Sarries rally back to tame Tigers
David Strettle starred for Saracens as they sealed a sensational 32-27 win over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Saturday.
David Strettle starred for Saracens as they sealed a sensational 32-27 win over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Exeter annihilated London Welsh 47-16 to snap a three-match losing skid at Sandy Park while Northampton showed character to clinch a 25-23 come-from-behind win over Bath at Franklin’s Gardens.
We look at Saturday’s action!
Leicester Tigers 27-32 Saracens
David Strettle gave the England selectors a timely reminder of his talents as his two tries saw Saracens complete a remarkable comeback and chalk up a 32-27 Premiership victory over Leicester Tigers.
Trailing 17-6 at half-time, Sarries romped back through scores from Strettle (2), James Short and Chris Wyles with centre Joel Tomkins, who trained with England this week, in fine form throughout.
Strettle has also been part of the England set-up during the Six Nations but has yet to start - although he provided the perfect response, taking his tally to four in his last four games in this victory over the Tigers.
For Leicester, it's a fourth regular season home defeat to Saracens in a row and a loss that will be all the more difficult to take after tries from Julian Salvi and a fine team effort from Dan Bowden had given them such a healthy advantage at the interval.
But in a thrilling match, Leicester did have the final say to seal a losing bonus point with a penalty try.
Charlie Hodgson broke the deadlock on four minutes, slotting home from the tee from the side of the Tigers' 22 and George Ford was handed the chance to level things up soon after, only to miss his 30-metre effort wide to the left.
Geordan Murphy, making his 297th start for the club, was singled out as the man to watch before kick-off by Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill - and the Irishman didn't disappoint with two fine early runs.
The second of those brought a penalty but again Ford missed, although the flyhalf did hit the target with his third attempt of the night on 21 minutes to tie the score at 3-3.
Leicester then took the lead when Salvi forced his way over for the first try of the night - converted by Ford and, with the wind in their sails, the Tigers further extended their lead with a delightful score.
Ford jinked through his own 22 and fed Murphy and the ball was moved through the hands of Matt Smith and Adam Thompstone before it found Ford again, whose chip was pounced on by Bowden, who dotted down.
Ford added the extras for a 17-3 lead but Hodgson's second penalty of the night made sure Saracens got themselves on the scoreboard again before half-time.
And the visitors flew out of the blocks after the interval with Strettle romping home for his third Premiership try of the season, Hodgson adding the extras.
Trailing by six, Saracens then pounced again, this time though Short, who was put clear in the right-hand corner by Tomkins, ensuring the visitors led by a point after Hodgson's conversion attempt struck the upright.
That served to stir Leicester into life and Murphy, slippery all night, again embarked on another run before feeding hooker Rob Hawkins, who knocked on ten metres short of the try-line.
And Sarries gave themselves the breathing space they wanted when Tomkins' fired mispass found Strettle on the left touchline and he cruised over on 64 minutes with Hodgson converting.
Leicester were far from finished however and with nine minutes remaining, Smith was agonisingly close to getting his side back into the match, only to see his try disallowed for a forward pass but they had already been awarded a penalty and Ford's three-pointer brought the Tigers to within five.
But Sarries struck again, this time Wyles forcing his way over to secure the bonus point and a famous comeback from the Men in Black which moved them to within a point of Premiership leaders Harlequins.
There was yet another twist as Leicester refused to throw in the towel and went in search of a losing bonus point - and got it when Strettle deliberately knocked on with a number of Tigers on the outside waiting to score the probable try.
After consulting the television match official, referee JP Doyle showed Strettle a yellow card, with replacement Duncan Taylor also sent to the sin bin at the death, and awarded the penalty try, ensuring the Tigers didn't finish the match empty-handed.
Tries: Salvi, Bowden, Penalty
Cons: Ford 3
Pens: Ford 2
Tries: Strettle 2, Short, Wyles
Cons: Hodgson 3
Pens: Hodgson 2
Yellow cards: David Strettle (Saracens, 81), Duncan Taylor (Saracens, 82)
Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy (captain), 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 George Ford, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Richard Thorpe, 21 Micky Young, 22 Matt Cornwell, 23 Mathew Tait.
Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 James Short, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Adam Powell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Duncan Taylor.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Graham Hughes
Exeter Chiefs 47-16 London Welsh
Exeter Chiefs picked up their first Premiership win since November as they steamrollered their way past London Welsh to claim a 47-16 win.
Rob Baxter's side have found life tough in recent weeks in the league, losing their last three to Saracens, Sale Sharks and Northampton Saints.
But after a tight first half hour, they cut loose with first Premiership tries for Jack Yeandle, Damian Welch and Jack Nowell while Tom Hayes and Sireli Naqelevuki chipped in with the others.
The Exiles in response managed a try from Phil Mackenzie, as well as some accurate kicking from Gavin Henson, but they faded in the second half. Henson gave Welsh the perfect start with a penalty after just two minutes, only for Gareth Steenson to respond in kind.
The Chiefs flyhalf was outstanding from the kicking tee, finishing with 22 points as he kicked nine from nine.
Steenson and Henson traded another couple of penalties as the sides worked each other out with the sides level at 9-9 midway through the first half.
Another three from Steenson put Exeter back in front, and on the half hour Yeandle pounced.
The Crediton-born prop was making his first Premiership appearance and he took advantage of a good driving maul from a line-out.
