Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill was relieved his side were able to build their momentum heading into a tough series of games for the club, as they withstood a late comeback from Exeter Chiefs to win 31-27.
The result sent the Tigers up to third in the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings, with Manu Tuilagi, Peter Betham, and Adam Thompstone all getting on the scoresheet after an opening penalty try.
Exeter – who could have gone top of the table with a victory – refused to lie down however and second-half scores from Dave Lewis, Ian Whitten, and Kai Horstmann handed the Chiefs a losing bonus point.
And Cockerill believes his side are developing an ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality with their second five-point win in as many weeks.
“I thought we took our opportunities well and obviously scoring four tries to take a bonus-point win from a clash with Exeter is an excellent result” he said.
“We knew Exeter were going to come back into the game at some point, and they did, but thankfully we gave ourselves a big enough lead to ride that storm.
“This gives us the chance to go to Wasps next week on a high, then we play Saracens and Sale so we have a tough run coming up. Everyone would like us to lose and fall away but we will dig in there, and everyone can decide whether we’ve turned a corner here.”
That result meant Saracens were let off the hook for losing at home to Northampton Saints, where Stephen Myler kicked his side to a 20-15 triumph at Allianz Park.
The wolfpack have gone off the boil in recent weeks, and another off-colour performance saw both Myler and Lee Dickson go over in each half, while the fly-half kicked another ten points to leave Jim Mallinger ecstatic.
He said: “I think our performance, particularly in the first half, was very good. And we came out in the second half and Dickson scored, slightly disappointed we couldn't finish off the Foden opportunity but we are generally happy.
“Tom Wood's work rate was good today, he really got around the field and he's been one of our standout performers this year. Our back row has been outstanding recently too.
“Dickson's general form has been excellent – he came into some criticism earlier in the season but he's responded well.”
In-form Wasps also missed out on the chance to close the gap on Sarries as they were shocked by a resolute Gloucester performance, losing 13-10 at Kingsholm.
The triumph was the Cherry & Whites' first victory over Wasps since September 2012 – not bad against a team that had racked up 130 points over their last three games.
Greig Laidlaw’s second-half penalty was enough to nose the hosts over the line in the end, after Christian Wade's superb solo effort and Jimmy Gopperth's first-half penalty had drawn Wasps level soon after the restart,
Laidlaw’s earlier effort and a converted Richard Hibbard try had put the hosts ahead, and director of rugby David Humphreys admits it took a performance of huge magnitude to weather the Wasps storm.
He said: “I am incredibly proud of the effort by the whole squad. We know how good Wasps are, and I thought it was a great game to watch. Both teams came with an aspiration to play rugby.
“I thought in the first half, our whole game was good, and in the second half we showed real character and commitment to defend. We defended incredibly well.
“To win a game against a team like Wasps, it is a case of numbers one to 23 playing well. I believe they are probably the most complete team in the Premiership at the minute in terms of their style of play. So for us, it was a hugely significant win.”
Thanks to their recent form Wasps are still well positioned in third, while Gloucester move up to sixth – three points behind the top four – in an increasingly congested Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
And breathing down their necks are Sale Sharks, who came from behind in the second half to oust the out-of-sorts Harlequins at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Tim Visser's try saw Quins – the last side to beat Sale at home – leading 13-9 at the break, but scores from TJ Ioane and Will Addison in the second half gave the home side the unassailable advantage as they stretched their unbeaten run on home soil.
Joe Ford started in place of Danny Cipriani, and slotted four kicks from four for 11 points, before the England international fly-half came on to kick another eight points from the tee, meaning Sam Egerton's late try was no more than a consolation.
Meanwhile Bath Rugby notched up a much-needed victory at home to London Irish, largely thanks to Matt Banahan’s first-half double.
His two tries, in addition to scores from Semesa Rokoduguni and Leroy Houston, ensured a 25-17 triumph that Bath fans will hope puts their patchy Aviva Premiership Rugby form behind them.
An Alex Lewington try brought the Exiles within eight points, but Greig Tonks' last-gasp conversion hit the post as they missed out on a losing bonus point.
And Friday’s only game saw Worcester Warriors edge a tense clash with Newcastle Falcons, with their 15-14 victory at Kingston Park leapfrogging them above their hosts in the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings.
After Bryce Heem and Dewald Potgieter had both crossed for Worcester, Falcons looked to have snatched the win when Rob Vickers crossed on his 200th appearance on 72 minutes.
But Craig Willis, taking on kicking duties in place of Andy Goode who had already departed the pitch having struck three penalties, was off target with his conversion attempt and the Falcons were unable to find another breakthrough in the remaining minutes.
Newcastle Falcons 14 Worcester Warriors 15
Penalties: Goode 3
Tries: Potgieter, Heem
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Sale Sharks 29 Harlequins 23
Tries: Ioane, Addison
Conversions: Ford, Cipriani
Penalties: Ford 3, Cipriani 2
Tries: Visser, Egerton
Conversions: Botica 2
Penalties: Botica 3
Referee: Ian Tempest
Gloucester Rugby 13 Wasps 10
Penalties: Laidlaw 2
Referee: Luke Pearce
Bath Rugby 25 London Irish 17
Tries: Banahan 2, Rokoduguni, Houston
Penalties: Brophy-Clews 3, Tonks
Referee: JP Doyle
Saracens 15 Northampton Saints 20
Penalties: Spencer 3, Goode 2
Tries: Myler, Dickson
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Myler 2
Referee: Tom Foley
Leicester Tigers 31 Exeter Chiefs 27
Tries: Penalty, Tuilagi, Betham, Thompstone
Conversions: Burns 4
Yellow Cards: Barrow
Tries: Lewis, Whitten, Horstmann
Conversions: Steenson 3
Penalties: Steenson 2
Yellow Cards: Parling, Jess
Referee: M Carley