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Quins edge further ahead

Sun, 06 Jan 2013 17:55
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Danny Care helped Harlequins cement their place at the top of the Premiership, as he starred in a bonus-point win at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday.

However, the defending champions had to withstand heavy second half pressure from London Welsh in order to record a 31-26 victory.

The win saw Quins edge two points clear of nearest rivals Saracens on the table after 13 rounds.

England flyhalf Owen Farrell kicked 22 points and Charlie Hodgson came off the bench to haunt his former club, as Saracens eased to victory against bottom club Sale Sharks in the last-ever Premiership match to be played at Vicarage Road.

While the victory cemented Sarries' second place on the standings, the lac of a bonus point allowed Quins to edge slightly further ahead in the play-off race.

* In the only other match on Sunday Christian Wade's moment of magic earned London Wasps their sixth victory in eight Premiership games with a 29-15 triumph over Bath.

We bring you all Sunday's drama!

London Wasps 29-15 Bath

Christian Wade's moment of magic earned London Wasps their sixth victory in eight Premiership games with a 29-15 triumph over Bath.

The 21-year-old wing beat three Bath defenders before touching down on the stroke of half-time to turn the game in the Adams Park outfit's favour - taking them into the Premiership play-off places in the process.

Bath had taken the early initiative with a first-minute try from Nick Abendanon and Michael Claassens' effort shortly afterwards, but Wade's trickery and Stephen Jones' majestic right boot - which gathered 17 points in total - proved too much with Chris Bell's late effort the icing on the cake.

Bath got off to the best possible start with a try after 30 seconds for Abendanon in the corner.

The full-back ran down the right touchline, evading two challenges, after catching Jones' high kick on the halfway line.

Stephen Donald missed the tough conversion and moments later the visitors were penalised for offside and Jones added three points.

The game, already brimming from a pulsating start, erupted when Tom Varndell was sin-binned for an alleged spear tackle on Horacio Agulla.

And after Jones missed a penalty Bath capitalised on the man advantage and Wasps then fell further behind on 15 minutes when Claassens bundled over in the corner. Donald converted from the touchline for a 12-3 lead.

Jones, returning to the Wasps starting line-up, struck an easy penalty on 21 minutes and shortly after he notched another to bring the hosts within three points of Bath.

Dom Day was then sin-binned for bringing down James Cannon in the air but it was Bath who had the next scoring opportunity - Donald, though, missed his penalty.

Despite the man deficit, Kyle Eastmond nearly forced his way in but Elliot Daly cleared to touch just 20 yards from the line.

Daly then missed a penalty before Wade's moment of magic - beating three challenges on his way into the corner after Jones' long pass. Jones converted from the touchline on the Bath 22 for a 16-12 half-time lead.

Within two minutes of the restart Bath had reduced the arrears to one point - Tom Heathcote, who replaced Donald at the break, slotted a penalty.

Wasps responded well though, a prolonged attack ended with Billy Vunipola driving his way towards the line but his effort was ruled out by the TMO.

The dynamic No.8 failed to ground the ball but his disappointment was eased on 54 minutes when Jones added his fourth penalty of the game.

The hosts were beginning to exert some territorial dominance and had men over from another break, but this time Ashley Johnson was halted in his tracks by a forceful challenge from compatriot Francois Louw.

Louw was then at the heart of the next incident, he snaffled the ball well but teammate Dave Wilson was penalised and Jones made them pay with another three points to take Wasps seven points clear at 22-15.

Replacement Nicky Robinson missed the chance to put breathing space between the sides with a 69th-minute penalty but Bell's late try, after a neat offload from Joe Simpson, sealed the victory - with Abendanon's sin-binning for a trip ending his afternoon on a sour note.

The scorers:

For London Wasps:
Tries:
Wade, Bell
Cons: Stephen Jones, Robinson
Pens: Stephen Jones 5

For Bath:
Tries:
Abendanon, Claassens
Con: Donald
Pen: Heathcote

Yellow cards: Tom Varndell (London Wasps, 6), Dominic Day (Bath, 24), Nick Abendanon (Bath, 72)

Teams:

London Wasps: 15 Hugo Southwell (captain), 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Cannon, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Zak Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Tim Payne, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Marco Wentzel, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Nick Robinson, 23 Andrea Masi.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Kyle Eastmond, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Will Skuse, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Dan Hipkiss.

Referee: Andrew Small.
Assistant Referees: Kevin Stewart, Nigel Carrick.
TMO: David Grashoff.

London Welsh 26-31 Harlequins

Danny Care helped Harlequins cement their place at the top of the Premiership as he starred in a bonus-point win at the Kassam Stadium, although the defending champions had to withstand heavy second half pressure from London Welsh in order to do so.

Scrumhalf Care was at the centre of everything for an impressive 65 minutes - with Welsh fighting back well after his departure.

But the Premiership new-boys were unable to overcome a 15-point half-time deficit after first-half tries from Care, international team-mate Chris Robshaw and returning centre George Lowe put Quins in control.

But despite losing London Welsh's much improved performance in picking up a losing bonus point against the reigning champions will have pleased director of rugby Lyn Jojnes, who watched his side lose 40-3 in the return fixture earlier in the season.

The game and Care burst into life after 16 minutes as the England man turned on the speed to beat the cover and score under the posts.

Lowe, in his just second game back from ankle surgery, went over for Quins' second minutes later, taking a Tom Guest offload to go under the posts - Nick Evans kicking the extras for a 14-0 lead.

