Things you might have missed from round 11 of Gallagher Premiership rugby
Exeter Chiefs let their lead slip to just one point after they were defeated by an impressive Northampton Saints and Saracens overcame a tough an early scare against Worcester Warrior to claim victory.
Elsewhere Harlequins won the ‘Big Game’ over Wasps at Twickenham and Bath Rugby got a win over Leicester with the help of a stunning Ruaridh McConnochie try to climb the table side by side.
Defeat for Worcester means that they sink to level on points at the bottom of the table alongside Newcastle Falcons who were beaten by Bristol Bears.
Here’s a look at what you might have missed:
Northampton Saints 31-28 Exeter Chiefs
Whether Northampton Saints will be challenging for the semi-finals come the end of the season remains to be seen but on this form it is up rather than down that they should be looking.
Against an Exeter Chiefs side fresh from a bonus-point win over the champions, Saints never trailed, survived two big comebacks and came away with all five points.
With the half-back duo of Cobus Reinach and Dan Biggar pulling the strings, they were able to race out of the blocks and open up a 14-0 lead.
Exeter’s scrum was dominant, with Ben Moon and Harry Williams causing lots of problems to Saints but a try from teenager Fraser Dingwall put Saints back ahead at half-time.
After Exeter had levelled once again, it was Reinach who showed his opportunistic side as he raced away for the decisive fourth try, with Exeter having to settle for two losing bonus points when Matt Kvesic crossed at the death.
Saracens 25-17 Worcester Warriors
After tasting defeat for the first time since April last weekend against the Exeter Chiefs, questions were raised over how the Gallagher Premiership’s defending champions would respond.
At first, it looked unpromising for the Londoners, as tries from Duncan Weir and Ben Te’o had the hosts shaking.
But the sign of a top quality team – although somewhat cliched – is the ability to dig in and win when playing badly – and that’s exactly what Mark McCall’s men did.
Scores from Mako Vunipola, Calum Clark and David Strettle turned the game on its head as Saracens controlled the second-half and passed a crucial test – benefitting greatly from the Chiefs’ loss against Northampton Saints to cut their lead at the top of the table to just one point.
Harlequins 20-13 Wasps
An Alex Dombrandt-inspired Harlequins bounced back from defeat to Leicester in perfect fashion by beating close rivals Wasps in Saturday’s Big Game at Twickenham Stadium.
Buoyed by the presence of an 80,000-strong crowd at HQ, the talented flanker scored the quickest try of the Gallagher Premiership season so far after just 49 seconds to give his side the early ascendancy.
Substitute Will Stuart’s second-half try reduced the arrears for the visitors, but any hopes of a Wasps comeback were dashed when Danny Care sent Joe Marchant clear for the decisive score eight minutes before the end.
Harlequins will look to continue their resurgence when they travel to Newcastle next weekend, while Wasps have the opportunity to end their torrid run at home to Northampton Saints on Sunday.
Gloucester Rugby 15-30 Sale Sharks
A topsy-turvy Gallagher Premiership Rugby season continued as Sale Sharks took down high-flying Gloucester Rugby with a scintillating attacking performance at Kingsholm.
The hosts, who sit third in the league, raced into a 10-point lead with a Billy Twelvetrees penalty and a converted try from Jaco Visagie before Sale Sharks fought back to lead at the break.
Chris Ashton scored his first Premiership try for his new club since joining in the summer before Faf de Klerk grabbed a second to give the visitors a narrow 17-10 advantage at the interval.
Steve Diamond’s side then took control at the start of the second period through tries from Rob Webber and Denny Solomona to seal the bonus-point victory.
Matt Banahan grabbed a late consolation for the home side, but the Sale triumph sees them move within seven points of Gloucester and just one point behind Northampton.
Bath Rugby 23-16 Leicester Tigers
Will Chudley continued to impress for Bath Rugby as he scooped the man-of-the-match award in their victory over Leicester Tigers.
Chudley marshalled his forwards brilliantly as they responded to an early Jonny May try in the perfect manner.
After twice coming close, Jamie Roberts powered over for the first Bath try, before Nathan Catt scored his first try since November 2016.
Ruaridh McConnochie added a third after the break as Bath threatened to pull away but Leicester hung in to claim a losing bonus point.
However the victory for Bath was enough to push them up to fifth in the table following last week’s success at Wasps.
Bristol Bears 35-28 Newcastle Falcons
A dramatic clash between two sides battling at the bottom of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby table showed the quality of the English top flight as Bristol Bears came out on top.
Pat Lam’s side produced a memorable comeback after going into the break 20-10 behind Newcastle Falcons as Vereniki Goneva and Callum Chick cancelled out Harry Randall’s early score.
Tries from Charles Piutau and Luke Morahan saw Bristol regain the lead after the restart before Adam Radwan levelled the scores with a brilliant try on his birthday.
Callum Sheedy and Toby Flood traded penalties, but it was Premiership debutant Tom Pincus who stepped up to win the match for Bristol with a try two minutes from time.
The bonus-point victory could prove crucial to Bristol’s survival hopes in 2019, with the newly-promoted side six points clear of Newcastle and Worcester at the bottom