In a landmark weekend for Aviva Premiership Rugby, Bath Rugby came out on top in The Clash at Twickenham by defeating Leicester Tigers 27-21 thanks to two tries by Anthony Watson that revived their hopes of making the semi-finals.
A crowd of 61,868 were in attendance at the home of English rugby for what was the first match in charge for the Tigers’ new head coach, Matt O’Connor. The huge crowd at Twickenham contributed to a record weekend attendance for Premiership Rugby of 180,259.
At HQ, Tigers got off to an absolute flyer as Brendon O’Connor and Telusa Veainu both struck in the opening 12 minutes, but Jonathan Joseph’s try put Bath back in the picture.
Watson’s quick-fire double in the closing stages then turned the match on its head, as Bath moved to within points difference of fourth-placed Leicester.
Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder said: “Can we get 60,000 every week? It was a really special day for the club, and we have well and truly put things back on track for next week (against Worcester).
“To play here was too good an opportunity to turn down – it was a memory for all the staff, supporters and players.”
There was an even bigger crowd at Wembley Stadium later on Saturday (71,324) for what was more of a clear-cut affair, as champions Saracens comfortably defeated Harlequins 40-19.
Owen Farrell was superb with the boot yet again, as he kicked 20 points to help Sarries guarantee qualification for the play-offs, while late tries by Michael Rhodes and Alex Goode even clinched the bonus point.
“It was a hugely pleasing performance, we’re going big game after big game and last week was huge for us,” Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said. “We had a six-day turnaround and to show some of the qualities that we showed today was great.
“Not all of our rugby was perfect but the fighting qualities, the effort that everyone put in, the shift they put in, it was a huge defensive effort particularly in the second half.”
On Friday night, Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors belied their league positions by producing a terrific spectacle at the AJ Bell Stadium, with Sam James scoring twice in a 36-26 win for the Sharks.
Newcastle Falcons still haven’t given up on finishing in a Champions Cup spot this season, after Joel Hodgson’s penalty with the final kick of the game to snatch a 16-14 victory over Gloucester.
Exeter Chiefs left it late to defeat a spirited Bristol Rugby 38-34 on Saturday to seal their play-off place, as they came back from a 24-10 deficit before eventually triumphing thanks to Thomas Waldrom’s second try of the afternoon.
There was also late drama at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday, as league leaders Wasps won an absolute thriller 32-30 against Northampton Saints with prop Matt Mullan scoring the winning try off the final play.
And Wasps director of rugby highlighted the performance of winger Christian Wade, backing him to tour with either England or the British & Irish Lions this summer.
He said: “It would be a big old plane if every coach got their wish for their players to tour. But all Christian can do is keep on doing what he’s doing.
“There’s quality wingers in England but for me Wadey’s right up there. The more we get the ball in his hands the more chance we have of winning.
“I’m delighted he’s a Wasps player and I’d be really pleased if he went on a tour this summer.”
Wasps 32 Northampton Saints 30
Tries: Daly, Wade, Simpson, Mullan
Conversions: Gopperth 3
Penalties: Gopperth 2
Tries: Foden, A Waller, North, Tuala, Harrison
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Bath Rugby 27 Leicester Tigers 21
Tries: Joseph, Watson 2
Conversions: Ford 3
Penalties: Ford 2
Tries: O’Connor, Veainu
Penalties: Burns 3
Referee: JP Doyle
Exeter Chiefs 38 Bristol Rugby 34
Tries: Woodburn, Parling, Whitten, Waldrom 2
Conversions: Slade 4, Steenson
Tries: Hurrell, Woodward, Henson, Eadie
Conversions: Henson 4
Penalties: Henson 2
Referee: Tom Foley
Saracens 40 Harlequins 19
Tries: Ashton, Brits, Rhodes, Goode
Conversions: Farrell 4
Penalties: Farrell 4
Penalties: Evans 4
Referee: Ian Tempest
Newcastle Falcons 16 Gloucester Rugby 14
Penalties: Hodgson 3
Tries: May, Marshall
Conversions: Twelvetrees 2
Referee: Luke Pearce
Sale Sharks 36 Worcester Warriors 26
Tries: James 2, Haley, McGuigan, B Curry
Conversions: McGinty 4
Tries: Hougaard, Taufete’e, Pennell, Alo
Conversions: Mills 2, Lamb
Referee: Matt Carley
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