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The story of Aviva Premiership Rugby Round 20

England head coach Eddie Jones relied heavily on his ‘finishers’ during the RBS 6 Nations, and Saracens hooker Jamie George believes his side have a similar strength in depth after their replacements sparked a remarkable comeback on Sunday.

Trailing 20-6 at stadium:mk to Northampton Saints early in the second half – with Harry Mallinder opening the scoring before Dylan Hartley’s try shortly after the interval – Mark McCall rang the changes to great effect.

Alex Lozowski’s boot had kept Sarries in the contest, and despite another try for Saints through Ken Pisi, the Londoners’ reinforcements off the bench somehow hauled them ahead.

Schalk Brits, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Petrus Du Plessis, Michael Rhodes, and Billy Vunipola all came onto the field to change the momentum of the Saracens scrum, but it was another replacement in Chris Ashton that sparked the comeback with a try.

And after Marcelo Bosch’s overlap score and Lozowski’s ice-cool conversion, Saracens emerged 27-25 winners, with captain on the day George tipping his cap to those that made the impact.

“The character and the fight that we showed in the last 25 minutes was unbelievable really and I’m just very happy for the boys that we could get that result,” he said.

“Just having the ability to bring on people like Billy makes a difference; he’s obviously a fantastic player but also very level headed. Mike Rhodes is very similar and Schalk Brits has obviously played a lot of rugby.

“Although, I was particularly impressed with Henry Taylor who came on with 15 minutes to go, I thought that the energy he brought to the game was brilliant and I’m so happy for him and Hayden Thompson-Stringer as well.

“He came on and the scrum went forward and he added a lot around the field so I’m just happy for those guys.”

Elsewhere on Sunday, Wasps also had to come from behind to down Bristol Rugby 36-21 at Ashton Gate, with Josh Bassett (twice), Tommy Taylor, Joe Simpson and Guy Thompson all scoring.

Christian Wade also crossed on his 100th Aviva Premiership Rugby appearance, and despite Jason Woodward’s opener, and two consolation efforts from Jack O’Connell and Nick Fenton-Wells, Mark Tainton’s Bristol are now guaranteed to finish 12th in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table this term.

The win tightens Wasps’ grip on a home semi-final spot, and director of rugby Dai Young was impressed with the way his side pulled away from Bristol.

“We were pretty comfortable once we got ourselves a lead,” he said.

“We were sensible; in aspects of the game we kept things a little bit tighter so we didn’t make the mistakes, and got ourselves into a commanding lead.

“The set-piece was also pretty good, so all-in-all there were far more positives today to go with the five points.”

Round 20 got underway at Twickenham Stoop on Friday evening, where Exeter Chiefs maintained their superb form and became only the second side in Aviva Premiership Rugby history to take a perfect 30 points from six matches.

They beat Harlequins 39-26, with Dave Ewers, Michele Campagnaro, Lachlan Turner and Henry Slade all getting themselves on the scoresheet.

Saturday’s action saw Worcester Warriors – inspired by three second-half tries from Josh Adams, Wynand Olivier, and Will Spencer – put a big dent in Bath Rugby’s semi-final hopes with a 25-19 win at Sixways, which also ultimately ensured they would not finish bottom of the Aviva Premiership Rugby pile.

Gloucester Rugby downed Sale Sharks 39-30 in a nine-try encounter, with Billy Twelvetrees’ late score and a wonderful display by Tom Marshall settling a topsy-turvy clash, while Matt O’Connor’s return to Leicester Tigers got off to a flying start with a 30-3 humbling of Newcastle Falcons.

Ben Youngs scored a sparkling individual effort and performed a try-saving tackle, while Ellis Genge became the first Tigers prop since 1997 to score twice, with O’Connor left singing the praises of his scrum-half.

“Why would you not pick him [to go on the Lions tour]?” he said. “He is as good as there is at nine in the world at the moment and the added responsibility of the captaincy worked in his favour.

“He is a world-class player and he delivers most weeks. I am happy he is playing really well for us.

“I think we have 25, 30, 40 per cent growth in us, so it will be interesting to see how we go in the next two games.”

Tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final is on 27 May at Twickenham are now on sale. If you want to have an unforgettable day out at club rugby’s best Cup Final then click here for tickets.

 

SUNDAY

Northampton Saints 25 Saracens 27

Northampton Saints 25

Tries: Mallinder, Hartley, Pisi

Cons: Myler, Mallinder

Pens: Myler 2

Saracens 27

Tries: Ashton, Bosch

Cons: Lozowski

Pens: Lozowski 5

Referee: Matthew Carley

 

Bristol Rugby 21 Wasps 36

Bristol Rugby 21

Tries: Woodward, O’Connell, Fenton-Wells

Conversions: Henson, Searle 2

Wasps 36

Tries: Bassett 2, Taylor, Simpsom, Wade, Thompson

Conversions: Gopperth 3

Referee: Greg Garner

Attendance: 12,310

 

SATURDAY

Worcester Warriors 25 Bath Rugby 19

Worcester Warriors 25

Tries: Adams, Olivier, Spencer

Conversions: Mills 2

Penalties: Mills 2

Bath Rugby 19

Tries: Banahan

Conversions: Ford

Penalties: Ford 4

Referee: Luke Pearce

Attendance: 11,343

 

Gloucester 39 Sale Sharks 30

Gloucester 39

Tries: Marshall 2, Hibbard, Trinder, Twelvetrees

Conversions: Burns 4

Penalties: 2

Sale Sharks 30

Tries: James, Phillips, Longbottom, McGuigan

Conversions: MacGinty 2

Penalties: MacGinty 2

Referee: Tom Foley

Attendance: 12,928

 

Leicester Tigers 30 Newcastle Falcons 3

Leicester Tigers 30

Tries: Genge 2, Veainu, Youngs

Cons: Burns 2.

Pens: Burns 2

Newcastle Falcons 3

Pen: Hodgson

Referee: Ian Tempest

Attendance: 23,773

 

FRIDAY

Harlequins 26 Exeter Chiefs 39

Harlequins 26

Tries: Luamanu, Evans, Visser

Conversions: Swiel

Penalties: Evans 3

Exeter Chiefs 39

Tries: Ewers, Campagnaro, Turner 2, Slade

Conversions: Slade, Steenson 3

Penalties: Slade 2

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Attendance: 14,800

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