Bath hold off tenacious Tigers
Bath sent a message to the rest of the Premiership when they toppled the defending champions Leicester Tigers 27-20 at the Rec on Saturday.
Bath sent a message to the rest of the Premiership when they toppled the defending champions Leicester Tigers 27-20 at the Rec on Saturday.
Leading 21-3, Bath survived a spirited second-half fightback from Leicester, flyhalf George Ford impressing with a 17-point haul against his former club.
Earlier in the day, Exeter Chiefs edged London Wasps 30-26 at Sandy Park and London Irish snatched a late 20-18 win over Worcester Warriors at Sixways.
We look at all Saturday's matches!
Bath 27-20 Leicester Tigers
Bath made it a 100th anniversary to remember as they held off defending Premiership champions Leicester Tigers to claim a dramatic win at the Rec.
The two sides first met exactly a century ago at Welford Road, the Tigers running out 19-5 victors on that occasion, but first-half tries from Jonathan Joseph and Matt Banahan meant it was Bath who had enough to emerge 27-20 victors.
Both Logovi'i Mulipola and Tom Youngs were sent to the sin bin for the visitors in the first half and Bath, prompted by Tigers old boy George Ford, who finished with 17 points, took full advantage.
Trailing 3-21 at the break, the Tigers came roaring back as Steve Mafi, Ed Slater and Vereniki Goneva all went over but the hosts held on for a second win on the spin that serves notice of their top-four ambitions.
Leicester were looking to begin the season with back-to-back wins for the first time in five years and David Mele, who took over the kicking duties from Ryan Lamb who was wayward last weekend against Worcester Warriors, slotted the first penalty of the game.
Ford responded in kind with a simple penalty in the 14th minute, the first of what Bath fans will be hoping are many at the Rec for the 20-year-old.
Moments later, Banahan denied Scott Hamilton a try with a crucial tackle and no sooner had they weathered the storm than Joseph was streaking clear for the first try of his Bath career.
The former London Irish centre intercepted a loose pass from Lamb inside his own half, had too much pace for the scrambling defence and coasted clear for the simplest of tries, Ford adding the extras and the hosts were 10-3 to the good.
The visitors were clearly struggling with their discipline, Mele angering referee Greg Garner repeatedly at scrum time before Mulipola made their job even harder, the prop sent to the sin bin in the 26th minute for a shoulder charge on Dave Attwood.
Ford added a penalty on the half hour but it was the Tigers who came close to the next try of the game.
Adam Thompstone collected a loose kick from Ford and streaked clear down the right but the 20-year-old flyhalf made up for his error by holding up the wing over the try-line.
Tigers were holding on for the return of Mulipola but before they were back to their full complement, the visitors had a second front row in the form of Youngs sent to the sin bin for collapsing an attacking Bath maul.
Ford slotted the subsequent penalty for 16-3 but the Tigers looked to have survived the intervening two minutes when they were down to 13 men, indeed they almost scored a try of their own.
Mulipola was due to come back onto the pitch but in a breathless passage of play he could only look on as the 13 men of Tigers pressed deep into the opposition 22.
The ball did not go dead however and after Bath eventually forced the turnover, they went up the other end and landed the sucker-punch.
Semesa Rokoduguni made the initial break and when Gavin Henson's perfect pass released Banahan down the left, Tigers were too stretched and the England international powered over for Bath's second try.
Ford could not add the extras from the touchline but the half-time whistle went with the hosts 21-3 ahead.
The Tigers needed an early response in the second half and no sooner were both Youngs and Mulipola back on the field than they got their first try, Mafi going over in the corner after a neat offload from Thompstone for 21-8.
Mele could not add the conversion but it was the Tigers in the ascendancy now and Hamilton 's swerving break nearly yielded another try straight after that.
But the wing was dragged down and subsequently injured, another name on the already lengthy Tigers casualty list.
A sickening clash of heads between Niall Morris and Ford then delayed the game although both players managed to continue and it was still the Tigers who had the impetus.
Slater barged over on the hour mark and when Mele eventually found his range from the tee to convert from the left touchline, it was suddenly only 21-15.
A Ford penalty with less than a quarter of an hour to go settled Bath's nerves and restored a nine-point cushion.
But the drama was far from over and Goneva dived over for his second try in as many games after another fine Thompstone offload, Mele this time unable to convert, and it was 24-20.
Mele's inconsistency from the tee continued and his penalty attempt from halfway with nine minutes left was nowhere near.
