Things you might have missed from Gallagher Premiership Rugby Round 20
Just two rounds of the 2018-19 Gallagher Premiership Rugby season remain – but the upcoming finale promises fireworks in abundance after a weekend chock-full with more enthralling action.
Exeter Chiefs got back on the straight and narrow with a hard-fought win over Harlequins and have almost sewn up top spot whilst Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks kept themselves in top-four contention.
There were also wins for the likes of Saracens and Bristol Bears – here’s a look back at what you may have missed.
Exeter show grit at the right time
More comfortable afternoons at Sandy Park there have certainly been but title-chasing Exeter may just reflect on their 17-15 victory over Harlequins as one of their most important of the season.
The table-toppers, who require one more win to ensure they finish their campaign in first place, were forced to dig deep to overcome their spirited visitors from London.
But they got the job done and returned to an upward curve as they avoided back-to-back home defeats, having been bested by Wasps in Round 19.
A breakneck start laid the foundations for a Chiefs victory, Ollie Devoto and Nic White going over early.
In the second period, Harlequins bit back through Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Charlie Walker but before that, Harry Williams had found a way over the line – and his score proved decisive as Exeter held firm on a testing afternoon.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) April 27, 2019
Super Spencer shines once again for Saracens
The sight of Ben Spencer haring into space at top speed has been the scourge of Gallagher Premiership Rugby defences, with Wasps the latest to suffer at the hands of Saracens’ maverick scrum-half.
The 26-year-old, whose performances this season are forming a convincing case for higher honours in World Cup year, was at his elusive best in his side’s second convincing 31-14 win in Coventry.
Even aside from a decisive fourth-minute interception try that laid the foundation for the win, it was Spencer’s insistent tempo and command of his forward pack that marked out his as a star turn.
Saracens got a taste of just how punishing Gallagher Premiership Rugby’s cauldron-like atmospheres can prove when they fell to defeat at Bristol but were in typically commanding mood in the west Midlands.
Wasps were punished for a succession of handling errors and infringements at the breakdown, although Marcus Watson’s fine form should continue to encourage Dai Young.
A memorable day for @DommMorris 🖤❤️
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) April 27, 2019
Warriors hold their nerve to secure safety
With a gritty, battling effort at Sixways Stadium, Worcester Warriors ensured their Gallagher Premiership Rugby survival against Gloucester Rugby.
17 points from Duncan Weir sealed the deal, with the Scottish fly-half finishing with a try, three conversions and two penalties for the hosts.
But Henry Purdy managed a double to add to Willi Heinz’s stunning team try, ensuring Gloucester left with a losing bonus-point that sealed a semi-final spot.
Man of the match Niall Annett powered over for Worcester’s second score as they proved their mettle up front, with Darren Barry also crashing over for the third try.
Ethan Waller led the Warriors out for his 50th appearance, and the day was sure to be a memorable one as Alan Solomons’ men bravely climbed out of the relegation battle.
— Worcester Warriors ⚔️ (@WorcsWarriors) April 28, 2019
Collins inspires Saints win
Jet-heeled wing Tom Collins grabbed many of the highlights on Friday as his first-half hat-trick inspired Northampton Saints to a crucial 31-17 win at Newcastle Falcons.
Collins got over early in the first half and followed it up with his second and third before the half was out, Newcastle left with just a penalty from Sonatane Takulua at the interval.
The Falcons rallied after the break and got tries through Rodney Ah You and Takulua but it wasn’t enough and Alex Mitchell came on to grab Saints’ crucial bonus point at the death.
That’s three wins in the last four for Saints as they make a surging final-four push, also condemning Falcons to another defeat they can ill-afford.
— Claire Jones (@redhatphoto) April 26, 2019
Curry turns the screw for Sharks
Tom Curry reprised his formidable England form for Sale Sharks as the young flanker emerged with the man-of-the-match award after his side claimed a 6-3 win over Bath Rugby.
The two sides shared a 7-7 draw in their last Gallagher Premiership Rugby meeting in December’s reverse fixture at the Rec – and their respective attacks struggled to click again on Friday night.
Bath’s Freddie Burns gave the visitors the lead with an early penalty as Todd Blackadder’s side looked to capitalise on their pressure but the fly-half also missed two further efforts and a drop goal.
AJ MacGinty levelled the scores before the break with three points of his own from the kicking tee before giving Sale the lead for the first time in the game soon after the hour mark.
Both sides had late opportunities to score tries – with Denny Solomona and Jonathan Joseph coming close – but Sale were able to hold on as Curry produced turnover after turnover for the hosts.
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) April 26, 2019
Thacker casts a spell on his old side
Leicester Tigers must be sick of the sight of Harry Thacker.
The Welford Road academy product returned to haunt his former club once again and the Bears are still dreaming of a top-six finish in Gallagher Premiership Rugby.
After two tries at Ashton Gate in December in the Bears dominant win, the hooker was at the back of a rolling maul late on to lift the Bears to victory in the reverse fixture.
It was a bitter pill for Geordan Murphy and the Tigers to swallow, as a win would have secured their Gallagher Premiership Rugby status for next season.
They should still be alright, and Jordan Olowofela scored a fine first-half try, George Ford kicked well from the tee and hand, and Guy Thompson remains a warrior in the back row.
But the Bears’ brilliance continues – after their win over Saracens last time out – and they deserved this win after hanging tough and outscoring the Tigers by three tries to one.
Thank you to those who were with us at Welford Road today! 👏 pic.twitter.com/ZgL2gkDXXL
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) April 27, 2019