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Sarries, Tigers book home semis

Sat, 04 May 2013 21:08
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We look at all the Round 22 action
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Table-topping Saracens and second-placed Leicester Tigers secured home ground advantage in the Premiership semifinals.

Tigers will host defending champions Harlequins at Welford Road next Saturday, while Sarries will be at home to Northampton Saints, at Allianz Park, a day later.

Saracens' England internationals dazzled as Mark McCall's side rubber-stamped their place at the top of the Premiership table with a 23-14 victory over Bath.

Leicester Tigers bounced back in style from defeat to Bath last time out to see off London Irish 32-20 in an entertaining encounter to secure a home Premiership semifinal.

Harlequins remained on course to retain their Premiership crown after they set-up a play-off semifinal with the Tigers - following an all-star show from England scrumhalf Danny Care set up a 22-19 victory over Northampton Saints.

* Meanwhile Exeter Chiefs ended their Premiership campaign on a high and secured their place in next season's Heineken Cup in the process with a nailbiting 40-39 victory over Gloucester at Sandy Park.

* Nick Macleod's late penalty ensured Sale Sharks finished their troublesome Premiership campaign with a flourish, as they beat London Wasps 21-20 at Salford City Stadium.

* London Welsh ended their Premiership campaign on a high with a 33-22 bonus point victory over Worcester Warriors at the Kassam Stadium.

We look at all the Round 22 action!

Sale 21-20 Wasps

Nick Macleod's late penalty ensured Sale Sharks finished their troublesome Premiership campaign with a flourish, as they beat London Wasps 21-20 at Salford City Stadium.

The Sharks took a first-half lead through tries from Tom Brady and New Zealander Dan Braid, either side of Christian Wade's score.

The away side hit back in the second-half, as Wade's try made him joint Premiership top scorer with fellow Wasps winger Tom Varndell, but Macleod's third successful penalty clinched the win.

Sale broke the deadlock in the seventh minute, as Dwayne Peel found space to switch play to the left flank for Brady to finish in the corner, but Macleod's conversion attempt hit the bar.

Wasps had the opportunity to pin the Sharks back in the 16th minute, but former Sale man Tommy Bell's penalty attempt drifted wide.

But the visitors got off the mark when Joe Simpson broke away sharply after a tap-penalty and offloaded to flying winger Wade to dive over in the 18th minute, with Bell converting.

Sale reclaimed the lead minutes later, as flanker Braid picked up the ball from a maul that had collapsed five metres short of the line, to dive under the posts, with Macleod converting.

The Sharks almost strengthened their lead in the 35th minute, but fly-half Macleod's long-range penalty cruelly cannoned back off the left-hand post.

The home side were looking to finish the first period with a flourish, opting to kick penalties to touch, but prop Henry Thomas was stopped just short of the line on the stroke of half-time.

Brady - who signed a new deal with Sale this week - broke away sharply at the start of the second half, but the winger was hauled down by Simpson 15 metres short.

And minutes later hooker Marc Jones knocked-on the pass from captain Dave Seymour, when Sale had numbers on the left-hand side.

The Sharks continued to put pressure on the Wasps defence, and almost increased their lead in the 52nd minute, but scrum-half Peel's pass was fumbled by winger Will Addison.

Sale were rewarded for their endeavour minutes later, as Macleod slotted home a close-range penalty to put the Sharks eight points ahead.

But Wasps hit back from the re-start, with captain Hugo Southwell launching a counter-attack which was finished by Wade, with Bell adding the conversion.

And the visitors took the lead for the first time in the afternoon with 20 minutes remaining, as Bell converted a penalty from the left-hand side.

Wasps were reduced to 14 men in the 66th minute when substitute Lorenzo Romano was penalised for an infringement at the ruck, and Macleod slotted home the resulting penalty.

Bell converted a routine penalty with ten minutes remaining, to make amends for a missed attempt minutes earlier, before Macleod responded with his own in the 76th minute.

