Saracens roared back to the top of Aviva Premiership Rugby with a 28-13 win at Sale Sharks with director of rugby Mark McCall praising fly-half Alex Lozowski and the experienced members of his squad.
“It was great because a lot of our experienced players were outstanding: Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Brad Barritt. I could name quite a few of them,” said McCall.
“We were really pleased to pick up the points and really pleased with a lot of aspects of the performance, in terms of the qualities we want to show every week.
“He (Lozowski) looked really sharp out there. He ran the ball beautifully and passed well so he’s a good player.”
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) November 20, 2016
Director of rugby David Humphreys is hopeful that Gloucester Rugby have turned a corner in their season after a resounding 36-18 win over high-flying Wasps at Kingsholm.
Gloucester suffered Aviva Premiership Rugby defeats at home to Leicester Tigers and Newcastle Falcons at the beginning of the season but, in front of their own fans, have since beat Benetton Treviso and Saracens in the European Challenge and Anglo-Welsh Cups respectively.
And Humphreys believes the Saracens result, who they face again in the league next weekend, has installed a renewed sense of belief amongst the squad which was evident on Saturday.
“You always look throughout seasons for moments that turn things around and for us you look back to that Saracens game in the Anglo-Welsh Cup when we managed to win a game with the last play,” he said.
“That confidence, belief and feel-good factor from winning games spreads throughout the squad.
“It is a huge win, we have talked about it for a few weeks – we haven’t got the results we have wanted at Kingsholm.
“The biggest frustration has been putting ourselves in positions to win games, but then showing a little bit of weakness or silly mistakes – in this game we didn’t do that.”
— Paddy McAllister (@PaddyMcAllister) November 20, 2016
For Wasps it was only their second defeat of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, and director of rugby Dai Young admits it was the manner in which his side lost that hurt the most.
“The result is disappointing, but the performance is probably more disappointing,” he said.
“You’ve got to put your hand up and I thought that we were pretty much second best in most departments.
“Losing is a big pill to swallow, but not performing is an even bigger pill and that was a pretty disappointing performance by us.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Gloucester. They thoroughly deserved the win and I don’t want to take the gloss off that for them.”
Great to get the win with @Saracens on my Premiership return! The AJ Bell is always a tough place to visit 👍👍
— Andrew Fenby (@AndrewFenby) November 20, 2016
And the Saracens No.10, who kicked 13 points to help Saracens back to the summmit, was not the only fly-half receiving praise on Sunday afternoon as Freddie Burns was picked out by Richard Cockerill for his performance against Harlequins.
Burns’ 20 points helped Leicester Tigers move back into Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top four with a 25-6 success at Welford Road.
“He was good all round,” said Cockerill. “He is working hard with Geordan (Murphy) and Aaron (Mauger) about understanding when to run and when to kick and is improving all the time.
“We were playing within ourselves and we needed to up the ante a bit.”
— George Worth (@WorthGeorge) November 20, 2016
Meanwhile, in the south west, stand-off Adam Hastings was also impressing as he helped Bath Rugby to a 16-9 success over local rivals Bristol Rugby in front of a record crowd at The Rec.
Starting fly-half Rhys Priestland came off due to injury after just 21 minutes but Jack Wilson’s try for the home side saw them to the win.
“Losing Rhys disrupted things a little bit,” admitted Bath’s director of rugby Todd Blackadder.
— Ben Tapuai (@benntaps) November 18, 2016
“We’re not kidding ourselves, we know that we’ve been gritting some wins out and sort of winning ugly, but we know it’s not going to be good enough going forwards.
“While you can be quite happy with the result, we know that the performance wasn’t right.”
Also on Friday night, Stephen Myler’s six penalties helped Northampton Saints to an 18-17 victory despite an extremely late scare by Worcester Warriors.
— Michael Paterson (@pato_mjsp) November 18, 2016
Bryce Heem’s late try in the corner was converted by Jamie Shillcock and the Warriors’ No.10 had a 50m penalty to win the game – after Callum Clark’s sin bin – but his effort drifted narrowly wide.
Dean Hammond’s early try had given the hosts a 10-3 lead at Sixways, but Myler capitalised on every error by the Warriors to nose his side over the line.
And last year’s Aviva Premiership Rugby finalists Exeter Chiefs recorded their third league win of the season with a four-try 32-17 success over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
Ollie Devoto and Thomas Waldrom put the Chiefs ahead either side of Scott Lawson’s try before James Short and Will Chudley struck to move their side up to fifth in the league, two points off Tigers.
Worcester Warriors 17
Tries: Hammond, Heem
Conversions: Shillcock 2
Northampton Saints 18
Penalties: Myler 6
Bristol Rugby 9
Penalties: Searle 3
Bath Rugby 16
Penalties: Homer 2
Newcastle Falcons 19
Tries: Lawson, Tait
Penalties: Delany 3
Exeter Chiefs 32
Tries: Devoto, Waldrom, Short, Chudley
Conversions: Steenson 3
Penalties: Steenson 2
Gloucester Rugby 36
Tries: Hibbard, Atkinson, Scott, Sharples
Conversions: Hook 4
Tries: Young 2
Penalties: Gopperth 2
Sale Sharks 13
Penalties: MacGinty 2
Tries: Bosch, Gallagher, Spencer
Conversions: Lozowski 2
Penalties: Lozowski 3
Leicester Tigers 25
Penalties: Burns 5
Drop Goals: Burns
Penalties: N Evans 2