Ashton edges Sarries closer
Chris Ashton's fourth try of the season edged Saracens one step closer to a home Premiership semifinal.
Chris Ashton's fourth try of the season edged Saracens one step closer to a home Premiership semifinal.
They beat London Wasps 22-13 at Adams Park to cement their place at the top of the table.
* In the other crunch match on Saturday two Manu Tuilagi tries helped Leicester Tigers continue their stranglehold over Northampton Saints.
They also marched on to a home Premiership semifinal with this convincing 36-8 victory.
* Two moments of genius from Semesa Rokodoguni proved the difference as Bath eventually saw off a stubborn London Welsh at the Rec 40-25.
* Dean Mumm's late try proved the difference as the Exeter Chiefs edged a topsy-turvy encounter at Sixways to emerge 24-18 victors against the Worcester Warriors.
We look at all Saturday's action!
Bath 40-25 London Welsh
Two moments of genius from Semesa Rokodoguni proved the difference as Bath eventually saw off a stubborn London Welsh at the Rec 40-25.
The wing scored just on the stroke of half-time as Bath looked set to run away with it but in the end it required late scores from Horacio Agulla and Michael Claassens to end the visitors' challenge.
London Welsh came into the game five points adrift at the bottom of the table knowing that a win was essential to keep the pressure on Sale Sharks one place above them.
Back in November it was former Bath wing Nick Scott's intercept try which proved the difference between the two sides but the Exiles have won just once in the league since then.
And despite a flying start from Bath, Welsh showed they will not go away without a fight, getting back to within two points heading into the final quarter.
From there Bath seized control with tries from Agulla and Claassens, either side of Seb Jewell scoring Welsh's only try.
Bath had made the perfect start through Matt Banahan, the powerful centre showing all his power and pace to crash over in the first minute.
Stephen Donald was off target with the conversion but it didn't look like it would make a difference when Carl Fearns went over from a Bath attacking lineout after eight minutes.
Donald had missed the conversion again but finally found his range on 21 minutes as he punished a Welsh offside to stretch the lead to 13-0.
Welsh hit back though, scrum-half Alex Davies slotting three penalties in the space of seven minutes to bring his side back to within four points.
That sparked Bath back into life and with half-time fast approaching Rokodoguni produced a moment of magic as he burst through the Exiles' defensive line to sprint over from halfway.
Leading 20-9 at the break Bath looked in complete control, but the Exiles refused to lie down and just two minutes into the second half Davies added his fourth penalty of the afternoon.
He added another to edge Welsh back closer and they could have taken the lead had Gordon Ross been able to collect after Davies had made a darting break.
Still the Exiles had the momentum and after Davies' sixth penalty of the afternoon the visitors looked the likeliest winners.
Bath responded with an easy penalty for Donald and from the restart Rokodoguni produced the decisive break.
The Fijian collected the ball and scythed through the Exiles defence before finding Agulla for the home side's bonus point try, replacement Tom Heathcote added the conversion to make it 30-18.
Welsh kept plugging away and they were rewarded when full-back Jewell crashed over from close range with just over ten minutes to go, Davies converted.
With the visitors back within a score Bath found themselves under pressure once more but Heathcote made no mistake when given a chance five minutes later to extend the lead back to eight.
And it was scrum-half Michael Claassens who touched down with the final play of the game to seal the win, Heathcote again slotting the conversion.
Tries: Banahan, Fearns, Penalty try, Agulla, Claassens
Cons: Donald, Heathcote 2
Pens: Donald, Heathcote
For London Welsh:
Pens: Davies 6
Bath: 15 Ollie Devoto, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Semesa Rokoduguni, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Mat Gilbert, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Ben Skirving, 20 Will Skuse, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Nick Abendanon.
London Welsh: 15 Seb Jewell, 14 Phil MacKenzie, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Sonny Parker, 11 Seb Stegmann, 10 Gordon Ross, 9 Alex Davies, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 Michael Hills, 6 Julio Cabello Farias, 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Jonathan Mills (captain), 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Dan George, 1 Franck Montanella.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 James Tideswell, 19 Matt Corker, 20 Adam Balding, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 James Lewis, 23 Nick Scott.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey & Peter Huckle
Worcester 18-24 Exeter
Dean Mumm's late try proved the difference as the Exeter Chiefs edged a topsy-turvy encounter at Sixways to emerge 24-18 victors against the Worcester Warriors.