The scorers:

For Sale Sharks:
Tries:
Brady, Braid
Con: Macleod
Pens: Macleod 3

For London Wasps:
Tries:
Wade 2
Cons: T Bell 2
Pens: T Bell 2

Yellow card: Lorenzo Romano (London Wasps, 65)

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Mark Cueto, 14 Will Addison, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Tom Brady, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 James Gaskell, 7 David Seymour (captain), 6 Dan Braid, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Kearnan Myall, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Tom Holmes, 20 Andy Powell, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Sam James, 23 Charlie Amesbury.

London Wasps: 15 Hugo Southwell (captain), 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Zak Taulafo, 18 Lorenzo Romano, 19 James Cannon, 20 Jonathan Poff, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Charlie Hayter, 23 Jack Wallace.

Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden & Gordon Goodliffe.

London Welsh 33-22 Worcester Warriors

London Welsh ended their Premiership campaign on a high with a 33-22 bonus point victory over Worcester Warriors at the Kassam Stadium.

Dan Caprice sent Welsh on their way with the opening try before he was followed over the whitewash by Alfie To'oala as the home side led 17-3 at the break.

The game looked as good as won when Tom Arscott and Nick Scott went over inside the first 15 minutes of the second-half only for a Josh Drauniniu double to drag Worcester back into the contest.

But while replacement Jake Abbott grabbed a try with the last act of the game it was too little, too late to deny Welsh a final victory.

Welsh went into their final home game of the season on the back of horrible run of defeats but they got off to the perfect start with two converted tries inside the first ten minutes.

Winger Caprice burst through the Warriors defence on four minutes and it got worse for Worcester when Neil Best was sin-binned just before To'oala added another try for the home side.

The visitors' hopes were raised when Welsh's Daniel Browne followed Best into the sin bin. The Warriors began pushing forward and thought they'd scored a try of their own, but the referee adjudged that the ball was held up.

Captain Gordon Ross was in fine kicking form, coolly converting a penalty to extend Welsh's lead to 17-0.

But Ross, along with Kirill Kulemin were both yellow carded, giving the Warriors a numerical advantage going into the break. But a solitary penalty by Andy Goode, in his last game for the club, was all they had to show for their endeavours as they trailed 17-3 going into the break.

The home side continued to dominate proceedings and started the second half strongest and were rewarded with another try.

Worcester struggled to deal with a strong surge by the Welsh forwards, culminating in an easy try for full-back Arscott on 45 minutes.

Ross added another penalty before Scott scored a magnificent solo try to earn Welsh the bonus point, the winger storming down the by line, beating several Worcester tackles.

Winger Drauniniu then scored two converted tries in quick succession to bring Worcester right back into the match.

He intercepted a Welsh pass for the first try before using his pace to sprint through the Welsh defence, beating the tackle of Arscott, for the second.

But Worcester's hopes of a comeback were dented by Chris Jones' 71st minute yellow card, the fifth of the match.

Ross scored his third penalty of the match before replacement Abbott scored a late try for the visitors but it wasn't enough to deny Welsh.

The scorers:

For London Welsh:
Tries:
Caprice, To'oala Vaeluaga, Arscott, Scott
Cons: Ross 2
Pens: Ross 3

For Worcester Warriors:
Tries:
Drauniniu 2, Abbott
Cons: Goode 2
Pen: Goode

Yellow cards: Neil Best (Worcester Warriors, 7), Daniel Browne (London Welsh, 15), Kirill Koulemine (London Welsh, 32), Gordon Ross (London Welsh, 40), Chris Jones (Worcester Warriors, 71)

The teams:

London Welsh: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Dan Caprice, 13 Seb Stegmann, 12 James Lewis, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Gordon Ross (captain), 9 Rob Lewis, 8 Alfie To'oala, 7 Lee Beach, 6 Daniel Browne, 5 Matt Corker, 4 Kirill Kulemin, 3 Arthur Joly, 2 Greg Bateman, 1 Tom Bristow.
Replacements: 16 Dan George, 17 James Tideswell, 18 Billy Moss, 19 Adam Brown, 20 Julio Cabello Farias, 21 Mike Denbee, 22 Alex Davies, 23 Joe Ajuwa.

