Premiership Rugby 7s: Quarter-finalists decided after action-packed pool stage
Wasps, Bristol Bears, Exeter Chiefs and Saracens all finished an action-packed opening day of the Premiership Rugby 7s unbeaten as they booked quarter-final spots at Franklin’s Gardens.
Defending champions Saracens ensured their safe passage after winning both of their games, while Wasps plundered 98 points from their two matches to reach the last eight.
Bristol and Exeter also finished as the top seeds in their pool groups, with Leicester Tigers, Worcester Warriors, London Irish and Harlequins completing the quarter-final line-up after winning one game each.
Meanwhile, Gloucester Rugby, Bath Rugby, Sale Sharks and Northampton Saints will now turn their attention to winning silverware in the Plate competition on the second day.
There was no shortage of drama as the 12 Premiership Rugby clubs battled it out in the ‘Olympic-style’ tournament, which returned to the home of Saints for a third year in a row.
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Newly-promoted Irish got their campaign – and the tournament – underway in style with a comfortable 27-19 victory against Gloucester in the opening Pool D clash.
Braces for Femi Sofolarin and Timi Olopade, plus one try for Jack Cooke, saw the Exiles hit the ground running with Cherry and Whites captain Alex Morgan scoring twice for his side.
In Pool B, last year’s runners-up Wasps laid down a marker with a comprehensive 50-5 triumph against Bath Rugby, with Callum Sirker scoring four of his side’s eight tries.
Jacob Umaga, Zach Kibirige, Ben Vellacott and Paolo Odogwu also crossed the whitewash for Wasps while Bath’s only consolation score came from Nacanieli Kinikinilau.
There was little to choose between the two teams in the opening game of Pool A as Worcester narrowly edged out Sale 22-21 to give their knockout chances a massive boost.
A Reece Beddows double and tries from Caleb Montgomery and Luke Scully gave Warriors the win, while Teddy Leatherbarrow, Rouban Birch and James Williams scored for Sharks.
Pool C also began with an end-to-end thriller as Bristol staged a dramatic late comeback to beat Northampton 26-24 thanks to a hat-trick from Hartpury man Toby Venner.
Ioan Lloyd completed the scoring for the Bears, who had found themselves trailing the hosts following a Tommy Freeman brace and tries from Josh Gillespie and Connor Tupai.
Exeter Chiefs, last season’s Gallagher Premiership finalists, began their challenge in the fifth match of the evening and quickly got up to pace with a 32-10 victory over Irish.
A first-half hat-trick from Arthur Realton put Chiefs in control before Joe Snow bagged the bonus-point score on the cusp of half-time, with Luke Mehson adding a late double for Chiefs.
Wasps were the first team to book their place in Saturday’s quarter-finals as they beat Leicester 48-5 to top Pool B with Thibaud Flament and Odogwu both scoring twice.
With Wasps already safely through to the knockout stage, Saracens got their defence of the title up and running with a hard-fought 22-12 bonus-point victory over Sale Sharks in Pool A.
Ali Crossdale scored a double for the reigning champions, while Rotimi Segun and Elliott Obatoyinbo also dotted down to ensure the Men in Black enjoyed a winning start.
Bristol joined Wasps in the quarter-finals by topping Pool C with their second win from two games after another hat-trick from the electrifying Venner sealed a 28-22 win over Harlequins.
Exeter also booked their quarter-final berth with a 31-0 win against Gloucester, with Max Bodilly scoring twice in addition to further tries from Realton, Mehson and Sam Morley.
Elsewhere, Leicester bounced back from their opening defeat to reach the last eight as Pool B runners-up after claiming a bonus-point victory over Bath, who were consigned to the Plate.
A Segun brace then kept Saracens’ bid for back-to-back titles on track after a 28-12 win over Worcester before Saints beat Harlequins 29-0 to clinch the last quarter-final spot.