TOP BAR - Fixtures

Aviva Premiership Rugby European wrap: Saracens stay on track as Exeter Chiefs just miss out

Saracens continued their near perfect start to their Champions Cup defence with a bonus-point victory over Scarlets on a day of mixed fortunes for Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs in European competition.

Saracens rampant again

Mark McCall’s men pulled off a 44-26 victory at Allianz Park as first Mako Vunipola rumbled over to get the show going before Nick Tompkins – a late replacement for Brad Barritt – Marcelo Bosch, and Chris Wyles all followed.

Rhys Patchell kicked 16 points for Scarlets, but Michael Rhodes’ score capped a dominant display from the Saracens pack.

And having taken charge of Pool 3, McCall was thrilled with how his men are coping with the pressures of being defending champions.

“I think there were a lot of strong performances, a lot of strong individual performances across the team,” he said.

“Michael Rhodes had a really prominent game and carried really well for us, Mako [Vunipola], and Owen Farrell was magnificent for us.

“Nick Tompkins came in at the eleventh hour and did a really good job for us as well so some good performances across the team.

“We’re pleased we got the win that we wanted, we got the bonus point that we wanted.

“[We] did a lot of good things in the game, but also did some not so good things and obviously we don’t like to concede 26 points at home.

“We made some errors along the way and a few more handling errors that we would have liked, but that would be a bit glass half empty because some of the rugby that we produced was really nice.”

It was not all good news for Saracens, or indeed England, however as second row Maro Itoje came off with an injury after rolling awkwardly onto his arm that could rule him out of action in the coming weeks.

“Maro came off with a sore hand,” added McCall. “He will be examined and have an x-ray after which we will know more.”

Drop-goal costs Exeter

Elsewhere on Saturday, both Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints went down away from home.

Jim Mallinder’s side slipped to third in Pool 4 after losing 41-7 away at Castres, with the hosts racing into a 20-0 first-half lead to leave no way back despite James Wilson’s try.

And the Chiefs were left cursing their luck after Paddy Jackson’s late drop goal condemned them to a 19-18 reverse in Ulster.

Gareth Steenson booted all of his side’s points but was robbed of a happy return to his native Northern Ireland as his last-gasp drop-goal attempt just shaved the outside of the post.

But despite having a very bitter pill to swallow, director of rugby Rob Baxter insists their dogged performance shows they can still progress in the competition.

“I am hurting, but I am hurting for the right reasons because we have taken part in a blood and guts game,” he said. “Both sides went flat out and I don’t think either deserved to lose.

“We are distraught, and if you go in the dressing room the players are distraught, but there are things I know we can take forward.

“The only thing we can do is keep working hard and this gives us something to work on because we fought and had a willingness to stay in the battle and we will look to build from this over the next few weeks.

“I don’t think this means our European hopes are over.”

So close for Quins and Warriors

Exeter were not the only side to have their hopes dashed by a single point, as both Harlequins and Worcester Warriors went down by the same margin in the Challenge Cup to Edinburgh and Brive respectively.

Quins produced a stunning comeback from 31-14 down to lead going into the closing stages thanks to scores from Charlie Walker, Kyle Sinckler, Mat Luamanu, and two penalty tries – but Tom Brown won it with six minutes remaining with a good finish to make it 36-35.

The Warriors claimed a late bonus point thanks to Andy Short’s score, but let a 17-10 lead slip in the second half after Ben Te’o’s try to lose 25-24.

Perfect start for Cherry & Whites

But 2014/15 champions Gloucester Rugby continued their perfect start to this year’s campaign thanks to a 37-8 win over Benetton Treviso.

Calum Braley crashed over in the dying moments to secure the try bonus point after the in-form Matt Scott, Jonny May, and Lewis Ludlow had all crossed the whitewash, and  hooker Motu Matu’u toasted a memorable debut for the Cherry & Whites at Kingsholm.

“I was quite excited to get my first start at Kingsholm,” he said. “There has been a lot of talk about getting our first win under our belt at home and I thought we proved that, not only to ourselves, but also our fan base.

