Bristol Rugby head coach Mark Tainton admitted his side under-performed against Worcester Warriors as they slipped to a 41-24 defeat at Sixways on Sunday.
The five-point win for the Warriors moves them seven points ahead of Bristol and sees them close the gap to tenth-placed Sale Sharks to just five points.
Jason Woodward scored Bristol’s only try of the first half as Francois Hougaard, Will Spencer, Bryce Heem and a penalty try ensured the Warriors had a bonus point before the break.
“We let ourselves down a lot, we didn’t play to our potential,” Tainton said. “We had a poor start and it got worse after that in the first 20 minutes, we were behind the ball for a long time.
“We gave away soft tries from line outs and our defensive structure wasn’t as good as it has been and they got momentum.
“We have Gloucester in two-and-a-half weeks time we need to regroup and get focused on that game and we’ve got to get a win against Gloucester as simple as that.”
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 5, 2017
Meanwhile director of rugby Gary Gold was focusing on the positives for the Warriors, including their defensive efforts to deny Bristol a try bonus point.
“It was disappointing to concede the intercept try but there’s so many positives today I’ll focus on those,” he said.
“It’s important we use this as a base and grow from it and we are going to have to travel better.
“They’re a good team with ball in hand, we knew our defence would have to be resolute and I thought it was good for large patches of the game.”
Great night with the @WorcsWarriors brothers tonight at Sixways!! Thanks for all the support!! Lot of positives and to look forward to!!
— Wynand Olivier (@Wynand_olivier) March 5, 2017
Also on Sunday, reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Saracens ran in five tries to beat Newcastle Falcons 35-27 at Kingston Park.
Fly-half Alex Lozowski scored a pair of tries and director of rugby Mark McCall was thrilled to see his side be so efficient with ball in hand.
“We were pretty clinical when we got some opportunities or half-opportunities,” he said. “For us to come up here and get five tries and five points is a good achievement.
“They have got some players who are hard to handle and, when they get on a roll like that, they are as good as anybody in attack.
“I thought we defended well in the first 65 minutes because they are unbelievably dangerous and play some great rugby.”
Saracens remain a point behind second-placed Exeter Chiefs after their own bonus point 34-15 victory at Welford Road over Leicester Tigers to stretch their unbeaten run to ten games.
— Alex Goode (@Alex_goode0) March 5, 2017
Boss Rob Baxter praised his side’s energy levels as Kai Horstmann, Stu Townsend, Mitch Lees and a penalty try kept the pressure on league leaders Wasps.
“Our individual intensity levels at the minute are absolutely fantastic and I think we capitalised with our scores at key moments,” Baxter said.
“We talk about intensity just to keep the game very simple for ourselves, you are one part of a 15-man machine and if you do your part well, then the team goes well.
“If you go flat out as hard as you can throughout, you will create moments that you can capitalise on and that’s what we have done.”
— Maxime Mermoz (@MaximeMermoz1) March 4, 2017
Two-tries from Kurtley Beale saw Wasps maintain their distance from the chasing pack with a 24-3 victory over Bath Rugby at the Rec.
Winger Christian Wade also dotted down but director of rugby Dai Young felt the men at the top of the league table still had plenty to work on.
He said: “There are a lot of things still to work on as we left a few points out there and the scrum wasn’t as good as it’s been over the last couple of weeks, but I certainly would have settled for that result before the game.
“We were in control in most areas, so I’m really pleased. We’ve had a bit of a sticky spell, and haven’t really hit our straps in the four games in this block.”
— Dan Robson (@d_jrobson) March 4, 2017
Elsewhere, tries from Ross and James Chisholm saw Harlequins come back from 27-15 down to snatch a late 30-27 win against Gloucester Rugby with James Lang knocking over the winning penalty.
And Northampton Saints are just four points off a top-four spot after their 32-12 bonus point success against Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Worcester Warriors 41
Tries: Penalty, Spencer, Hougaard, Olivier, Heem 2
Conv: Mills 4
Bristol Rugby 24
Tries: Woodward, Crumpton, Varndell
Conv: Henson, Woodward, Wallace
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Newcastle Falcons 27
Tries: Waldouck, Goneva, D Wilson
Cons: Takulua, Delany 2
Pens: Takulua 2
Tries: Rhodes, Lozowski 2, Ashton, Earle
Cons: Lozowski 2
Pens: Lozowski 2
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Bath Rugby 3
Tries: Wade, Beale 2
Cons: Gopperth 3
Referee: J P Doyle
Gloucester Rugby 27
Tries: Sharples 2, D Halaifonua
Cons: Burns 3
Pens: Burns 2
Tries: Visser, Mulchrone, J Chisholm, R Chisholm
Cons: Swiel, Lang
Pens: Swiel, Lang
Referee: Greg Garner
Sale Sharks 12
Tries: Charnley, Evans
Northampton Saints 32
Tries: Pisi, Paterson, Haywood, Waller
Cons: Myler 3
Pen: Myler 2
Referee: Tom Foley
Leicester Tigers 15
Tries: Rizzo, Mermoz
Exeter Chiefs 34
Tries: Horstmann, Townsend, Lees, penalty try
Conversions: Slade 4
Penalties: Slade 2
Referee: Matthew Carley