into the second half, Saints chipped away at the deficit through a Jon Clarke try and the boot of Shane Geraghty.
Saints prop Soane Tonga'uiha thought he had won the game for Saints with just under two minutes to go but the TMO ruled there had been knock-on before the front-rower wriggled over in a frantic finale.
By the end of the first quarter Saracens' pack had taken control up front, camping in Northampton's 22 and creating a successful drop-goal opportunity for Glen Jackson with Geraghty replying to reward Saints for a dominant spell.
Northampton’s Scotland open-side Scott Gray then shoulder-checked Schalk Brits at the restart and Jackson slotted the resulting penalty and he had Sarries 9-3 up at the break with another penalty after Paul Diggin blocked Alex Goode close to the try-line.
Two minutes into the second half, Saracens surged further ahead when Cato forced a fumble from Saints skipper Dylan Hartley and ran three-quarters of the pitch to score.
Clarke then barged over for his try to cut the deficit, Geraghty's delayed pass setting up the score with the help of number eight Phil Dowson.
Jackson and Geraghty then exchanged penalties and Saracens started the final quarter 19-13 up – a lead cut to three points by a Geraghty penalty but Saints were unable to capitalise on Brits’ dismissal to the sin-bin.
Geraghty missed the resulting penalty, which would have levelled the score and Sarries hung on for their second win of the season.
P: Jackson (3)
HARLEQUINS 9 LEICESTER TIGERS 15
THE STOOP – 13th September 2009
DEFENDING GUINNESS Premiership champions Leicester picked up their first win of the new season with scoring a try for the second match in succession, thanks to the boot of fly-half Jeremy Staunton.
Irishman Staunton clipped over five penalties to three from Quins’ New Zealand outside half Nick Evans to help the Tigers bounce back from their surprise opening weekend setback at Sale Sharks.
Still under something of a cloud after a controversial summer and with chief executive Mark Evans promising supporters that Quins will rebuild their "battered reputation", the home side was also looking for its first win of the new campaign after losing to Wasps at Twickenham a week earlier.
Defences, though, were to dominate a first half which ended all-square at 3-3 after Staunton, who had missed earlier, cancelled out an early long-range penalty from Evans, making the most of Quins’ indiscipline at a breakdown.
Staunton kicked Leicester into a 6-3 lead two minutes into the second half but Harlequins, playing the more adventurous rugby after the interval, looked more likely to notch a try.
That looked more likely when Tigers’ England number eight was sin-binned for taking David Strettle out in the air, but the best Quins could muster despite the man advantage were two more penalties from Evans to get into a 9-6 lead.
Quins then squandered the best scoring chance of the game when wing George Lowe spilled Ugo Monye’s with the line beckoning.
From then on, Leicester sniffed their chance of victory and three inch-perfect penalty kicks from Staunton eased the Tigers into a 15-0 lead which they never looked like losing.
P: Evans 3
NEWCASTLE FALCONS 16 - 16 SALE SHARKS
FRANKLINS GARDENS 13th September 2009
NEWCASTLE had to settle for a second successive draw at the start of the new Guinness Premiership season, following up their 9-9 opening weekend Headingly stalemate with Leeds with a share of the spoils from a 16-16 draw with Sale Sharks at Kingston Park.
Two late penalties from Lee Thomas, filling at fly-half for the injured Charlie Hodgson, earned Sale two valuable points after the Sharks pack established a strong foothold late on in a frenetic encounter.
Falcons fly-half Jimmy Gopperth knocked over two penalties in quick succession to give the home side a 6-0 lead, punishing deliberate knock-ons by Thomas and flanker James Gaskell, who was sin-binned for his indiscretion in the 16th minute.
Thomas got the visitors on the board with a penalty and he then created a stunning 24th minute try for England wing Mark Cueto with a delicate chip in behind the home defence and added the extras after Cueto beat Tom Biggs and Alex Tait on his way over from 30metres out.
Gopperth’s third penalty cut Sale’s lead to a point before Newcastle were gifted a try by Sale flanker Neil Briggs, who knocked the ball on in front of his own line straight into the hands of a delighted Rob Vickerman with Gopperth adding the conversion.
Sale spent the remainder of the first half camped in Newcastle’s 22 but Thomas missed with a penalty and a drop-goal shot to leave the Falcons 16-10 up at the interval.
The frenetic pace of the match continued straight from the restart as the impressive Vickerman made a scything break, but saw his inside pass intercepted which led to some last-ditch defending being required to stop Mathew Tait going over at the other end.