“It feels like I have been a part of this team for a while now and running out at Kingsholm actually gave me some goose bumps.

“The crowd played a huge part on the field and, I kid you not, I couldn’t hear the (lineout) calls down the other end of the field.

“I try to be the energiser and the guy who keeps everyone up and everyone on task. If I do my job well, everything else will fall into place.

“It was really important for us to get the bonus point and it will help us down the road in the European (Challenge) Cup.”

Latest News

Toby Flood starts for Newcastle Falcons against Rotherham Titans

Toby Flood makes the first start of his second spell at Newcastle Falcons on Saturday when they host Rotherham Titans…

Joe Marler commits to Harlequins until 2021

Harlequins is thrilled to announce today, Friday 18th August, that England and British and Irish Lions prop, Joe Marler, has…

Joe Marler

European fixtures to be released on Tuesday

The fixtures for the 2017/18 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season will be announced on Tuesday, 22 August at 3.00pm…

Rokoduguni starts for Bath Rugby against Ospreys

Semesa Rokoduguni will make his first appearance of pre-season when Bath Rugby take on Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on…

Harlequins team to play Jersey Reds

Harlequins has announced the squad to play Jersey Reds in the final match of the 2017/18 pre-season campaign, at The…

Francis Saili

Stringer starts for Worcester Warriors at Birmingham Moseley

Summer signing Peter Stringer will get his first start for Warriors on Friday night as his side take on Birmingham…

London Irish name side for Ealing Trailfinders clash

London Irish have named a 30-man squad for this Friday’s pre-season clash with Ealing Trailfinders at Hazelwood (kick-off 7.30pm). The…

Gloucester Rugby announce line-ups for preseason friendly at Leinster

Gloucester Rugby will give game time to a number of their first team squad in Leinster on Friday evening as…

American rugby players and coaches to get once in a lifetime opportunity

Thirty American rugby players and coaches are being handed the chance of a lifetime to train in England with Premiership…

Stephen Myler: Northampton Saints ready to fight for the title

Stephen Myler is predicting the closest ever Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign and believes his Northampton Saints side will be right…

Sonatane Takulua expecting big things from Newcastle Falcons this season

Sonatane Takulua believes unity and a collective purpose, combined with an improved playing pool, can help propel Newcastle Falcons up…

Sonatane Takulua

Wasps name team for first pre-season fixture against Ulster

Dai Young has named a 26-man squad to take on Ulster Rugby at Kingspan Stadium in the first pre-season fixture…

Anglo-Welsh Cup 2017-18 launched

WORCESTER WARRIORS have the honour of hosting the opening match in this year’s Anglo-Welsh Cup on Friday 3 November, when…

Leicester Tigers win the Anglo Welsh Cup

Ally Hogg pleased by Newcastle Falcons’ early progress

Ally Hogg believes Newcastle Falcons are well set to attack the new Aviva Premiership season after a double dose of…

Ally Hogg

Topsy Ojo relishing Exiles return to Aviva Premiership Rugby action at HQ

Topsy Ojo believes there could be no more fitting way for London Irish to announce their return as an Aviva…

Newcastle Falcons’ Sonatane Takulua sees Philadelphia trip as a ‘great opportunity’

Newcastle Falcons’ Sonatane Takulua insists his side’s September clash with Saracens in Philadelphia will be no holiday for the players,…

Sonatane Takulua

Harlequins statement: Luke Wallace and Jonas Mikalcius

Harlequins can confirm today (Tuesday 15th August) that flanker Luke Wallace dislocated his hip during the pre-season friendly against London…

Luke Wallace

London Irish kick-off Anglo-Welsh Cup at home to Bath

London Irish will host Bath Rugby at the Madejski Stadium in the opening round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Saturday…

London Irish kick-off Anglo-Welsh Cup at home to Bath

HITZ graduate secures first full time job after being inspired by Premiership Rugby final

A teenager from Leigh who overcame a troubled home life and tackled confidence and communication issues thanks to Premiership Rugby…

Lucy Neal