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Aviva Premiership Rugby wrap: Round 22

Dai Young insists a trip to an in-form Exeter Chiefs will hold no fear for his side, as Wasps enter the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals off the back of a victory over London Irish.

Wasps needed the Chiefs to slip up in order to secure home advantage but after they ran riot at the Stoop, Young and company had to settle for third place despite their 38-12 victory.

They did so in style however as Thomas Young, Charles Piutau and Christian Wade stormed over in 14 first-half minutes after Johnny Williams had given the bottom-place Exiles an early lead.

Tries for Dan Robson, Josh Bassett and Ashley Johnson were to come for Wasps and though Exeter beat his side as recently as last week, Young says victory is hardly mission impossible.

"I'm not disappointed that we've got to go to Exeter, I'm more pleased about and proud with our efforts this year to come third,” he said.

"Exeter deserve to be second as they've beaten us twice in the league and they've been up there all season.

"We've picked up our game from November onwards and have come up on the rails. So in fairness to them, they deserve to be second but I'm thrilled to be third.

"Sandy Park will be a massive challenge for us but we'll be totally focused and it's a challenge we believe we can overcome if we get things right.”

It will be a meeting of two sides in top form as Jack Nowell scored a hat-trick in Exeter’s ten-try 62-24 triumph over Harlequins.

James Short, Nowell and Dave Ewers crossed in the first half before Danny Care responded just before half-time.

But Exeter raced out of the blocks after the break with a second Short try sandwiched between two Nowell scores and further tries came through Will Chudley, Julian Salvi, Phil Dollman and a sublime Henry Slade.

It was a disappointing way to mark Conor O’Shea’s final Aviva Premiership Rugby game in charge at the Stoop, though he has a chance to go out with a bang in Friday’s Challenge Cup final.

And Baxter called for another big push from Exeter back at Sandy Park before hailing England wing Nowell’s efforts.

"Let’s be prepared to play the best game we've played because the occasion deserves it,” said Baxter. “We go there looking on good form both try scoring and defensively.

"Jack Nowell looked absolutely electric and that was on-one-and-a-half legs really, that's why we got him off early. He's had a slight hamstring issue for a couple weeks we've been monitoring."

Defending champions Saracens finished another fine season with a flourish, with Chris Ashton becoming the fourth player to score four Aviva Premiership Rugby hat-tricks in a 43-19 victory.

They will host Leicester Tigers at Allianz Park in the semis but director of rugby Mark McCall took a moment to reflect on their remarkable run of regular season success.

"We've led the Premiership for three out of the last four seasons," said McCall. 

"To get 80 points, without our internationals (who were) away for such a long period is a tremendous achievement, but the best is yet to come as we have a young squad.”

Leicester were the only semi-finals-bound team to slip up on Saturday as Bath Rugby flyer Semesa Rokoduguni made it ten tries in his last eight games in his side’s 38-27 win.

Not that Tigers boss Richard Cockerill was letting the disappointment get to him, as his side kept up a remarkable run of their own.

He said: "We've never won there (at the Rec) but our game's in good shape and we were able to rest bodies.

"We're in our 12th play-offs on the trot and 10 of those have been Grand Finals.

"We're a strong club with a strong history. Sometimes you get beaten – but we're still in a semi-final.”

And it was a superb day for Sale Sharks as they sneaked into the top six at the expense of Harlequins to clinch
a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup next year.

Tongan back-rower Nili Latu – undoubtedly one of the signings of the season – scored a hat-trick for Newcastle Falcons, but two Joe Ford penalties secured a 21-15 win for Sale at the end.

Northampton Saints are also assured of competing in European rugby’s top tier next season following their 28-20 triumph over Gloucester Rugby.

Gloucester scored all their points in the first half but a George North try-double and nerveless kicking from Stephen Myler got the job done.

SCORES
 
Bath Rugby 38 Leicester Tigers 27
 
Bath Rugby

Tries: Rokoduguni 2, Devoto, Louw, Williams 
Conversion: Ford 5
Penalties: Ford 

Leicester Tigers 

Tries: Balmain, Betham, Tait, Evans
Conversion: Williams 2
Penalties: Williams

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys 
Attendance: 13, 515 

Worcester Warriors 19 Saracens 43
 
Saracens
Tries: de Kock, Ashton 3, Vunisa, Ransom
Conversion: Hodgson 5
Penalty: Hodgson

Worcester Warriors
Tries: Symons, Vuna 2
Conversions: Heathcote 2

Referee: Luke Pearce
Attendance: 9,722
 
Gloucester Rugby 20 Northampton Saints 28

Gloucester Rugby
Tries: Evans, Moriarty
Conversions: Laidlaw 2
Penalties: Laidlaw 2

Northampton Saints
Tries: Pisi, North 2
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Myler 3

Referee: John Paul Doyle
Attendance: 16,115
 
Newcastle Falcons 15 Sale Sharks 21

Newcastle Falcons
Tries: Latu 3

Sale Sharks
Tries: Seymour, James
Pen: Cipriani, Ford 2
Con: Cipriani

Referee: Matthew Carley
Attendance: 7089
Wasps 38 London Irish 12
 
Wasps
Tries: Young, C.Piutau, Wade, Robson, Bassett, Johnson
Conversions: Gopperth
Penalties: Jackson (2)

London Irish
Tries: Williams, Lewington
Conversion: Brophy-Clews
Penalties: none

Referee: Tom Foley
Attendance: 16,902

Harlequins 24 Exeter Chiefs 62
 
Harlequins

Tries: Care, Sinckler, Stanley
Conversion: N Evans, Botica 2
Penalty: N Evans

Exeter Chiefs

Tries: Short 2, Nowell 3, Ewers, Dollman, Chudley, Slade, Salvi
Conversion: Steenson 6

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Attendance: 14,800

If you want to be at the world's biggest club rugby final, this year's Aviva Premiership Rugby Final is on 28 May at Twickenham, tickets are available from premiershiprugby.com/final.
 

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