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Andy Short, 12 Alex Grove, 11 Ben Howard, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Richard de Carpentier, 7 Sam Betty, 6 Neil Best, 5 Chris Jones, 4 James Percival (captain), 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ed Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Rob O'Donnell, 18 John Andress, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Jake Abbott, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Danny Gray, 23 Max Stelling.

Referee: Mathew Carley
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Stuart Terheege.

Harlequins 22-19 Northampton Saints

Harlequins are still on course to retain their Premiership crown after they set-up a play-off semifinal with Leicester Tigers at Welford Road next week after an all-star show from England scrumhalf Danny Care set up a 22-19 victory over Northampton Saints.

The No.9 was at the heart of everything good about Conor O'Shea's men in defence and attack as Care seemed like a man with a point to prove following his exclusion from the Lions squad bound for Australia this summer.

Quins' win against fourth-place Northampton means they finish the regular season in third position and with the opportunity to add to their LV= Cup crown secured in March later this month.

The Saints had won five of their last six Premiership fixtures heading to the Stoop but the control offered by Care and New Zealander Nick Evans behind the scrum for Harlequins was eventually telling.

Evans put Quins ahead after 11 minutes as the Kiwi picked himself up from an earlier hit by Northampton's Luther Burrell to knock over a penalty.

Ten minutes later Quins got lucky as England full-back Ben Foden misjudged a kick through from Care and Tom Williams was the lucky recipient as he gathered the ball to touchdown - Evans added the extras.

Falling 10-0 behind seemed to spring Northampton into life but they were first frustrated as a George Pisi score, following excellent work by Courtney Lawes at the lineout, was chalked off for obstructing earlier in the move.

But on 28 minutes Northampton did get on the scoreboard as Foden redeemed his earlier error by chipping through for Saints' flyer Jamie Elliott to gather the ball and race down the touchline to score but Stephen Myler couldn't add the extras.

And Northampton had the opportunity to move within two points of Quins with five minutes of the first half remaining but Myler again missed his effort at goal.

Harlequins regrouped at the break and came out after the interval like an express train - hooker Rob Buchanan showed tremendous strength to burrow his way to the try-line for his second ever Premiership try - with Evans again adding the extras.

Jim Mallinder's Northampton Saints were punished for not taking the restart correctly as Harlequins came out all guns blazing.

Quins should have been further in front minutes later but the ever-reliable boot of Evans let the home side down as the former All Black sent his penalty attempt wide of the posts.

But Care got Quins moving in the right direction again, exploding off the base of a ruck to get the home side going forward, the ball was recycled and moved out wide where centre Tom Casson gathered the ball out of the hands of club-mate Tom Williams and touched down for a score.

The try should have effectively killed the game but Evans was unable to add the extras, leaving Harlequins 22-5 ahead with just under 30 minutes to play.

Northampton refused to lie down though and picked up a lifeline with 16 minutes of the second-half gone as Australia-bound Lion Dylan Hartley emerged from the bottom of a ruck with ball in hand after a powerful Saints drive following a Quins penalty.

Harlequin Nick Easter was saved a trip to the sin-bin for coming in at the side twice during the catch and drive as Northampton managed to get the ball down for a Hartley score - Myler this time added the extras.

And just four minutes later Care was this time the saviour for Quins, collecting the ball over his own try-line to prevent Elliott scoring his second try of the game.

The pressure continued from Northampton though and with 61 minutes of the game gone, Christian Day collected the ball out wide, following quick hands from fly-half Myler, to bring the Saints back to within a score of Quins.

Myler again added the extras with the conversion as Northampton Saints stormed back to within three points of the home side.

