Exeter lower Quins' colours again
A late Luke Arscott try secured a first Premiership double for Exeter Chiefs over defending champions Harlequins.
A late Luke Arscott try not only secured a first Premiership double over defending champions Harlequins, but also keeps Exeter Chiefs in the hunt for a European Cup spot.
In another key Saturday match Ed Slater scored two first-half tries as Leicester Tigers put Sale Sharks to the sword 48-3 to boost their Premiership play-off ambitions.
* Jamie Elliott grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick of tries as Northampton Saints steamrolled London Irish in a 20-minute spell at the start of the second half to run out 40-14 winners at Franklin's Gardens.
We look at all Saturday's action!
Leicester Tigers 48-10 Sale Sharks
Ed Slater scored two first-half tries as Leicester Tigers put Sale Sharks to the sword 48-3 to boost their Premiership play-off ambitions.
Consecutive defeats to title challengers Harlequins and Saracens had put a dent in Tigers' hopes of a home semi-final but they responded in style by running in six tries at Welford Road.
Sale by contrast had won on their last away trip, against fellow strugglers London Welsh, but were never in this game.
The Tigers didn't have it all their own way early on though, with two early chances to score for the first try going begging, one because of a forward pass, and the second when Logovi'i Mulipola knocked on.
Ford had given Leicester an early lead with a first-minute penalty but it took until the 25th minute for them to score their first try.
It came after a period of concerted Tigers pressure, with Matt Smith heavily involved before the ball popped out for Slater to drive over. Ford converted to extend the lead to 10-0.
While that was clearly the spark that was needed, it was Sale who were next on the scoreboard, Nick McLeod slotting a penalty just after the half-hour, only for Ford to his back instantly.
The match was evenly poised, but in Dan Bowden, Leicester had someone pulling the strings in midfield, and it was the New Zealander's delicate grubber through that set up the Tigers' second try.
Adam Thompstone looked certain to score, only to be taken out by Tom Brady, who was sent to the sin bin, with Tigers awarded the penalty try.
Ford duly converted, and got the chance to add another two after Slater doubled his tally just before the break.
Some great hands through the Tigers backline allowed the second row a little space, and he took full advantage to sprint over from fully 40 metres out.
That gave Leicester a 27-3 lead at the break, and they wasted no time sealing the bonus point immediately after the break, Smith scoring his first try eight minutes into the second half.
A stolen line-out from captain on the day, Tom Croft, gave Leicester some prime attacking ball, and when the ball was spread wide, Smith was on hand to go over.
Five minutes later he was over again, Bowden showing all his class to send Smith under the posts unopposed.
With 13 minutes remaining Mathew Tait ran in Leicester's sixth, as Sale fell apart, Ford completely a perfect afternoon with the boot with his sixth conversion, to add to two penalties.
Sale did at least have the final word, Andy Powell crashing over, with replacement Danny Cipriani slotting the conversion, but it was far too little too late.
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Slater 2, Penalty try, Smith 2, Tait
Cons: Ford 6
Pens: Ford 2
For Sale Sharks:
Yellow card: Tom Brady (Sale Sharks, 35)
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 George Ford, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft (captain), 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 Jordan Crane, 21 Micky Young, 22 Matt Cornwell, 23 Scott Hamilton.
Sale Sharks: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Will Addison, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Cillian Willis, 8 Richie Vernon, 7 David Seymour (captain), 6 Dan Braid, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Al Dickinson, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Andy Powell, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Jordan Davies.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Peter Huckle & Gordon Goodliffe.
Northampton Saints 40-14 London Irish
Jamie Elliott grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick of tries as Northampton Saints steamrolled London Irish in a 20-minute spell at the start of the second half to run out 40-14 winners at Franklin's Gardens.
Trailing 7-9 two minutes before the interval, the home side blitzed the Exiles either side of the break running in four tries to pull away from the visitors and restate their claims for a top-four slot at the end of the season.
After scoring a brace in last weekend's 25-23 win over Bath Rugby Elliott went one better, touching down in both corners and claiming a crossfield kick from replacement Ryan Lamb at the death to round off an impressive showing from the Saints.
London Irish had started brightly, catching Northampton offside in their 22 and giving Tom Homer the chance to slot a penalty from a tight angle on six minutes.
But the lead only lasted two minutes as Samu Manoa claimed the restart for Northampton, who drove the ball upfield where it was recycled to fly-half Stephen Myler whose booming pass cut out three players and sent Elliott over for the first try of the day. Myler added the extras and Northampton led 7-3 on nine minutes.
Irish continued to look dangerous out wide and Marlon Yarde should have done better after fending off Tom May and breaking into space but his poor pass gave Topsy Ojo no chance.
Myler had the chance to extend Saints' lead only to push a penalty right of the posts, but with the Exiles running the ball back at every opportunity it wasn't long until Homer got another shot at goal and buried it to cut the deficit to a point on 34 minutes.
