Wasps director of rugby Dai Young admitted his side put in a tired performance on Sunday despite beating Newcastle Falcons to climb back to second spot in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
Jimmy Gopperth grabbed a last-gasp try – his second time over the whitewash in the second half – to take the scoreline to 31-6 and earn Wasps a bonus point at the Ricoh Arena.
Frank Halai and a penalty try had given the hosts a comfortable 17-3 advantage, and they defended well to restrict the Falcons to two Mike Delany efforts from the tee.
And with the opening round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup looming next weekend, Young was relieved to be able to give his squad the chance to recharge their batteries after a sterling start to their domestic and European campaign.
“It’s quite a tired dressing room, we’ve had a lot of big games and the guys in there deserve a week off next week to re-charge their batteries as we go into the Anglo-Welsh,” he said.
— Joe Simpson (@joesimpson9) October 31, 2016
“I certainly would have settled for where we are at this point, coming into the season. We’ve had some really big performances and some very good results.
“Today we didn’t perform how we would have liked, but we’ll certainly settle for the result and the five points.
“We weren’t as accurate as we would have liked and didn’t put as much energy into the performance for the full eighty minutes as we wanted.
“We didn’t demonstrate control in many areas today. We made a lot of last ditch tackles, which saved our bacon on many occasions.”
— Stuart Farmer (@Stu_Farmer) October 31, 2016
Wasps’ win kept them hot on the heels of Saracens at the Aviva Premiership Rugby summit, and after the most dramatic of victories at Exeter Chiefs, Bath Rugby are not far behind.
In a nip-and-tuck affair at Sandy Park, it was the hosts who surged into the lead with ten minutes remaining when Mitch Lees’ scored the first try of the game from a powerful Exeter driving maul.
While both sides were errant from the tee, Gareth Steenson and George Ford had traded penalties earlier in the game, and Bath’s powerful scrum piled on the pressure as the game built to a thrilling crescendo – Semesa Rokoduguni barging through several tackles to break Chiefs hearts at the death and win 13-10.
“When you need your big guys to step up, they stepped up and did the job. I thought George [Ford] was outstanding today,” said director of rugby Todd Blackadder.
“You are always going to miss the odd kick, but he kept attacking the line and looking for work. It was a master-class from him.
— matt banahan (@mattbanahan1) October 30, 2016
“We kept our structure at the end, and George’s pass to Roko was the sign of a great decision. We are not getting carried away. We are just enjoying the battles every week.
“We are not the complete side by a long way, but we showed fantastic character. It was good gutsy stuff.”
Sunday’s final Aviva Premiership Rugby clash saw Sale Sharks pick up their first away win of the season at Bristol Rugby, and Steve Diamond singled out the performance of Mike Haley – who was one of five try scorers in a bonus-point triumph.
Diamond said: “Mike Haley has the x-factor. He is good under the high ball and is a very illusive runner. He is ungainly looking now and again, but he breaks tackles and is difficult to bring down.
“Eddie has brought him into England’s 33-man squad to have a look at him at the highest level so I am sure Mike won’t let anyone down if he gets a chance.
“I don’t expect bonus points in this competition. If you get them, it is a bonus. We took a couple of knocks early doors but from this Monday, we are picking from a full-strength squad with everyone back from injury.”
— Stuart Farmer (@Stu_Farmer) October 31, 2016
Saturday was a good day for Aviva Premiership Rugby’s London sides as both Saracens and Harlequins eased to wins over Leicester Tigers and Worcester Warriors respectively.
Mark McCall’s side ran in three tries to extend both their lead at the top of the table and their recent run of good form against the Tigers – who have not won on Saracens’ soil in their last five attempts.
Wingers Chris Wyles and Sean Maitland crossed to give the hosts a 17-3 first-half lead, before Billy Vunipola put them out of sight after the interval, with the final score 24-10.
Harlequins meanwhile notched up a 36-14 victory over the Warriors with Joe Marchant’s intercept score securing the bonus point.
ICYMI: Mark Lambert receives his 200th appearance blazer from the captain Danny Care pic.twitter.com/dRdAw4f1tG
— Harlequins (@Harlequins) October 31, 2016
After Jackson Willison had responded to Danny Care’s early opening try, James Horwill and Mike Brown put the hosts in the ascendancy after the break with Tim Visser also rounding off the scoring late on to ensure a try for the lively Ben Te’o was no more than a consolation.
And Northampton Saints edged out Gloucester Rugby 23-20 in the first encounter of the weekend under the Friday Night Lights at Franklin’s Gardens.
Jacob Rowan and Charlie Sharples had turned the contest on its head with the Cherry & Whites trailing at half-time, but replacement scrum-half Tom Kessell popped up late on to grab the decisive score.
Northampton Saints 23
Tries: Picamoles, Kessell
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Myler 3
Gloucester Rugby 20
Tries: Rowan, Sharples
Conversions: Laidlaw 2
Penalties: Laidlaw 2
Referee: Tom Foley
Tries: Wyles, Maitland, B Vunipola
Conversions: Farrell 3
Leicester Tigers 10
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Tries: Care, Horwill, Brown, Marchant, Visser
Conversions: Evans 3, Swiel
Worcester Warriors 14
Tries: Willison, Te’o
Conversions: Shillcock 2
Referee: Luke Pearce
Penalties: Geraghty 2
Sale Sharks 31
Tries: Odogwu, Haley, McGuigan, Lewis-Roberts, Curry
Conversions: McGuigan 2, Mugford
Referee: JP Doyle
Tries: Penalty try, Halai, Gopperth 2
Conversions: Gopperth 4
Newcastle Falcons 6
Penalties: Delany 2
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Exeter Chiefs 10
Bath Rugby 13
Penalties: Ford 2
Referee: I Tempest.