The Australian international barrelled over with only three minutes remaining to put Rob Baxter's side back in front after it looked like they had thrown their lead away.
First-half tries from Luke Arscott and Gareth Steenson had put the Chiefs on course for their first back-to-back away victories in the Premiership since last April.
But the boot of Andy Goode and tries from Matt Kvesic and Josh Drauniniu brought the hosts right back into it as they moved 18-17 ahead on the hour mark.
A sterling defensive effort in the final ten minutes with Josh Matavesi in the sin bin looked like it might deny the Chiefs but eventually the pressure told and Mumm went over for the win.
The game had started at breakneck speed, as early as the second minute Goode put the Warriors in the lead with a penalty from bang in front after the Chiefs infringed at the breakdown.
But the Chiefs response was immediate, a rolling maul from a lineout ending with Luke Arscott burrowing over right under the posts, Steenson making no mistake with the extras to make it 7-3.
Moments later David Lemi looked like he had crossed for the Warriors' first try of the match, after Goode's clever dink to the corner had unlocked the Chiefs' defence.
But the referee decided Lemi had knocked on in the process of grounding the ball and instead gave Exeter the feed at the scrum.
However Jack Nowell looked to run the ball from deep and was pinged for playing on the ground leaving Goode another simple penalty for 6-7.
The frantic start to the first half showed no sign of abating and it was the visitors who struck next on 17 minutes.
Scrumhalf Haydn Thomas broke through a gap in the Warriors line before offloading to Steenson who went over under the posts, adding the conversion for 14-6.
Goode's long-range penalty drifted wide before half time as the Warriors fought to reduce the deficit but Steenson's penalty after the interval put the Chiefs well clear at 17-6.
But the Warriors much-needed response was immediate, Matavesi joining a Warriors rolling maul from a lineout and helping to push Kvesic over, Goode missing the conversion from the touchline.
The Warriors were on the up now and full-back Chris Pennell went streaking clear and it looked for a moment like he was about to put Lemi in for a try but the Chiefs' scramble defence came to their rescue.
But the Warriors pressure was continuous, Goode turning down a shot at goal to kick to the corner after his fine break had pushed them deep into Chiefs territory.
And after Baxter's side had quelled the initial thrust of the lineout Drauniniu snuck over in the corner, Goode's tricky conversion putting the hosts back in front at 18-17 on the hour.
In the closing stages the Chiefs pushed and probed in search of the decisive score and finally found it in the 77th minute as Mumm blasted over from close range after a series of pick and go drives from the Chiefs forwards.
For Worcester Warriors:
Tries: Kvesic, Drauniniu
Pens: Goode 2
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Arscott, Steenson, Mumm
Cons: Steenson 3
Worceste Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 David Lemi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Semisi Taulava, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Neil Best, 5 Chris Jones, 4 James Percival (captain), 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ed Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Ceri Jones, 18 John Andress, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Sam Betty, 21 Shaun Perry, 22 Danny Gray, 23 Jon Clarke.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter (captain), 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Carl Rimmer.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Brett Sturgess, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 James Hanks, 20 Ben White, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Sireli Naqelevuki.
Referee: David Rose
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee & Nigel Carrick.
Northampton 8-36 Leicester
Two Manu Tuilagi tries helped Leicester Tigers continue their stranglehold over Northampton Saints as they march on to a home Premiership semifinal with this convincing victory.
Heading into this clash at Franklin's Gardens Northampton might have won four consecutive in the league but were taking nothing for granted with the Tigers having tasted victory in the last six meetings.
And their trepidation was realised as Leicester proved exactly why they are the best away side in the Premiership this season.
Leading 12-3 at half-time thanks to the boot of Toby Flood, centre Tuilagi burst into action after the break to go over twice, cancelling out an effort from fly-half Stephen Myler in reply for the hosts.
And wing Niall Morris and Mathew Tait both went over with ten minutes remaining to add some gloss to the scoreline for the travelling Tigers fans as Leicester wrapped up what could be a crucial bonus point as they look to secure a home semifinal.
Both sides, along with London Wasps, have scored the most tries in the Premiership this season, 40, but spent the first few minutes feeling each other out.
But after ten minutes Flood sent a penalty through the posts to get Leicester on the scoreboard.