Gopperth was off-target with a fourth penalty attempt early in the second half and after he and Thomas both missed midway through the second half, Thomas found the range twice to tie it up with just seven minutes left, earning Sale two valuable points.
P: Gopperth (3)
LONDON IRISH 40 – 10 GLOUCESTER
MADEJSKI STADIUM 13th September 2009
London Irish full-back Delon Armitage has almost certainly been ruled out of England’s Autumn Test series after suffering a dislocated shoulder during the Exiles’ 40-10 win over Gloucester at the Madejski Stadium.
Armitage, 25, was helped from the pitch in the 61st minute of a comfortable London Irish victory and he faces the best part of three months on the sidelines and the possibility of surgery on his injured shoulder which could prolong his lay-off.
Meanwhile, Gloucester head coach Bryan Redpath was left lamenting poor discipline from his side, which spent the majority of the second half with 14 men on the pitch thanks to trips to the sin-bin for four of his players.
Former Gloucester fly-half Ryan Lamb took revenge on his former club, the 23-year-old claiming the man-of-the-match award with a 20-point haul and a sparkling display, setting up two tries for wing Sailosi Tagicakibau and one for the unlucky Armitage and kicking four conversions and three penalties .
Pulling the Exiles’ strings behind a dominant pack, Lamb had effectively played Gloucester, who trailed 23-3 at the interval, out of the out of the game by half-time.
Lamb, who had earlier exchanged penalties with Nicky Robinson, executed a perfect cross-field chip but Armitage spilled the ball with the line at his mercy. The England full-back had to wait only until the 25th minute to make amends, however, as he capitalised on a wicked bounced that deceived Rory Lawson and Morgan.
Lamb added the conversion and a second penalty while wayward kicking by Robinson ensured six first-half points went begging for Gloucester and the Exiles’ fly-half then set up a try for Tagicakibau in the left corner and added the conversion.
A fourth Lamb penalty early in the second half hammered another nail into Gloucester's coffin, though the sin-binning of Chris Hala'ufia for killing the ball offered them some hope.
Gloucester finally put a try on the board when Sharples made the most of a missed tackle by Paul Hodgson with Robinson landing the conversion.
But a penalty try and Tagicakibau’s second touchdown of a one-sided contest, both converted by Lamb, saw Irish chalk up a welcome bonus-point home victory.
T: Tagicakibau (2), D Armitage, Penalty try
C: Lamb (4)
P: Lamb (3)
SALE SHARKS 15 – 12 LEICESTER TIGERS
EDGELEY PARK 4th September 2009
LEE Thomas took over kicking duties from an off-form Charlie Hodgson to land five penalties at rain-lashed Edgeley Park to help stubborn Sale Sharks hand reigning Guinness Premiership champions Leicester Tigers an unexpected opening-weekend setback.
Widely billed as the short-odds favourites to retain their crown, the Tigers had to rely on four penalties from fly-half Jeremy Staunton to stay in the game with try-scoring opportunities hard to come by thanks to a superbly organised defensive effort from the home side.
Watched by England boss and Tigers legend Martin Johnson, Sale defied predictions that they would struggle this season after a summer player exodus with director of rugby Kingsley Jones handing debuts to Ben Cohen, Sisa Koyamaibole and Jack Forster with Gavin Kerr and Mahonri Schwalger on the bench.
Leicester started meaning business but as the match developed Hodgson, despite his kicking woes, emerged as the key performer at fly-half with Cohen and Mark Cueto providing a significant threat out wide.
After Hodgson missed a penalty from 40 metres out early on, Staunton kicked Leicester in front and he added a second three-pointer just before half-time, which arrived with Sale 9-6 up at the interval, thanks to three Thomas penalties and a ten-minute spell in the bin for Tigers’ Louis Deacon for persistent offside.
Leicester produced the move of the match late in the first half, which saw a brilliant break from deep by skipper and full-back Geordan Murphy, which involved five of his teammates, go unrewarded after the Sharks’ defence eventually snuffed out the threat.
Sale’s' 9-6 interval lead was wiped out early in the second half by Staunton's third penalty, but two more penalties from Thomas edged Sale 15-9 with 27 minutes to go.
Thomas missed a chance to kick Sale further ahead, Staunton again cut the gap to three points but he then missed a difficult penalty chance from wide out and Thomas was to miss again before the final whistle ended a tight contest.
P: Thomas (5)
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 20 – 17 WORCESTER WARRIORS
FRANKLINS GARDENS 5th September 2009
WORCESTER wasted a golden opportunity to get their Guinness Premiership season off to a splendid start by blowing a 17-0 lead at Franklin's Gardens going down 20-17 to a Northampton Saints side clearly stung into action after the break followed a dismal opening 40 minutes .
