Gavin Henson showed how costly his injury absence might have been for Bristol Rugby this season as he starred in a vital 12-11 victory against Bath Rugby – and the Welshman now has his eyes firmly set on a crunch clash with Worcester Warriors this week.
The fly-half scored all 12 of his side’s points in the narrow win against rivals Bath, which moves Mark Tainton’s side to within two points of the Warriors.
Henson had been missing since October, but showed no signs of rustiness as he kicked three penalties and landed an impressive drop-goal in the victory.
And the 35-year-old now wants to inspire his side again this weekend as they try to preserve their Aviva Premiership Rugby status.
Awesome result @Bristol_RFC hard fought win. Great shift by all the lads. Sets up a really exciting week!
— Olly Robinson (@ollyrobbo) February 26, 2017
“This is a huge result, and it’s going to be a huge game next week,” said Henson. “We’re used to playing Worcester in massive games, so we can’t wait for next week.
“It feels good. I feel pretty guilty that I haven’t done much for the club (this season).
“So I felt I owed a big performance, especially against our rivals and with where we are in the league, scrapping for our lives. It was a great performance from us and we have to back that up now next week.”
Wasps re-established a six-point lead at the top of the table courtesy of a 35-22 win against Gloucester Rugby – with centre Jimmy Gopperth scoring an impressive hat-trick.
The centre scored 25 of his side’s points in an inspirational display, while Willie Le Roux and Christian Wade also crossed.
It gets Wasps back on track following a defeat and draw from their previous two games and Dai Young believes this win will have a big impact on the rest of their season.
“The last couple of weeks has rocked us a little bit, and how we responded to that bump in the road was always going to be a measure of where we are as a team,” the director of rugby said.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 27, 2017
“We felt a bit of pressure, and nerves and anxiety, which crept into our game a bit early on, but hopefully this win gets us back with a bit more belief and a smile on our face.”
Wasps are six points clear of Exeter Chiefs, who moved ahead of defending champions Saracens with a 36-14 win against Newcastle Falcons.
James Short scored twice for at Sandy Park, while there were further scores for Harry Williams and Sam Skinner – while they also earned a penalty try.
But coach Ali Hepher is refusing to get carried away with their lofty league position.
“Moving one point into second and above Saracens at this stage is not important as the top four places are really tight but we are hoping to remain there and to secure a top two finish would be really nice,” he said.
Saracens also won, but importantly they did not claim a bonus point in their hard-fought 29-18 success at home to Sale Sharks.
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) February 27, 2017
Duncan Taylor and Chris Ashton crossed in the first half for Mark McCall’s side, while Nathan Earle also got on the scoresheet.
Magnus Lund and Cameron Neild crossed for the Sharks, but this defeat leaves them rooted in tenth – while Saracens drop to third.
Elsewhere, Leicester Tigers continued their impressive renaissance as they became the first Aviva Premiership Rugby side this season to win at Harlequins.
Sam Harrison and Freddie Burns both crossed for the Tigers, who left south-west London with a comfortable 27-18 win – a result which leaves them just one point off the top four.
Northampton Saints came from behind to beat Worcester Warriors at Franklin’s Gardens in the weekend’s other match as England international Teimana Harrison scored a crucial try.
But it was hooker Mike Haywood who stole the show for the hosts as he grabbed two in their 24-14 success.
Bristol Rugby 12 Bath Rugby 11
Pens: Henson 3
Drop goals: Henson
Pens: Priestland 2
Wasps 35 Gloucester Rugby 22
Tries: Gopperth (3), Le Roux, Wade
Conversions: Gopperth (2)
Penalties: Gopperth (2)
Tries: Hook, Halaifonua, Scott
Conversions: Twelvetrees (2)
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Exeter Chiefs 36 Newcastle Falcons 14
Tries: Short, Williams, pen, Skinner, Short
Con: Simmonds (4)
Tries: Goneva, Vickers
Con: Takulua (2)
Referee: Ian Tempest
Saracens 29 Sale Sharks 18
Tries: Taylor, Ashton, Earle
Pens: Lozowski 4
Tries: Lund, Neild
Pens: Addison, MacGinty
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Harlequins 18 Leicester Tigers 27
Tries: Alofa, Ward
Pen: Evans, Jackson
Tries: Harrison, Penalty, Burns
Con: Burns (2), Williams
Pen: Burns (2)
Referee: Dean Richards
Northampton Saints 24 Worcester Warriors 14
Tries: Harrison, Haywood 2
Conversions: Myler 3
Tries: Adams, Heem
Conversions: Mills, Lamb
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys