TOP BAR - Fixtures

Jacob Rowan, Billy Vunipola, Christian Wade and Jeremy Thrush star in OPTA Rugby Rankings

Saracens No.8 Billy Vunipola was back to his rampaging best in his club’s crucial Aviva Premiership Rugby victory over Bath Rugby at Allianz Park, getting through a mountain of work in a 53-10 win to top this week’s OPTA Rugby Rankings.

Vunipola’s tally of 25 carries was the second best in a single match this season with Thomas Waldrom – who leads the carry count overall – making 28 against Saracens.

Vunipola made six more carries than any other player in Round 18, and also beat five defenders, with Bristol Rugby’s Jack Lam and Harlequins’ Danny Care both making 19 carries apiece.

Christian Wade was the star of the show at the Ricoh Arena as his two tries proved to be the difference between his Wasps side and Worcester Warriors as they played out a pulsating encounter in Coventry.

Wade made 157 metres throughout the 40-33 bonus-point win, which helped his side maintain their position at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.

Harlequins also enjoyed a winning bonus-point in their 53-17 victory over Newcastle Falcons at the Twickenham Stoop – the first time they have secured back to back bonus-point wins since December 2015.

Winger Tim Visser and fullback Mike Brown made over 130 metres each to feature in the OPTA top three for metres made in Round 18.

But neither Brown nor Visser could match Wade’s impressive tally of 12 defenders beaten in Round 18, which equalled the Aviva Premiership record since OPTA began recording data in 2008/09.

Chris Ashton, who scored a double in Saracens’ victory, also impressed the crowds by beating seven defenders in a thrilling encounter.

In Round 18’s opening fixture, Gloucester Rugby wrapped up a 32-14 victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate, but were made to do their fair share of defending as is reflected in the statistics.

Back row Jacob Rowan made an incredible 25 tackles – seven more than any other player in Round 18 – in a brave defensive display from the Cherry and Whites.

Rowan’s tally against Bristol takes him up to 200 for the season, which is just two short of leader Mark Wilson of Newcastle Falcons.

Exeter Chiefs extended their unbeaten run to 11 games (including nine wins and two draws) with a 30-25 victory over Sale Sharks at Sandy Park.

Kai Horstmann scored a try for the Chiefs as well as making three crucial turnovers for his side, which put him top of the OPTA Ratings for Round 18.

Tackles

Jacob Rowan (Gloucester Rugby) – 25

Alex Rieder (Wasps), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), Will Welch (Newcastle Falcons), Michael Fitzgerald (Leicester Tigers), Cameron Neild (Sale Sharks) – 18

Carries

Billy Vunipola (Saracens) – 25

Jack Lam (Bristol Rugby), Danny Care (Harlequins) – 19

Metres made

Christian Wade (Wasps) – 157

Tim Visser (Harlequins) – 134

Mike Brown (Harlequins) – 133

Defenders Beaten

Christian Wade (Wasps) – 12

Mike Brown (Harlequins) – 9

Chris Ashton (Saracens) – 7

Lineouts won

Jeremy Thrush (Gloucester Rugby), Christopher Vui (Worcester Warriors) – 8

James Horwill (Harlequins), Tom Savage (Gloucester Rugby), Jim Hamilton (Saracens) – 7

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.

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