Northampton had the first opportunity to score after six minutes when Bruce Reihana was narrowly wide with a penalty attempt from the halfway line and Warriors wing Miles Benjamin was forced to concede a five-metre scrum when a clever cross-field kick from Stephen Myler put the visitors’ defence under early pressure.
Worcester, though, took a surprise lead in the 18th minute when Myler's chip ahead was gathered by Greg King inside in his own half and he combined with Benjamin to set up the wing’s 22-metres cruise into the corner.
Walker converted from the touchline, he then extended Worcester's lead to 10 points and worse followed for the Saints when their pack was shunted backwards in front of their own line.
Warriors scrum-half Ryan Powell picked up and number eight Kai Horstmann crashed off for the try which Walker converted for a 17-0 lead before Northampton eventually got on the score-board with a converted try just before the break.
That came from former Newcastle skipper and number eight Phil Dowson, who drove over from close range with Myler converting after the TMO confirmed Dowson had got the ball down.
After the break, Northampton suffered a blow when Myler limped off with an ankle injury, but moments later they saw a Willie Walker penalty come back off a post.
Geraghty, who had taken over kicking duties, clipped over two penalties midway through the second half to cut Worcester’s lead top four point.
And, after Walker missed a penalty and the chance to stretch the Warriors’ lead back to seven points with 13 minutes to go and then ended up in the sin bin, Saints grabbed their chance to snatch a late victory with a Paul Diggin try and Geraghty’s conversion.
T: Dowson, Diggin
P: Geraghty (2)
C: Myler, Geraghty
SARACENS 18 - 14 LONDON IRISH
TWICKENHAM 5th September 2009
KIWI Glen Jackson was Saracens’ star turn in a backs-to-the-wall double-header display at Twickenham, which saw the revamped Watford outfit hold out for four-point victory in the face of a second-half onslaught from London Irish.
Sarries led 18-3 at the break thanks to a try, a conversion and two penalties from Jackson and a second touch-down by Andy Saul but after looking loose and disorganised in the first half, the Exiles hit back with a George Stowers' try and penalties by Ryan Lamb and Delon Armitage to pick up a losing bonus-point.
Jackson knocked over a third-minute penalty to give Sarries an early lead, which was quickly cancelled out by Irish’s former Gloucester fly-half Ryan Lamb.
Lamb, though, was to miss three times in a first half which saw Jackson take the game by the scruff of the neck for Saracens when he tapped a short-range penalty and nipped over for a try which he converted himself with Irish expecting him to take a pot at goal.
His second successful penalty extended Sarries lead to 13-3 and a clever cross-field kick from the New Zealander then set up Saull for an unconverted try and what looked likely to be a match-winning 18-3 half-time lead.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men early in the second half when Irish’s England full-back Delon Armitage and Sarries hooker Schalk Brits were yellow-carded following a brawl, before the shaky Lamb clipped over a 20-metre penalty to make it 18-6. Two minutes later, Sarries were down to 13 men when Ernst Joubert was sent to the bin and Stowers made them pay when he burrowed over from close range after Irish had turned a scrum to earn the put-in.
Lamb missed the conversion to leave Irish, who were beginning to pick holes in Sarries’ defence, seven points adrift before Armitage put the final points of the match on the board seven minutes from time.
T: Jackson, Saull
P: Jackson (2)
LONDON WASPS 24 – 15 HARLEQUINS
TWICKENHAM 5th September 2009
HARLEQUINS, at the centre of controversy all summer long, had to suffer a losing start to the new Guinness Premiership campaign despite a superb 14-man, backs-to-the-wall double-header display against London Wasps at Twickenham.
Lock George Robson’s dismissal for aiming a head butt at Wasps’ livewire scrum-half Joe Simpson had Quins in trouble with the contest just 46 seconds old, but they responded magnificently to that setback, leading 12-5 thanks to tries from Ugo Monye and new signing Gonzalo Camacho before Wasps got on top of the job.
The opening 30 minutes saw Quins fly-half Nick Evans strike imperious form and with Wasps struggling to contain a makeshift Quins scrum, his clever cross-field kick was gathered by David Strettle, who sent Monye over for the game’s opening try.
Wasps hit back with the first of two tries from summer signing Tom Varndell, who finished a move he started himself with a lightning 50-metre break from deep before he fastened on to Danny Cipriani pass to touch down in the corner.