Northampton looked for a quick response and it was led by Courtney Lawes, the giant lock charging down a Ben Youngs kick which led to a penalty that Myler duly converted to level the scores.
But back came Leicester and by the half hour two more Flood penalty kicks had given the Tigers a six-point lead.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts too on 36 minutes as Lawes was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on, Flood sending over another penalty to stretch Leicester's lead to 12-3 at half-time.
With Lawes still in the bin to start the second half Northampton were a man light at the restart and their visitors made them pay as just two minutes in Tuilagi crashed over in the left corner for his first Premiership try since September.
This sparked Northampton into life and after Morris was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock on they got back into the game as Myler made the most of a Ben Foden break to touch down his first Premiership try of the season, although the fly-half missed the conversion.
However this was as good as it got for the Saints as despite still being a man light with Morris in the bin Tuilagi grabbed his and Leicester's second try of the game, brushing off some Northampton defenders before crashing over.
Flood converted and in the final ten minutes Tuilagi was joined on the scoresheet by Morris before a brilliant break from Tom Croft had Tait crossing the whitewash to wrap up the bonus point and a convincing win for the Tigers.
For Northampton Saints:
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Tuilagi 2, Morris, Tait
Cons: Flood 2
Pens: Flood 4
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 James Wilson, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom May, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Christian Day, 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 GJ van Velze, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Luther Burrell.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Graham Kitchener, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Robin Goodliffe & Roy Maybank.
TMO: David Grashoff.
London Wasps 13-22 Saracens
Chris Ashton's fourth try of the season edged Saracens one step closer to a home Premiership semifinal as they beat London Wasps at Adams Park to cement their place at the top of the table.
Sarries were forced to come from behind to after Christian Wade's interception try had given Wasps a first half lead but Ashton and Chris Wyles crossed the whitewash to turn the game around.
Mark McCall's side can now secure a home tie in the Premiership semifinals with a bonus-point victory in the next round after Harlequins and Northampton lost their respective matches, though Leicester's victory over the latter saw the gap at the top closed to four points.
Sarries started with pace, attacking the Wasps line well but their early efforts ended with a dropped ball just outside the hosts 22.
Wasps' first points came after the pack gave the Saracens scrum real problems on half-way, winning a penalty which Elliot Daly slotted to make it 3-0 after eight minutes.
Sarries came back looking to move the ball, but Wasps flyer Wade read Charlie Hodgson's pass to intercept and sprint in from 50 metres. His tenth try of the season was converted by Stephen Jones to make it 10-0.
A late tackle on Jones enabled Daly to extend the home side's lead to 13-0 before Saracens struck back with an opportunistic score.
Alex Goode caught the Wasps defence napping with a tap penalty and attacked the left wing, creating a two on one which Chris Wyles finished to bring the score to 13-5.
Sarries had their tails up and after a series of messy scrums earned Owen Farrell a shot at goal, but the England fly-half - playing at centre - was unsuccessful.
Farrell found his kicking boots with 13 minutes of the half left, knocking over a 38metre penalty to cut the gap to 13-8.
Sarries prop Mako Vunipola nearly scored five minutes before half-time, but after crashing through from a few metres out he was thwarted by a tackle from brother Billy and Joe Launchbury.
Mouritz Botha saw yellow right before the break for deliberately knocking the ball to the ground.
Wasps took control in the early stages of the second-half with Botha off the field, spraying the ball across the field, but they failed to find a gap in the Sarries defence.
Momentum began to swing Saracens way and Farrell cut the gap to 13-11 with a penalty before Ashton bagged his try.
Goode nudged a grubber kick down the right wing and Ashton gathered to score before Farrell failed to convert but he slotted another penalty to extend the lead to 13-19.
Rhys Gill nearly scored for Saracens four minutes from time but knocked the ball on five metres from Wasps try line before one final penalty from Farrell made the points safe and condemned Wasps to a fourth consecutive Premiership defeat.
For London Wasps:
Pens: Daly 2
Tries: Wyles, Ashton
Pens: Farrell 4
London Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Marco Wentzel (captain), 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Zak Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Tim Payne, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Jonathan Poff, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Nick Robinson, 23 Hugo Southwell.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 John Smit, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jacques Burger, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 David Strettle.
Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce & Ashley Rowden.