Bath replacement hooker Ross Batty then needed a lengthy bit of treatment before being stretchered off but Ford missed the chance to ice the win when he pulled a 75th minute penalty wide.
It mattered not though and Ford slotted his fifth penalty as time expired from right in front as Bath held on to claim a victory that sounds a warning shot to the rest of the Premiership.
Tries: Joseph, Banahan
Pens: Ford 5
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Mafi, Slater, Goneva
Yellow cards: Logovi’i Mulipola (Leicester Tigers, 26), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 33)
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Alafoti Fa'osiliva, 21 Micky Young, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Tom Biggs.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Niall Morris, 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Anthony Allen (captain), 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Dave Mélé, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Jamie Gibson, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Dan Bowden.
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton and Ashley Rowden
TMO: Graham Hughes
Exeter Chiefs 30-26 London Wasps
Welsh international wing Tom James got his Exeter Chiefs career up and running with two barnstorming tries in the 30-26 victory over London Wasps at Sandy Park.
The 26-year-old, who joined from the Cardiff Blues, showed his blistering pace with a pair of fine individual efforts either side of half-time on his home debut.
Andy Goode kept Wasps in the hunt with the boot but it looked all over for the London outfit after James' brace and a further score from James Scaysbrook.
But in the last 10 minutes, Christian Wade sliced through the Exeter defence and Ashley Johnson - who saw yellow in the first half - touched down to make the final seconds nervy for the home side.
Wasps started the game well, a penalty against Scaysbrook at the breakdown giving Goode his first shot at goal and he bisected the posts.
Wasps continue to pressure the home side and Exeter were again penalised for collapsing a maul, giving Goode his second three-pointer, which he slotted inside the right-hand upright to make it 6-0.
Exeter woke up and No.8 Dave Ewers led an attack into the Wasps 22 that Tom Johnson took up, but they were grateful for Wasps not rolling away as the attack began to falter. That gave Irishman Gareth Steenson his first penalty attempt and he reduced the deficit with ease.
Stringing together their first real period of possession, a quick throw-in from Phil Dolman caught Wasps napping and the ball was taken deep into the Wasps 22, with Ewers held up over the line.
The ball was recycled along the line to James and with men on the outside, the Welshman threw a clever dummy and ran in for his first try for Exeter. Steenson added the extras with aplomb to make it 10-6 with 17 minutes to the interval.
Wasps almost struck straight back as Exeter skipper Dean Mumm was penalised for a high tackle on Andrea Masi but Goode's penalty effort from 49 metres missed the posts.
But the former England man was successful shortly after as the Chiefs gave away another penalty for collapsing the scrum and the gap returned to a single point.
A wonderful restart from Steenson was gathered by Ian Whitten as Exeter surged forward to win another penalty, Steenson converting from 25 metres.
Johnson earned himself a spell in the sin bin shortly before the break when his clothesline tackle on Haydn Thomas floored the scrumhalf.
It was an easy three points for Steenson as Exeter opened up a seven-point gap on the visitors, but Wasps attacked with gusto as the clock ticked down to half-time with Exeter defending desperately on their own try-line.
Exeter eventually gave away a penalty for entering from the side and Goode kept Wasps in the hunt with his fifth penalty of the afternoon.
After the restart, play swung from end to end before Exeter took the game by the scruff of the neck. First Dolman sent a grubber kick through for James with Wade getting there quickly only to spill the ball and allow Scaysbrook to dot down, Steenson adding the extras.
Masi then prevented another Exeter score with a magnificent try-saving tackle on Thomas, but shortly after, the ball was flung wide to James who beat his marker and streaked away from the defence to run in from 50 metres.
Steenson's conversion seemed to put the game to bed, but with 11 minutes remaining Wade slipped through a gap between Steenson and Tom Johnson to score with Goode converting.
And with Wasps knocking on the door and Exeter defending desperately, Johnson was bundled over with two minutes to go, Goode's conversion making it a four-point game.
However, Exeter had done enough to hold on with Wasps seemingly satisfied to leave Sandy Park with a bonus point.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: James 2, Scaysbrook
Cons: Steenson 3
Pens: Steenson 3
For London Wasps:
Tries: Wade, Johnson
Cons: Goode 2
Pens: Goode 4
Yellow card: Ashley Johnson (London Wasps, 33)
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Sam Hill, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Tom Hayes, 20 Ben White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Matt Jess.
London Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Chris Bell (captain), 12 Charlie Hayter, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Ed Jackson, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Will Taylor, 19 James Cannon, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Ben Jacobs.
Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff and Peter Huckle
TMO: Geoff Warren
Worcester Warriors 18-20 London Irish
Ian Humphreys was the star of the show, holding his nerve to slot a late penalty as London Irish ended a disastrous sequence of results on the road by winning at Worcester.
Brian Smith's men won just once on the road all last season in the Premiership but at the first time of asking this season, the Exiles won a titanic encounter 20-18 at Sixways.
Despite 13 points from the boot of Ignacio Mieres, Worcester effectively shot themselves in the foot as ill-discipline late in the game handed London Irish the unlikeliest of wins.
London Irish, who have won just one of their last five Premiership matches, got off to the worst possible start as Mieres scored a fourth-minute penalty.
In a game littered with first-half penalties, referee Tim Wigglesworth was perhaps a little too prominent as the game struggled to get going, the official's whistle dominating the first 40 minutes.
Humphreys dragged London Irish level on 13 minutes with a penalty but the Exiles, who stumbled to a 20-42 loss on the opening day of the season against Saracens at Twickenham, struggled to get their flair backs - most notably Marland Yarde and Topsy Ojo - going forward.
Three minutes later, Worcester got a foothold in the game as flying wing David Lemi touched down, with Mieres adding the extras - the score put the Warriors 10-3 ahead and firmly in ontrol.
Inside the first 20 minutes, both sides gave away five penalties a piece but it was Worcester ill-discipline on 22 minutes that gave Humphreys a second shot at goal - this time the Irishman missed his shot.
In a game delayed by 10 minutes due to Worcester ground staff struggling to clear fireworks from the Sixways pitch - it was referee Wigglesworth who was again back to the fore as Chris Hala'ufia was yellow carded for the Exiles.
Worcester failed to take advantage of their numerical advantage, not adding a single score to their tally in the absence of the Irish flank but the return of Hala'ufia prompted an Exiles fightback.
England hopeful Yarde scored a try out of nothing as the half drew to a close - Humphreys added the extras - but it was the celebration after the score that was perhaps the most controversial moment of the half.
Yarde appeared to throw a punch after a Worcester player fell awkwardly on him, prompting multiple players from both sides to get involved in an ugly altercation as the game finished 10-10 at the break.
Yarde, who scored seven tries for the Exiles last season and two for England on his debut against Argentina, started where he had finished off in the first half as he touched down for his second score of the afternoon after just six minutes.
The flyer wing raced in from 30 yards, evading the attentions of Worcester last-man Chris Pennell to score and hand Humphreys an easy opportunity to add another two points for the visitors.
Worcester got more and more desperate as the second half wore on; needlessly trying to keep the ball alive at times in the wrong areas of the pitch.
On 59 minutes, Mieres dragged Worcester back to within four minutes with a penalty, while eight minutes later he missed with another shot at goal.
Out of nothing, Worcester got their noses in front as after a sustained spell of pressure, Mieres scuttled over the line for a score but he couldn't add the extras.
His try and missed kick at goal was Mieres' last action of the half as he was replaced 10 minutes from time by Danny Gray.
Four minutes from time, London Irish found themselves back in front as Humphreys held his nerve to slot over a penalty - Worcester again showing their ill-discipline at the breakdown.
Worcester thought they may score a late try but London Irish held firm despite late pressure from the Warriors.
For Worcester Warriors:
Tries: Lemi, Mieres
Pens: Mieres 2
For London Irish:
Tries: Yarde 2
Cons: Humphreys 2
Pens: Humphreys 2
Yellow card: Chris Hala'ufia (London Irish, 23)
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Ravai Fatiaki, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Semisi Taulava, 7 Sam Betty, 6 Jonathan Thomas (captain), 5 Chris Jones, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ed Shervington, 1 Paul Andrew.
Replacements: 16 Nick Seymour, 17 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 18 John Andress, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Jake Abbott, 21 Jeremy Su'a, 22 Danny Gray, 23 Jon Clarke.
London Irish: 15 Topsy Ojo, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Guy Armitage, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Tomás O'Leary (captain), 8 Chris Hala'ufia, 7 Ofisa Treviranus, 6 Jon Fisher, 5 Kieran Low, 4 Nic Rouse, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Matt Parr.
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 John Yapp, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Declan Danaher, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Darren Allinson.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank and Andrew Pearce
TMO: Rowan Kitt