14 unanswered points from Northampton seemed to rock Quins and the home side looked to extend their advantage as replacement Ben Botica attempted a long range penalty but his effort drifted wide of the posts.

After 69 minutes Quins wasted a glorious two-on-one opportunity as Ugo Monye slipped with just one man to beat following a fine give and go by England full-back Mike Brown.

From the resulting line-out, a fumble in midfield with a huge overlap available, compounded a horrible passage of play for Harlequins.

Quins played territory rugby for the final ten minutes and saw the game out as they went through the phases and ran the clock down.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Tries:
Williams, Buchanan, Casson
Cons: Evans 2
Pen: Evans

For Northampton Saints:
Tries:
Elliott, Hartley, Day
Cons: Myler 2

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ross Chisholm.

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 GJ Van Velze, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 James Wilson.

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce & Gareth Copsey.
TMO: David Grashoff.

Exeter Chiefs 40-39 Gloucester

Exeter Chiefs ended their Premiership campaign on a high and secured their place in next season's Heineken Cup in the process with a nailbiting 40-39 victory over Gloucester at Sandy Park.

Both sides accepted the invitation to cut loose on firm ground with six tries in the first half alone, and eight in total.

But Exeter got their noses back in front in the dying moments with a Gareth Steenson penalty to claim sixth place in the table against their West Country opponents, who already had fifth in the bag and nothing riding on victory.

Richard Baxter led out Exeter on what was his 431st and final appearance for the Chiefs, and the home side were quickly into their stride.

Fly-half Steenson found a touch deep in the Gloucester 22 that Sione Kalamafoni claimed from the lineout only for Exeter to win the ball back, with the ball spun wide to Phil Dollman who offloaded to Aussie Dean Mumm to cross for the game's opening try.

Steenson slotted a tricky conversion and shortly after it was 10-0 as opposite number Freddie Burns was pinged for not rolling away from the tackle and Steenson added a penalty.

With Gloucester struggling to sort out their defensive line in midfield Exeter extended their advantage after a series of raids down the right flank.

Lock Dean Welch was awarded the Chiefs' second try of the afternoon after a long deliberation from the television match official, although Steenson was wayward with the extras and it remained 15-0.

Peter Buxton replaced Kalamafoni for Gloucester after the forward failed to recover from an early knock, with Buxton making the 274th and final appearance of an 11-year career with the Cherry & Whites.

Another Steenson penalty in front of the posts put Exeter in clear control with an 18-0 lead, but Gloucester nerves were settled on 21 minutes when Burns replied with a penalty of his own to get them on the score board.

And the England fly-half showed all his skills to accelerate into space before flinging the ball to scrum-half Dan Robson who ran half the length of the pitch before drawing the tackle and finding Jonny May who romped home for Gloucester's first try. Burns pushed the conversion across the posts, but Exeter's lead was reduced to ten points.

The comeback was nearly complete when centre Henry Trinder snaffled ball at the breakdown and found Burns who danced past his man and passed inside to Lua Lokotui, who in turn found the rampaging Charlie Sharples in space on his shoulder to race home unhindered. Burns added the extras and the gap was suddenly only three points.

And the visitors took the lead for the first time seven minutes before the interval when Trinder intercepted the ball and ran the length of the field to show off his own turn of speed, cruising in under the posts.

The conversion made it 22-18 to Gloucester, a score that looked impossible after the first 18 minutes, but they couldn't hold the lead until half-time as Exeter battled back.

A series of scrums deep in the Gloucester 22 ended with referee Greg Garner awarding the Chiefs a penalty try that Steenson converted.

Leading 25-22 at the interval, Steenson increased the lead to six points with a penalty seconds after the restart.

Two further penalties from Steenson on 51 and 56 minutes appeared to put Exeter in control heading into the final quarter of the match as Gloucester continued to struggle at the set-piece.

But their work in open play, centred around the mercurial Burns, continued to spark with the fly-half spotting a gap and sidestepping his man before sending full-back Rob Cook over in the corner for a well-worked try. The conversion and then an immediate Burns penalty made it a two-point game once again with everything still to play for.