Northampton faltered at the line-out with a poor feed giving Irish the chance to apply pressure in the Saints 22, and after winning a rare penalty at the scrum Homer put the Exiles 7-9 ahead with the boot as half-time loomed.
But they failed to clear the restart properly and from the line-out the Northampton maul rumbled forward only to be held up short of the line by desperate Exiles defence, with Manoa burrowing over and Myler's conversion sending Saints in at the break 14-9 up.
The home side made a blistering start to the second half, with George Pisi charging down a Shane Geraghty chip only to knock on as the try-line loomed.
But three minutes from the restart Soane Tonga'uiha crashed over at the back of the line-out with the Exiles expecting the driving maul. Myler bisected the posts with the conversion to give Saints a commanding 21-9 lead from which they never looked back.
The result was wrapped up beyond doubt when replacement Brian Mujati won a penalty that Myler kicked to the corner, from which GJ van Velze powered over from close range. Myler's fourth successful kick of the game gave Saints an unassailable lead.
Shortly after Dom Waldouck barrelled through Geraghty and the ball was moved wide to Elliott to race in for his second of the afternoon.
Myler missed with the conversion, and the Exiles staged a mini-comeback as former Saints man Geraghty showed soft hands to play in Yarde but impressive defence from Elliott kept Irish at bay.
Setaimata Sa replaced Geraghty and with his second touch played in Guy Armitage who crossed the whitewash to give some respectability to the scoreline.
But then Ben Nutley pounced on a loose ball in midfield that was worked to Lamb who kicked crossfield for Elliott to round off the scoring in style.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Elliott 3, Manoa, Tonga'uiha, Jan van Velze
Cons: Myler 5
For London Irish:
Pens: Homer 3
Northampton: Northampton: 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 Phil Dowson, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Dom Waldouck.
London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Guy Armitage, 12 Shane Geraghty, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Pat Phibbs, 8 Jon Fisher, 7 Ofisa Treviranus, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Bryn Evans (captain), 4 George Skivington, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Kieran Low, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 22 Setaimata Sa, 23 Jack Moates.
Referee: J.P. Doyle
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey & Nigel Carrick.
Harlequins 16-27 Exeter Chiefs
A late Luke Arscott try not only secured a first Premiership double over defending champions Harlequins but also keeps Exeter Chiefs in the hunt for a Heineken Cup spot.
A fine Ugo Monye in the first half proved the difference as the home side went into the interval narrowly ahead at 10-9.
The bot of Gareth Steenson had kept the visitors in the game in the first half but after the restart the Chiefs crossed twice, first through lock Damian Welch and then late on with Arscott for a first away win since downing London Irish in November.
In the reverse fixture Quins had been beaten 42-28 and hosted Exeter looking to avenge that defeat, in the midst of a fine run that had seem them lose just once in their previous 13 games.
And they looked like doing exactly that after six minutes as wing Monye scored a superb opening try for the home side. Jordan Turner-Hall had options on his left shoulder and by using fellow centre Matt Hopper as a dummy runner he timed his offload to Monye to perfection and he raced away, Nick Evans converting.
But Harlequins discipline let them down in the next ten minutes as first Nick Easter failed to roll away to give Steenson the simplest of penalties, and then they were offside to allow the chiefs fly-half to bring his side to within a point of their hosts.
Evans' compatriot Ben Botica then joined him at the Stoop after 20 minutes as Olly Lindsay-Hague went off injured.
But Evans kept hold of the kicking duties but his next effort, a penalty out on the left, had the line but fell just short.
And on 29 minutes he was made to pay as George Robson was pinged for offside and Steenson kicked his third three-pointer to put Exeter into the lead for the first time.
Quins were enjoying plenty of possession but couldn't break down the tight Exeter defence, the reigning champions having to settle for a penalty from Botica to go back in front.
Kiwi Botica then had another shot at the posts a minute before half-time to give Quins some breathing space but he missed, meaning the home side had to make to with a 10-9 interval lead.
And three minutes after the restart this see-sawing game swung back into the visitors favour as Steenson kicked his fourth penalty as Quins were pinged for not releasing.
However Botica atoned for his first-half miss and knocked over two penalties of his own to give Quins a four-point lead.
But back came the Chiefs and after Steenson added another penalty they grabbed their first try.
Fly-half Steenson was the architect, making a great break down the middle only to be tapped just before the line. However Exeter remained patient and the ball found its way to Welch who barged over.
Steenson added the conversion for a four-point lead and full-back Arscott made the game safe with seven minutes left, collecting a box kick before racing through to spark wild celebrations among the travelling contingent.
Pens: Evans, Botica 2
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Welch, Arscott
Pens: Steenson 5
Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Nick Easter (captain), 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Jordan Burns, 22 Ben Botica, 23 George Lowe.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Sireli Naqelevuki, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Ben White, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Tom Hayes (captain), 3 Alex Brown, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Carl Rimmer.
Replacements: 16 Neil Clark, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 James Hanks, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Ian Whitten.
Referee: David Rose
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank & Andrew Pearce.
TMO: Graham Hughes.