Christian Wade made the difference, according to director of rugby Dai Young, as Wasps booked their place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals with a 40-33 win against Worcester Warriors.
The England winger scored two tries in the thriller, as the Midlands side restored a five-point lead at the top of the table, and guaranteed their place in the semi-finals after only 18 rounds to equal the previous quickest qualification by Saracens in 2014.
Will Rowlands, Alepati Leiua, Josh Bassett and Brendan Macken also crossed, while the Warriors gained two bonus points late on through Biyi Alo and Jackson Willison.
“Christian was probably the difference, but I always thought that we could respond if we needed to as we probably had that extra bit of quality,” Young said.
— Stuart Farmer (@Stu_Farmer) March 26, 2017
“It was a big message to us as we will have to be better against Leinster next week as they will match us for quality so we’ll have to prove that we’ve got the belly for the fight.”
Elsewhere, Saracens boss Mark McCall wants his side to use the momentum they gained in their 53-10 win over Bath Rugby to fire them through to the last four of the European Champions Cup.
Chris Ashton scored two tries as the defending champions warmed up for their clash with Glasgow Warriors next week in style – while there were also tries for Jamie George, Alex Goode, Sean Maitland, Schalk Brits, Brad Barritt and Billy Vunipola.
“It was a really good performance. It was a bit mixed in the first 50 minutes – we started well into a strong wind,” said McCall.
Great to be back at Allianz Park 👍@Saracens fans were great!
Can’t wait for next week, let’s fill it up !
— Brad Barritt (@bradbarritt) March 26, 2017
“The bench came on and did a fantastic job and we just took our game to a different level in that last half hour. We are going to need that against Glasgow.”
Leicester Tigers coach Geordan Murphy hailed his side for sending departing boss Aaron Mauger off in style with a cracking 36-31 win at rivals Northampton Saints.
Northampton were excellent in the first half and scored through Nafi Tuitavake, Ahsee Tuala and Louis Picamoles.
But Leicester rolled up their sleeves and turned the tide in the second half, Ben Youngs and Lachlan McCaffrey adding to a first-half try from Adam Thompstone.
What a game!!! The best games to be apart of! Boys dung deep to get the win! Thanks for all the support! Now time for a few beers! 🍻👍
— Tom Youngs (@TomYoungs87) March 25, 2017
And in the end it was Owen Williams who held his nerve with two late penalties to seal victory and give Mauger the perfect send off.
“It’s obviously an emotional day for Mauge (Aaron Mauger) and I thought he handled it really well,” said Murphy.
“We came together as a side on Monday and talked about it. He said the board had made the decision and it was going to go a different way.
“He didn’t want the decision to affect the performance in the week and he did a great job in setting the team up to come to Franklin’s Gardens.”
John Kingston hailed the return of flanker Chris Robshaw as vital after Harlequins strolled to a comfortable 53-17 win against Newcastle Falcons.
Sonatane Takulua had put Falcons ahead, but after Rob Buchanan, man-of-the-match Mike Brown, and Joe Marchant responded, Marland Yarde secured the bonus point two minutes into the second half.
🗣 “We played running rugby, threw the ball about and played with smiles on our faces.”
🎥 Joe Marchant on the win over Newcastle pic.twitter.com/d5kKFw6Mxw
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) March 26, 2017
“For me the biggest thing was about re-integrating the group back together from the injuries and the internationals,” said Kingston.
“Mike Brown rightly gets the attention with the man of the match but there were several other players who could’ve taken that mantle.
“Chris [Robshaw]’s ability to come back after four months out and put in a performance like that over 80 minutes is a reflection of the guy.
“Chris gets better the longer he plays; he just keeps going and going, you would never know that he’s been out.”
Elsewhere, Exeter Chiefs held on to beat Sale Sharks 30-25 with Ollie Woodburn and Don Armand scoring the crucial tries.
And Jonny May scored at Ashton Gate as Gloucester Rugby beat Bristol Rugby 32-14.
Saracens 53 Bath Rugby 10
Tries: George, Goode, Maitland, Brits, Barritt, Ashton 2, B Vunipola
Conversions: Farrell 5
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Wasps 40 Worcester Warriors 33
Tries: Rowlands, Wade 2, Leiua, Bassett, Macken
Conversions: Gopperth 5
Tries: Heem, Adams 2, Alo, Willison
Conversions: Mills 4
Referee: Luke Pearce
Harlequins 53 Newcastle Falcons 17
Tries: Buchanan, Brown, Marchant, Yarde, Luamanu, Care, Swiel
Conversions: Evans 6
Penalties: Evans 2
Tries: Takulua, Wilson
Conversions: Takulua, Delany
Referee: Tom Foley
Northampton Saints 31 Leicester Tigers 36
Tries: Tuitavake, Tuala, Picamoles
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Myler 4
Tries: Thompstone, B Youngs, McCaffrey
Conversions: Burns, Williams 2
Penalties: Burns 3, Williams 2
Referee: Greg Garner
Exeter Chiefs 30 Sale Sharks 25
Tries: Horstmann, Cowan-Dickie, Woodburn, Armand
Conversions: Slade 2
Penalties: Slade 2
Penalties: MacGinty 5
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Bristol Rugby 14 Gloucester Rugby 32
Penalties: Searle 3
Tries: Sharples, Burns, Ludlow, May
Conversions: Burns 3
Penalties: Burns 2
Referee: JP Doyle
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