The irrepressible Steenson refused to buckle adding another penalty before Burns brought Gloucester level with a try of his own.

The Cherry & Whites kicked a series of penalties to the corner and the pressure eventually told, Twelvetrees sending Burns over in the corner. His conversion struck the post and bounced over to give Gloucester a two-point lead with seven minutes to play.

With time ticking away Exeter were awarded a penalty 40 metres out for a deliberate Cook knock-on but Steenson couldn't land it and their battle looked over. But Twelvetrees failed to find touch with his hurried clearance and it went straight back to Steenson in space.

The fly-half headed for the posts and a series of pick-and-drives ended with another penalty for the home side, which Steenson slotted under pressure to give Exeter the lead once more.

And they held out despite a late Burns drop goal attempt to secure sixth spot and Heineken Cup rugby for the second season in a row.

The scorers:

For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries:
Mumm, Welch, Penalty try
Cons: Steenson 2
Pens: Steenson 7

For Gloucester:
Tries:
May, Sharples, Trinder, Cook, Burns
Cons: Burns 4
Pens: Burns 2

The teams:

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 Ben White, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Ian Whitten.

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Lua Lokotui, 4 Tom Savage (captain), 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Koree Britton, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Yann Thomas, 19 Peter Buxton, 20 Andy Hazell, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Shane Monahan.

Saracens 23-14 Bath

Saracens' England internationals dazzled as Mark McCall's side rubber-stamped their place at the top of the Premiership table with a 23-14 victory over Bath.

Chris Ashton, Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell all scored tries as Bath saw their hopes of a top-six finish evaporate at Allianz Park.

Rob Webber and Horacio Agulla scored for Bath either side of half-time as the visitors threatened a comeback but Farrell's kicking eventually put the game to bed to ensure Saracens will host Northampton Saints in next weekend's semifinal.

Bath began on the front foot and won a penalty on five minutes which was sent wide by fly-half Tom Heathcote, a late replacement in the No.10 jersey for Stephen Donald.

Bath could not build on it however and soon after the was Saracens' chance to turn the screw as fly-half Charlie Hodgson shunned a kick and goal following a penalty against Bath's Simon Taylor, instead going for the corner.

And after some concerted pressure in the Bath 22, Sarries drew first blood through wing Ashton.

Second row Alistair Hargreaves claimed the lineout on the edge of the 22 and hooker Schalk Brits trucked the ball up at the back of the maul to the try-line before the ball was spun wide to Ashton, who scored a simple try in the right corner.

Owen Farrell, playing at inside centre in the absence of Brad Barritt, missed the conversion but Sarries' pressure continued and they soon extended their lead.

On 19 minutes, with the try-line beckoning, Bath flanker Guy Mercer was sent to the bin for deliberately killing the ball in front of his own posts, handing Farrell the simplest of penalties.

He duly accepted and four minutes later it was his fellow British & Lion Mako Vunipola who showed his burgeoning talents, finishing with a winger's instinct in the left-hand corner.

He spun past two tackles to ground the ball and was awarded the score after referee Martin Fox had consulted the TMO.

Farrell again missed the conversion, this time from the opposite corner but Vunipola again displayed just why he is so highly valued, popping up on the right.

Again from a lineout, Neil de Kock made a dart into 22 and fed Vunipola but his brilliant one-hand offload to Ashton, who touched down, was ruled forward.

Bath then came back into the match with the help Farrell's sin binning for a stiff arm tackle on Heathcote and on 36 minutes their pressure was rewarded.

They made some decent inroads into the Sarries 22 and having won a penalty for offside they kicked for the corner, won the lineout and used the driving maul to put Webber over. Heathcote converted to make the half-time score 13-7.

Soon after the break Farrell made up for his earlier indiscretion however, dotting down after another smart break from de Kock, punishing Bath who missed a penalty from Heathcote.

Farrell converted from in front of the posts but Bath hit back on 51 minutes when scrum-half Michael Claassens fired a perfect flat ball for Agulla to hit the line at speed and go through Joel Tomkins and over. Heathcote converted to make the score 20-14.

Bath almost got another when Tom Biggs beat David Strettle to the loose ball after a foot race but he knocked on.

And on 68 minutes, when Farrell kicked a penalty, awarded at the scrum, there was no way back for Bath as Sarries topped the Premiership table for the first time in their history.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries:
Ashton, Vunipola, Farrell
Con: Farrell
Pens: Farrell 2

For Bath:
Tries:
Webber, Agulla
Cons: Heathcote 2

Yellow cards: Guy Mercer (Bath, 17), Owen Farrell (Saracens, 26),

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 George Kruis, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Joe Maddock.

Bath: 15 Ollie Devoto, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Ben Williams, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Semesa Rokoduguni, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw (captain), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Nick Koster, 22 Peter Stringer, 23 Tom Biggs.

Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick & Roy Maybank.
TMO: Graham Hughes

Leicester Tigers 32-20 London Welsh

Leicester Tigers bounced back in style from defeat to Bath last time out to see off London Irish 32-20 in an entertaining encounter to secure a home Premiership semifinal.

Two tries in the space of three first-half minutes gave the Tigers the initiative at the break, but despite Mathew Tait's score early in the second half, the Exiles stayed in contention until the hour-mark.

Vereniki Goneva's bonus-point try on 60 minutes appeared to finally kill off the Irish charge, with Toby Flood scoring Leicester's fifth, although Topsy Ojo and Marland Yarde went over late on.

Irish made the quicker start with an early penalty from Ian Humphreys as Leicester were penalised but the Tigers responded immediately with three points from the boot of Flood to make it 3-3 after five minutes.

Up against an Irish team who have picked up fewer points on their travels than any other Premiership side, Leicester seized control after 13 minutes as Tom Croft took advantage of some great handling to score the first try.

Croft, named on Tuesday as part of Warren Gatland's British & Irish Lions squad to tour Australia, was the beneficiary of some great work between forwards and backs by the Tigers, diving over in the corner.

The flanker is one of six Tigers in Gatland's squad and it was another of the Lions contingent, scrum-half Ben Youngs, who grabbed the next try, showing all his sniping talents as he darted over, Flood missed both conversions as the hosts led 13-3 at the break.

Tait replaced Anthony Allen at half-time to form a centre partnership with Manu Tuilagi, and it was after some good work between Tuilagi and Flood that Tait was released for the home side's third try.

Flood's conversion gave Leicester a 17-point lead but Irish hit back with some good work from their pack, and eventually it was Alex Corbisiero, in his final appearance for the Exiles before a summer move to Northampton Saints, who emerged as the try-scorer. Humphreys converted to make it 20-10.

On the hour Fijian winger Goneva's score sealed the bonus point for the home side and all-but sealed the win, and that was followed six minutes later by a fine individual try from Flood.

The England fly-half shimmied his way through the Irish defence, going left then right before diving over, and he converted to make it 32-10 to Tigers.

London Irish replied though, finishing their season on a high as Ojo was on the end of a clever cross-kick to dot down, although Shane Geraghty missed the conversion.

And as the Tigers let up there was time for Yarde to score a final individual effort, showing his pace and elusiveness to go over in the corner for the visitors' third try.

The scorers:

For Leicester Tigers:
Tries:
Croft, B Youngs, Tait, Goneva, Flood
Cons: Flood 2
Pen: Flood

For London Irish:
Tries:
Corbisiero, Ojo, Yarde
Con: Humphreys
Pen: Humphreys

The teams:

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy (captain), 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Fraser Balmain, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Mathew Tait.

London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Guy Armitage, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 George Skivington (captain), 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Kieran Low, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Declan Danaher, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Jack Moates.

Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Kevin Stewart & Andrew Watson

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