Van Velze double puts Saints top
Gerrit-Jan van Velze crossed for two tries as Northampton Saints defeated Worcester Warriors 30-14 to reclaim top spot in the Premiership.
Gerrit-Jan van Velze crossed for two tries against his future employers, as Northampton Saints defeated Worcester Warriors 30-14 to reclaim top spot in the Premiership.
The first-half was particularly tight - with Chris Pennell bookending the first 40 minutes with a pair of penalties and Stephen Myler kicking three of his own in between to send Saints in 9-6 up at the break.
Both sides chalked up their first tries soon after the re-start with Worcester's David Lemi crossing to cancel out a penalty try, before a flurry of cards left the visitors with a mountain to climb.
* In other action on Saturday two late penalties from Ben Botica ensured that Harlequins came from behind for the second week in a row to spoil Dean Richards's return to the Stoop.
* Nick Abendanon's superb solo try proved pivotal as Bath maintained their dominant record over Exeter Chiefs with a thrilling 27-23 victory at Sandy Park.
* Shane Geraghty struck a late drop goal to earn London Irish a 23-20 victory at London Wasps and seal back-to-back away wins in the Premiership for the first time since October 2010.
We look at all Saturday's matches!
Harlequins 18-14 Newcastle Falcons
Two late penalties from Ben Botica ensured that Harlequins came from behind for the second week in a row to spoil Dean Richards's return to the Stoop.
Like against London Wasps last time out, Conor O'Shea's side left it late before Botica booted two scores in the last six minutes to keep Quins in the play-off places and condemn Newcastle Falcons to an eighth successive league defeat.
First-half tries from Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Sam Smith looked to have put the game beyond Newcastle but a lack of discipline and dominant Newcastle scrum gave the Falcons hope.
Flyhalf Rory Clegg kicked nine points against his former club and when Alex Tait went over for a second-half try it looked like the Falcons were going to steal it before Botica's late intervention.
The Stoop ground staff had been out tending the turf at 03.00 on Saturday morning following heavy overnight rain and handling errors from both sides marred the early exchanges.
The attacking flair that Quins fans once enjoyed during Richards' four-year tenure returned to the Twickenham ground as Newcastle commanded much of the opening territory, but it was Quins who went ahead on 11 minutes through Lindsay-Hague's smart cut inside
Captain Nick Easter rejected a penalty kick from 25 metres and instead let Ugo Monye hit Newcastle out of the maul, which triggered a flowing move left-to-right for Lindsay-Hague to touch down the opening try.
The London side then doubled their lead after a 20-yard drive earned them another attacking penalty.
Easter again gambled on the line-out and once more it paid off when Karl Dickson plucked the ball out to wing Sam Smith, who required a television replay on the far right flank to confirm his fourth try of the season.
It was a rare opening for Smith, who scored twice during Harlequins' 35-9 victory over Newcastle at Kingston Park in December.
Newcastle tightened up after the second try and began to force the mistakes in their opposing pack.
Former Quins No.10 Clegg defied the swirling wind to score with the boot and hit the post either side of half time as the home side rode their luck in the ruck.
The indiscipline in Quins' front eight blighted their rare possessions after the break and Richards got the response he wanted as Clegg dispatched two further penalties to bring the match to within three points.
Not even a triple substitution from O'Shea could stop the Newcastle line that, led by Scott Lawson, eventually broke through on 69 minutes.
Hooker Lawson instigated a scrappy yet resilient attack across the Quins line that fell to Tait to dive over and put the visitors 14-12 to the good.
Yet it wasn't to be Richards' afternoon as Lawson picked up a yellow card during a feisty end, leaving Botica free to slide home the winning penalty.
And the Kiwi fly-half added three extra with the final kick of the game to shine some light on a scrappy performance from Quins, who remain in fourth place in the Premiership ahead of their trip to Gloucester next week.
Tries: Lindsay-Hague, Smith
Pens: Botica 2
Pens: Clegg 3
Yellow cards: Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Will Welch (Newcastle Falcons)
Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Sam Smith, 13 Tom Casson, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Paul Doran Jones, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Guest, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Louis Grimoldby, 23 Paul Sackey.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Will Welch (captain), 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Scott MacLeod, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Adam Powell.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Andrew Pearce, Luke Pearce
TMO: Graham Hughes
London Wasps 20-23 London Irish
Shane Geraghty struck a late drop goal to earn London Irish a 23-20 victory at London Wasps and seal back-to-back away wins in the Premiership for the first time since October 2010.
The Exiles looked in control early on after tries for Ian Humphreys and David Paice but Wasps stayed in contact through the boot of Joe Carlisle, and momentum seemed to swing their way when Tomas O'Leary was sent off early in the second half.
But despite drawing level they failed to breach the Irish try line, succumbing to their first defeat at Adams Park since the loss to Northampton Saints in December.
Wasps gifted the Exiles an early lead when on three minutes Elliot Daly dallied over his clearing kick, which was charged down by Nic Rouse and bounced kindly for Ian Humphreys to run in and score.