Quins, undaunted by that, hit straight back and when their forwards recovered Evans’ restart, scrum-half Care picked out Camacho with a perfectly-weighted cross-kick and the Argentinean applied the finish.
Evans converted and then landed a penalty, earned by a Harlequins scrum with winger Camacho packing down in the back row, but Mark van Gisbergen, kicking instead of Cipriani, kept Wasps in the contest with two penalties before Varndell struck again just before the break.
Van Gisbergen was unable to convert but he added another penalty to extend his side’s lead and Evans then, crucially, missed two penalty shots that would have earned Quins a narrow and deserved lead.
Inevitably, fatigue spiked Harlequins’ guns and Wasps cranked up the pressure in the closing minutes to win a penalty try from a driven lineout maul and when Van Gisbergen duly added three more points he denied valiant Harlequins a losing bonus point.
T: Varndell (2)
C: Van Gisbergen
P: Van Gisbergen (4)
LEEDS CARNEGIE 9 – 9 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
HEADINGLEY 6th September 2009
NEW Zealander Jimmy Gopperth found it difficult to fill the void left by the departed Jonny Wilkinson at Headingley, where the highly-rated new Newcastle Falcons’ four penalty misses handed newly-promoted Leeds Carnegie a share of the spoils from a 9-9 draw.
While Gopperth struggled, all of the home side’s points came from the boot of fly-half Ceiron Thomas, who also missed twice in a disappointing contest which could have seen the Yorkshire side, which finished strongly, conjure up a late victory.
With 25 departures over the summer and 18 new recruits in his squad, Falcons boss Steve Bates handed five new players - Gopperth, Gcobani Bobo, James Hudson and former Leeds pair Rob Vickerman and Tom Biggs, who was facing his old club - starting roles.
And Gopperth, despite his wayward goal-kicking, showed enough glimpses of quality to suggest he will make an impact, setting up an early try-scoring chance which saw Bobo break from halfway down the left and Biggs almost pick the Kiwi out with a flicked pass inside just short of the Leeds line.
Gopperth did get the visitors off the mark with a routine penalty soon after and, with the Falcons superior up front, Leeds looked to be there for the taking.
After Gopperth missed another penalty from distance, Leeds enjoyed a brief bout of sustained pressure and Thomas landed a long-range penalty in the 23rd minute having missed one three minutes earlier.
Gopperth failed with the boot again in the 33rd minute and Thomas then did likewise in first-half injury-time to cap a thoroughly underwhelming opening period.
That pattern continued after the restart when Gopperth missed his fourth penalty from five attempts and a denied the Falcons a try in the 56th minute.
Gopperth finally landed his second penalty on the hour and Thomas replied four minutes later to make it 6-6 and Gopperth struck again in the 69th minute to put Newcastle 9-6 ahead.
But Leeds, who showed guts and determination throughout, levelled it up six minutes from time when Thomas landed his third successful penalty from five attempts.
P: Thomas (3)
GLOUCESTER 24 – 5 BATH RUGBY
KINGSHOLM 6th September 2009
FORGOTTEN England winger James Simpson-Daniel and Wales and former Cardiff Blues fly-half Nicky Robinson played the starring roles to help Brian Redpath’s new-look Gloucester side humble West Country rivals at Kingsholm.
Simpson-Daniel grabbed a try double and a near faultless display by Robinson, who capped a fine first appearance for the Cherry and Whites with an interception try to add to three conversions and a penalty on his way to a 14-point haul, propelled Gloucester to the top of the opening weekend Premiership table and left Bath floundering at the basement.
Former Bradford Bulls rugby league centre Shontayne Hape claimed a consolation second-half touch-down for the visitors, who saw fly-half Ryan Davis, standing in for the injured Butch James, miss three penalties which would have kept Bath in the contest.
Robinson, meanwhile, kicked Gloucester into a ninth-minute lead and his forwards then gave him a platform to whip the ball wide for Simpson-Daniel’s opening try and he later added a penalty to send the home side in 10-0 up at half-time, despite the dispatch of open-side Andy Hazell to the sin-bin for stamping just before the interval.
Woeful Bath failed to capitalize on their man advantage early in the second half and they were punished when Simpson-Daniel picked off a stray pass from Bath skipper Michael Claassens and scampered 70 metres off for his second try of the game.
Robinson’s second successful conversion took Gloucester into a 17-0 lead before Hape hit back for Bath with an unconverted score, but Robinson rubbed salt in Bath’s gaping wounds late on with another interception try and conversion which sealed a convincing win for Gloucester.
T: Simpson-Daniel (2), Robinson
C: Robinson (3)