Australian international Dean Mumm claimed the ball initially, and after a series of bursts it was Yeandle who went over.
That was it for the scoring in the first half, but it was a completely different story after the break with Hayes starting the deluge of tries after just three minutes.
The Chiefs skipper took advantage of some good initial work on the right from Sireli Naqelevuki with the ball then spread wide by James Scaysbrook, allowing the Irishman to power over.
Trailing 26-9, Welsh looked in big trouble, but they responded immediately when they turned over Exeter ball at a scrum and the ball went out to Canadian international Mackenzie to score in the corner.
Henson nailed a tough conversion, to bring his team back to within ten but that was as good as it got for the visitors.
On 50 minutes it was Welch who got onto the scoresheet when he collected the ball to stroll over with the Exiles defence stretched.
Steenson conversion made it 33-16, and that lead increased further when Naqelevuki went over.
There was still time for Nowell, the Chiefs' young wing to grab his first Premiership score, showing his pace as he sprinted over from 25 metres out.
Tries: Yeandle, Hayes, Welch, Naqelevuki, Nowell
Cons: Steenson 5
Pens: Steenson 4
For London Welsh:
Pens: Henson 3
Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Sireli Naqelevuki, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Ben White, 5 Dean Mumm, 4 Tom Hayes (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Carl Rimmer.
Replacements: 16 Neil Clark, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Phil Dollman.
London Welsh: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Phil MacKenzie, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Seb Jewell, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Ed Jackson, 7 Julio Cabello Farias, 6 Adam Balding, 5 Matt Corker, 4 Jonathan Mills (captain), 3 Greg Bateman, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Franck Montanella.
Replacements: 16 Dan George, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 James Tideswell, 19 Martin Purdy, 20 Michael Hills, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 Gordon Ross, 23 Sonny Parker.
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Andrew Pearce, Peter Huckle
TMO: Matthew Peters
Northampton Saints 25-23 Bath
Jamie Elliott grabbed two tries as Northampton Saints came from behind to beat Bath 25-23 and extend the visitors’ winless streak at Franklin's Gardens.
The West Country outfit looked to have snatched a first win at the Saints since 2000 when a second-half penalty try and a Rokoduguni intercept try gave them a lead going into the last quarter of the game.
But five Stephen Myler penalties and touch downs from Elliott in either half ensured the points stayed with the home side and increased the gap between the two sides in the Premiership table.
Bath had taken an early lead on five minutes when Northampton were penalised at the line-out and flyhalf Tom Heathcote made no mistake from the tee.
Saints hit back immediately after Bath were caught offside, giving Stephen Myler the chance to dissect the posts with an eighth-minute penalty as the teams settled into the game.
Bath looked to have the edge at the line-outs in the first half with Dave Atwood ruling the roost, but the first try of the afternoon came from a Bath overthrow.
Ben Nutley gathered the loose ball and drove for the line only to be held up short. Northampton recycled the ball and flyhalf Myler threw a long mispass to Elliott who collected it on the bounce and collapsed over the line.
Myler couldn't add the extras, however, and the score stayed 8-3.
Horacio Agulla nearly hit straight back for Bath when he took an incisive pass from Nick Abendanon and raced for the line only for Samu Manoa to pull off a fantastic cover tackle and prevent the score.
Heathcote and Myler exchanged penalties as the score moved to 11-6 seven minutes before the interval.
Bath again failed to make the most of their opportunities as Phil Dowson and GJ van Velze combined to bring down Ben Skirving short of the line late on.
Heathcote kicked another penalty for the visitors, and shortly after wing Tom Biggs hacked the ball clear of the Northampton defence for Abendanon to run onto but with the try-line begging the fullback knocked on when it was easier to score.
Trailing at the break, Bath almost made the perfect start to the second half when Heathcote slipped through three tackles and found Abendanon but the Saints defence got back to cover.
Myler steadied Northampton nerves with three quick penalties, highlighting why the Saints were keen to tie him down to a new contract this week.
Northampton looked comfortable going into the final quarter with a 20-9 lead, but referee Luke Pearce threw the result into doubt when he pointed for a penalty try after the Saints infringed at a scrum in their 22.
Heathcote's conversion made it a four-point game, and Bath completed a remarkable turnaround when Semesa Rokoduguni intercepted Alex Waller's pass and ran the length of the field to touch down.
Scottish international Heathcote added the conversion to give Bath a three-point lead with 12 minutes remaining, but the top four challengers were unable to hold onto their lead as Northampton poured forward.
The Saints pounded the Bath defence for several minutes with a multi-phase attack before Ben Foden engineered some space for Elliott to touch down in the corner.
Myler hit the post with his conversion but it didn't matter as the home side hung on for the win.
Tries: Elliott 2
Pens: Myler 5
Tries: Penalty, Rokoduguni
Cons: Heathcote 2
Pens: Heathcote 3
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 James Wilson, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom May, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson,8 GJ van Velze, 7 Ben Nutley, 6 Phil Dowson (captain), 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Soane Tomga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 James Craig, 20 Rhys Oakley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Dom Waldouck.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Mat Gilbert, 6 Carl Fearns, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Rob Webber (captain), 1 Charlie Beech.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Nick Koster, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Sam Vesty, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe and Ashley Rowden
TMO: Mike Hamlin