James O'Connor made short work of the conversion and then added a penalty to give Irish a 10-0 lead on seven minutes.
Wasps, who played the first half into a strong headwind, bounced back straight away as Irish were pinged for going offside and Carlisle stepped up to slot a testing three-pointer off the tee.
O'Connor then missed with a penalty effort from 45 metres, pushing his kick to the right of the posts as the visitors went on the attack once more.
Irish thought they had a second try when the pack drove for the posts only for the video referee to rule the ball had been held up over the line.
But Wasps couldn't hold out forever under severe pressure and at the second time of asking the Exiles pack showed their power to push Paice over the whitewash, with O'Connor successfully slotting the conversion.
However the home side refused to lie down despite the 14 point deficit and scored a try of their own shortly afterwards. A great break out of defence from Daly saw the ball end with Andrea Masi, the Italian international sending through a perfectly weighted grubber kick for James Short to run onto and finish, although Carlisle was unable to add the extras.
Wasps continued to push and won a series of penalties that Carlisle kicked to the corner but despite a number of attacking line-outs in the Irish 22 the home side couldn't force a second score before the break, going in nine points down.
Play continued in the same vein after the interval, with Carlisle looking for the corner at the earliest opportunity. Irish infringed once too often in their own half and Chris Bell instructed Carlisle to go for the posts, the fly-half reducing the deficit to 17-11.
All the Exiles' good work looked like it had been undone on 48 minutes when scrum-half O'Leary was shown a straight red card for excessive use of the feet on James Haskell at a ruck.
Daly led another excellent breakout as Wasps nearly went the length of the field, a three-pointer from Carlisle their reward instead.
Just when it looked like the Exiles might fold O'Connor stepped up to slot another penalty and make it a six-point gap with a quarter of the game to play.
Five minutes later Carlisle was successful with another penalty as Wasps introduced Tom Lindsay for Carlo Festuccia, with Lindsay making his 100th appearance for the club. And tensions rose even higher with 11 minutes to go as Carlisle added a fifth penalty to draw the home side level.
But with seven minutes left to play Geraghty dropped into the hole and struck a drop goal between the posts to give Irish a dramatic three point lead, which they held to claim what had looked an unlikely victory just minutes earlier.
For London Wasps:
Pens: Carlisle 5
For London Irish:
Tries: Humphreys, Paice
Cons: O'Connor 2
Pens: O'Connor 2
Red card: Tomas O'Leary (London Irish)
London Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Will Helu, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Chris Bell (captain), 11 James Short, 10 Joe Carlisle, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Sam Jones, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Esteban Lozada, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Charlie Hayter.
London Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Shane Geraghty, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Kieran Low, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 George Skivington (captain), 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 David Paice, 1 Matt Parr.
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 John Yapp, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Gerard Ellis, 21 Topsy Ojo, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Gordon Goodliffe, Darren Gamage
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Northampton Saints 30-14 Worcester Warriors
Gerrit-Jan van Velze crossed for two tries against his future employers as Northampton Saints defeated Worcester Warriors 30-14 to reclaim top spot in the Premiership.
The first-half was particularly tight with Chris Pennell bookending the first 40 minutes with a pair of penalties and Stephen Myler kicking three of his own in between to send Saints in 9-6 up at the break.
Both sides chalked up their first tries soon after the re-start with Worcester's David Lemi crossing to cancel out a penalty try before a flurry of cards left the visitors with a mountain to climb.
A red card for Jonathan Thomas and a yellow for Sam Betty left the 13-men unable to resist 14-man Northampton, who despite losing Sam Dickinson to the sin-bin plundered two tries from van Velze to seal the win.
Northampton were penalised at the first scrum of the game with Pennell kicking Worcester Warriors into a 3-0 lead.
Pennell then put through a clever kick that came to nothing before he attempted a long-range penalty to double the advantage that flew wide.
Saints drew level after a break from Tom Stephenson, on his Premiership debut, was carried on by Lee Dickson and after play was halted for a penalty, Myler made no mistake.
Myler kicked his second penalty on 21 minutes and after Alex Waller made amends for conceding an early penalty when he got the better of the set-piece, the fly-half added his third to stretch Saints' lead to 9-3.
Warriors ran defending champions Leicester Tigers close last weekend but their task at Franklin's Gardens grew tougher when Leonardo Senatore was sent to the sin-bin for preventing Dickson taking a quick penalty.
It appeared Northampton would pull away but in fact it was 14-man Worcester who hit back, Pennell kicking a difficult penalty to bring his side back to 9-6 at the break.
Northampton burst back into life after the re-start and after a series of driving mauls were illegally stopped in their tracks, referee Wayne Barnes pointed for a penalty try and Myler added the extras.
Yet Worcester refused to be lie down and from the re-start Alex Grove kicked the ball through and Lemi won the race to dot down.