Russian lock Kirill Kulemin compounded the home side's problems, catching England Sevens star Ollie Lindsay-Hague high and being sent to the sin bin.

Not for the first time, the home side rallied around their man disadvantage, putting together an impressive 15-minute defensive stand to stem the flow of Quins points.

Despite the rugby being played almost entirely in their own half, Welsh took points on their two visits into Quins territory - Gordon Ross knocking over a penalty on 30 minutes and adding another with the final kick of the half.

However Robshaw was able to cross for his side's third of the half, a short-range effort after Care saw his tap and go waved off; and it was the two England men who were visibly forcing the pace throughout the first half, as Connor O'Shea's men went in 21-6 up.

After the break Welsh enjoyed their best stretch with the ball - coming within an outstanding Evans try-saving tackle from crossing themselves.

Fifteen points down, Ross waved off a kickable penalty, but with his side unable to breech Quins fierce goal-line defence, took a shot when given another chance, closing the gap to 21-9.

Minutes later Ross again cut the Quins lead, with the Welsh front-row, and destructive tight-head Franck Montanella, responsible.

Evans responded with a long-range shot of his own, before Welsh's top try-scorer Nick Scott came up with an emphatic score.

Working off his wing Scott took the ball in midfield, stepping off his right-foot to beat his man and power over - Ross keeping his 100% record in tact with the conversion.

The try seemed to spark Quins, and a sharp wide move saw recalled Sam Smith link well with his full-back to put Evans over on a trademark inside support line - giving Quins their fourth try bonus point of the year.

A missed Evans penalty left the door open for the home side, and flanker Ed Jackson ran through it - intercepting a Ben Botica pass to sprint 40m and bring his side within five points of their visitors, with seven minutes to play, setting up a nail-biting close to the match.

But Quins held strong and head into the Heinkeken Cup with a bonus point 31- 26 win under their belts.

The scorers:

For London Welsh:
Tries:
Care, Lowe, Robshaw, Evans
Cons: Evans 4
Pens: Evans

For Harlequins:
Tries:
Scott, Jackson
Cons: Ross 2
Pens: Ross 4

Yellow cards: Kirill Kulemin (London Welsh, 26), James Tideswell (London Welsh, 74), George Robson (Harlequins, 74)

Teams:

London Welsh: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Dan Caprice, 13 Seb Jewell, 12 Sonny Parker, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Gordon Ross, 9 Rob Lewis, 8 Adam Balding, 7 Michael Hills, 6 Ed Jackson, 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Jonathon Mills (captain), 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Frank Montanella.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 James Tideswell, 19 Matt Corker, 20 Alfie To'oala, 21 Tyson Keates, 22 Alex Davies, 23 Tom Voyce.

Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Matt Hopper.

Referee: Llyr Ap Geraint-Roberts
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Robin Goodliffe.

Saracens 32-12 Sale Sharks

England flyhalf Owen Farrell kicked 22 points and Charlie Hodgson came off the bench to haunt his former club as Saracens eased to victory against bottom club Sale Sharks in the last-ever Premiership match to be played at Vicarage Road.

Farrell hammered over eight kicks from eight attempts as second-half tries by David Strettle and Hodgson helped move Sarries to a comfortable win.

The Sharks remain five points behind London Irish at the foot of the table and only had four Danny Cipriani penalties to show for their efforts.

However, the Sharks started the game on the front foot and led within five minutes thanks to Cipriani's penalty.

And just after the restart, the flyhalf was fortunate when his kick from inside the 22 was charged down by George Kruis only for the ball to bounce over the dead ball line.

But Cipriani soon doubled the Sharks' lead when he belted over a terrific penalty from just inside his own half, although Saracens were to halve to deficit through Farrell.

Five minutes later, Farrell brought the score level with another penalty, left-of-centre on the 22-metre line, after James Gaskell was penalised for not rolling away.

It was all Sarries at this point and they soon led for the first time with Farrell again deadly from the kicking tee, making a shot from 40 metres look like child's play.

The England man then repeated the trick just a couple of minutes later to extend the gap to six points, with Sale's discipline letting them down.

They were to gift Farrell another shot at goal in the 28th minute - one which he didn't pass up and despite not threatening the Sale tryline, Saracens found themselves 15-6 up at half-time.

Eleven minutes into the second half, Cipriani brought his team back within six points with a penalty made all the more kickable thanks to some Saracens backchat.

But within two minutes, those points were rendered meaningless with Farrell again making it look easy with his sixth penalty, taken from just inside the Sale half.

Cipriani was to boot the visitors back within touching distance with an excellent strike from the half-way line - even if it did strike both posts before dropping over.

However, Saracens took a huge step towards victory in the 63rd minute - just after bringing on former Shark Hodgson.

A strong scrum led to Richard Wigglesworth passing to Hodgson, who with his first touch gave a quick pass to allow Strettle to sprint in under the posts, giving Farrell an easy conversion.

The result was made safe with ten minutes left and it was roles reversed from the first try as Strettle's deft grubber was simple for Hodgson to pick up and score, Farrell again adding the extras.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries:
Strettle, Hodgson
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 8

For Sale Sharks:
Pens:
Cipriani 4

Teams:

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 James Short, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Duncan Taylor.

Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Richie Vernon, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Aston Croall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 19 Tom Holmes, 20 Daniel Braid, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Charlie Amesbury, 23 Cameron Shepherd.

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth.
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Andrew Watson

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