Things you might have missed from Round 22 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby
Round 22 provided the final-day bonanza we all hoped for with incredible late drama and tries aplenty as the final positions in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby table were decided.
There were contrasting emotions as Northampton Saints lost away to Exeter Chiefs but still claimed the fourth and final semi-final spot thanks to James Lang’s last-minute, long-range penalty falling agonisingly short as Harlequins lost to Wasps.
Rhys Priestland’s 80th-minute conversion secured Bath Rugby a one-point triumph over old rivals Leicester Tigers and Heineken Champions Cup rugby next season, while Duncan Weir also produced a successful final-kick-of-the-game shot at the posts to edge Worcester Warriors past reigning champions Saracens.
And on a day where 354 points were scored, 87 of them came at the AJ Bell Stadium as Sale Sharks and Gloucester Rugby produced an end-of-season thriller.
If you didn’t catch any of the action this weekend, we’ve caught you up on what you might have missed.
Northampton Saints secured a top-four Gallagher Premiership Rugby finish for the first time since 2015 – but Chris Boyd’s men did not make life easy for themselves as they went down 40-21.
Tries from Piers Francis and Rory Hutchinson put the visitors ahead twice against Exeter Chiefs in the first half at Sandy Park.
But relentless pressure from league leaders Chiefs eventually paid off as tries from Henry Slade, Ben Moon and Don Armand saw the two sides go into the break all square at 21-21.
And Exeter ensured they finished at the summit after adding a further unanswered 19 points, with second-half scores from Matt Kvesic, Dave Dennis and Luke Cowan-Dickie.
Despite the defeat leaving their top-four hopes dangling by a thread, Saints will face a rematch with Chiefs in the semi-finals after Harlequins missed their opportunity with defeat at Wasps.
See you again next week @ExeterChiefs
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) May 18, 2019
After 132 games and nine months of Gallagher Premiership Rugby action, Harlequins’ semi-final chances were denied by a matter of millimetres.
James Lang’s last-gasp penalty from his own half fell agonisingly short and Wasps could celebrate a pulsating 27-25 win at the Ricoh Arena on a dramatic final weekend.
Quins’ defeat – despite a fine fightback in the final quarter – means Northampton Saints sneak into the top four in place of the Londoners
That will be tough to take for Paul Gustard’s side who were in the top four for the vast majority of the season before sliding out of form in March and April.
But after a tenth-place finish last year, Quins are a team on the rise again and back in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Wasps did not crack the Champions Cup with this victory as other results conspired against them, but they at least sent off Joe Simpson and Elliot Daly in style at the Ricoh Arena.
SMOOTH as you like 😍@WaspsRugby‘s fast men💨 stretching the Quins defence with precise passing and WHEELS ⚡️
Lethal from first-phase ✨
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 19, 2019
A late score from Jacques van Rooyen turned Bath Rugby’s gloom into a shine as they left it until the last minute of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby season to seal sixth place with a dramatic 32-31 triumph.
Occupying the final Heineken Champions Cup qualification berth heading into Round 22, Bath knew that all they had to do was win at Welford Road to confirm their status and send Todd Blackadder off happy this summer.
But for a long time, it looked as though they would drop out at the death, with the Tigers holding the lead for most of the match and rivals Sale Sharks doing the business against Gloucester Rugby.
The hosts held a 26-15 advantage at the break thanks to scores from Will Spencer and Brendon O’Connor, as well as a fine spell of kicking from George Ford.
But if the opening hour of rugby seemed hectic, the final 20 was anything but as Leicester dug in while Bath looked to steal ground in a battle of attrition.
Rhys Priestland kicked his second penalty of the piece to drag the visitors to within six, before van Rooyen finally bulldozed over after a lengthy period spent camped on the Tigers line, Priestland holding his nerve to slot the vital extras to steal a 32-31 win.
Feels good!! 🔵⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/3Mh1CdJvyt
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) May 18, 2019
Sale Sharks edged out Gloucester 46-41 in an 87-point thriller at the AJ Bell Stadium to finish seventh in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby table.
With an open feel befitting this final-day clash, Sale scored first-half tries through Tom Curry, Rob Webber, Sam James and Chris Ashton, but Gloucester led at the break with Tom Seabrook, Ben Vellacott, Matt Banahan and Lewis Ludlow sealing their bonus point.
In a lung-busting second half Byron McGuigan touched down for the hosts while Dom Coetzer and Vellacott struck back – still time though for AJ MacGinty and Denny Solomona to win it late on, the latter’s try a work of art.
Bath Rugby’s last-gasp win at Leicester denied Sale an automatic place in the Heineken Champions Cup next year and they now must wait for the conclusion of the French Top 14 season to see if Challenge Cup runners-up La Rochelle’s final position will allow them to sneak into the top tier of European rugby.
“DENNYYY SOLOMONNAAAA ‼️”@SaleSharksRugby picked their last game to BLOW OUR MINDS 🤯
Watch, re-watch, then watch again 😳 pic.twitter.com/qItZNn43cw
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 19, 2019
Trailing by eight points with just over ten minutes left on the clock, Worcester Warriors fans would have been forgiven for a assuming a comeback was beyond the spirited hosts at Sixways.
But with players of the quality of Francois Hougaard, Duncan Weir and Josh Adams, the Warriors possess genuine attacking class – and they proceeded to stage a remarkable fightback to topple Saracens 31-29 in the 83rd minute through the boot of fly-half Weir.
Already confirmed as Gallagher Premiership Rugby semi-finalists, a much-changed Saracens outfit showed glimpses of real potential, as scrum-half Tom Whiteley followed up a star turn at the Premiership Shield final with another assured performance here.
Yet in the end, the extra experience in the Worcester ranks proved decisive, Weir holding his nerve from the tee with the clock in the red to help the hosts sign off in style.
For Saracens, confirmed second after the defeat, a home semi-final against Gloucester Rugby awaits next Saturday.
📊 STAT ATTACK | A @premrugby season to remember for Warriors fans
✔️9⃣ | wins equals our best in the top flight
✔️5⃣6⃣ | tries equals club record set two years ago
✔️4⃣6⃣ | conversions, a club record
✔️5⃣0⃣ | per cent of matches won in all competitions pic.twitter.com/2EoGhu1UQ6
— Worcester Warriors ⚔️ (@WorcsWarriors) May 19, 2019
Their Heineken Champions Cup dream was dashed at the last but Bristol Bears will leave this season with their heads held high.
Not since 2007 have a newly-promoted side bagged a tally as high as the 51 points Pat Lam’s side accrued, finishing with a flourish in a 19-12 victory over already-relegated Newcastle Falcons.
Results elsewhere were not to go their way but the electric Charles Piutau, Piers O’Conor and Jack Lam ensured they finished within a stone’s throw of the top six.
For the Falcons, meanwhile, it’s a case of rebuilding in the Greene King IPA Championship next year but they finished with their heads held high – Gary Graham and Johnny Williams both scoring late tries.
✅ Highest points total for a promoted team since 2⃣0⃣0⃣7⃣.
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) May 18, 2019