Pennell failed to convert and Worcester's hopes were again dented by indiscipline when Thomas was red carded on 52 minutes with Saints No.8 Dickinson sent to the bin for his part in the incident.
The game had barely re-started when Worcester were reduced temporarily to 13 men after Betty was yellow carded for bringing down another maul.
Saints' power and superior numbers were always likely to tell and so it proved as they rumbled over with van Velze taking the credit and Myler again converting to stretch the lead to 23-11.
Worcester gathered their composure and chipped away at the lead with Pennell kicking his third penalty of the match.
However, they had no answer to Northampton's power and van Velze, who will ply his trade with Worcester next season, crossed for his second try of the match with 13 minutes to go, Myler again converting to take the Saints back to the top of the table.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Penalty try, Van Velze 2
Cons: Myler 3
Pens: Myler 3
For Worcester Warriors:
Pen: Pennell 3
Red card: Jonathan Thomas (Worcester Warriors)
Yellow cards: Sam Betty (Worcester Warriors), Leonardo Senatore (Worcester Warriors), Sam Dickinson (Northampton Saints)
Northampton Saints: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Phil Dowson (captain), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Sam Dickinson, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Ben Nutley, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Fa'atoina Auagavaia.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 David Lemi, 10 Paul Warwick, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Jonathan Thomas (captain), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Leonardo Senatore, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Dean Schofield, 3 John Andress, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 George Porter, 18 Rob O'Donnell, 19 James Percival, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Dean Hammond.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, Andy Watson
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Exeter Chiefs 23-27 Bath
Nick Abendanon's superb solo try proved pivotal as Bath maintained their dominant record over Exeter Chiefs with a thrilling 27-23 victory at Sandy Park.
Replacement Abendanon struck the decisive blow midway through the second half and while the Chiefs hit back through centre Ian Whitten, Bath held on to ensure they have now lost just once in their last 19 matches.
Bolstered by their returning England stars George Ford, Kyle Eastmond and Anthony Watson - and potentially one of the future in Ollie Devoto - Bath were able to cement their place in third spot, ensuring Exeter have still never beaten their West Country rivals in the Premiership.
Indeed, Ford again enhanced his claim for a first England cap with a man-of-the-match performance while both Devoto and Eastmond went over for the visitors.
And while the Chiefs were on the scoreboard through Ben White and Whitten, Abendanon's effort was the difference between the sides.
Exeter began the brighter and they opened the scoring on ten minutes when Bath's Springbok flanker Francois Louw was penalised for not rolling away.
Gareth Steenson made no mistake from the tee but three minutes later Bath were level when Chiefs' skipper Dean Mumm was penalised. Ford opened his account with a well-judged penalty into the wind.
That did little to knock the wind out of Exeter's sails however and the hosts, who were enjoying the better of the scrum battle, continued to enjoy plenty of possession.
Their handling was letting them down however and no more so than when a long kick forward on 22 minutes wasn't quite gathered by the covering Watson and the ball popped up with the try-line beckoning, only for Whitten to knock on.
Then came a moment of magic from Ford on 26 minutes when a show and go committed a number of Exeter defenders and freed Eastmond, in turn finding 20-year-old Devoto, who scorched to the try-line, beating two defenders including full-back Luke Arscott with a fine step, for his first Premiership try.
Ford converted and Bath began to exert their authority on proceedings but another fine break by Devoto saw Matt Garvey knock on and Exeter's clearance kick found Watson and Horacio Agulla under pressure - the latter coughing up a penalty for holding on.
Steenson made no mistake and Exeter were ahead just before the break. The hosts, scenting blood, turned down a kick at goal with a penalty, instead kicking for the corner and after winning the line-out and going through the phases, flanker White barged over. Steenson converted for a 13-10 lead at the break.
The Chiefs extended their lead soon after the break as Exeter continued to dominate the scrum - Wales prop Paul James was the offender this time and Steenson nailed the penalty for a 16-10 lead.
But Bath were far from finished and the class of their England contingent soon told. Eastmond, Ford and Watson were all to the fore as the visitors surged their way up field through a number of phases before Eastmond finished off under the posts.
Ford converted and when Abendanon struck with a wonderful finish - chipping ahead at full tilt before diving and touching down with his left hand - it appeared Exeter's miserable run against Bath was set to continue, especially after the conversion gave the visitors an eight-point cushion.
But back came Exeter and within five minutes they were within a point again when Whitten surged through the Bath defence with Steenson adding the extras on 68 minutes.
The Chiefs pressed for the score that would give them the lead but Ford gave Stuart Lancaster a timely reminder of his talents with an injury-time penalty to seal the victory.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: White, Whitten
Cons: Steenson 2
Pens: Steenson 3
Tries: Devoto, Eastmond, Abendanon
Cons: Ford 3
Pens: Ford 2
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Micky Young, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 3 David Wilson, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guinazu, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Alafoti Fa'osiliva, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Nick Abendanon.
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Roger Baileff, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Keith Lewis