Saints leave Gloucester behind
After an even first-half Northampton Saints turned on the style and ran away from Gloucester to secure a comprehensive 39-13 victory.
After an even first-half Northampton Saints turned on the style and ran away from Gloucester to secure a comprehensive 39-13 victory.
Jim Mallinder's side notched five tries with first Premiership scores from Calum Clark and Will Hooley added to a stunner from Tom Stephenson and further efforts from Ken Pisi and Alex Waller.
Gloucester, who were level at 13-13 early in the second half, could only respond through Henry Trinder's score and eight points from Freddie Burns as they eventually crumbled. Forward Will James was sin-binned towards the end as the Saints secured the bonus point in emphatic fashion.
The victory was Northampton's 11th successive league victory and takes them back to the top of the table ahead of Saracens.
The Saints had the scent of revenge in their nostrils from the start and they were to get a helping hand early on, with a knock on gifting the ball to Pisi, who found himself in acres of space through the middle to race home and score.
Stephen Myler, who was to end the day with 14 points, easily added the extras and the in-form Saints were seven points to the good inside the first four minutes.
But Northampton soon repaid the early favour they received as Trinder intercepted Kahn Fotuali'i's loose pass and ran the length of the field to score.
Burns levelled the scores with just eight minutes go in the half, leaving both sides trying to find their heads in what was shaping up to be a frantic encounter like the one at Kingsholm.
Myler put Northampton back in front with a penalty earned by some good ball carrying from South African No.8 GJ van Velze.
Burns once again restored parity with a penalty as Gloucester continued to hold their own, with their hosts drawing groans from the crowd with a string of errors.
But Northampton did get their noses back in front before the break as a rampaging rolling maul carried them towards the away line and Myler landed the penalty.
Gloucester wasted no time in pulling level after the interval as Burns pushed another penalty through the posts to make it 13-13.
Northampton turned to their bench for inspiration as Lee Dickson and Ben Foden, who had missed the past 13 games, entered the field of play.
The Saints also changed their props, with Alex Waller and Tom Mercey brought into play, smashing the first scrum as Gloucester started to crack.
And Clark was to take advantage, wriggling away from a ruck to dot down, with Myler stretching the lead to seven points with less than 25 minutes to play.
But the moment of the game was still to come as Stephenson stepped his way past some last-ditch challenges to dive over for his second score in as many games. Myler took the score to 27-13 in the home side's favour before Waller crashed over from a lineout drive.
And young replacement back Hooley had the final say as he dived over in the corner to complete a fine second-half performance for his table-topping team.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: KS Pisi, Clark, Stephenson, AM Waller, Hooley
Cons: Myler 4
Pens: Myler 2
Pens: Burns 2
Northampton Saints: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 GJ Van Velze, 7 Phil Dowson (captain), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Sam Dickinson, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross Mcmillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Ben Foden.
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Mike Tindall (captain), 11 Martyn Thomas, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Gareth Evans 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 James Hudson, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Yann Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Will James, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Shane Monahan.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, Simon Mcconnell
TMO: Rowan Kitt
London Wasps 17-21 Sale Sharks
Danny Cipriani ran the show on his return to Adams Park as Sale Sharks reasserted their Premiership top-four credentials with a 21-17 victory over London Wasps.
Cipriani, who was called into action moments into the match after Nick MacLeod's injury, collected 11 points from the tee and put Johnny Leota through for a second-half try.
Joe Simpson had put Wasps ahead just after the break - in addition to Joe Carlisle's four penalties - after Dan Braid had dotted down to give Sale the early initiative.
MacLeod started at flyhalf for the Sharks but his game was cut short after seven minutes after Simpson was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous challenge.
In his place, Cipriani duly teed up the penalty and split the posts to ensure Sale took the early initiative at Adams Park.
It did not take long for the visitors to press home their one-man advantage either, David Seymour picking up a bobbling ball to set free Braid, who weaved his way through a static Wasps defence to dot down.
However, the hosts started to win back a bit of momentum and Carlisle started to chip away with his boot, knocking through the first points on the board for Wasps on the 17th minute.
Moments later James Gaskell was then forced to ground the ball behind his own try-line by Chris Bell and Carlisle needed no invitation to step up with another penalty.
Wasps then stole a lineout and barrelled all the way up to within five metres, but they had to settle for a penalty as Carlisle made it three out of three.
Both teams then cancelled each other out for the rest of the first half - but the hosts made sure they took the game by the scruff of the neck after the break,
A relentless period of attacking play was rewarded with another penalty and Carlisle's deadeye kicking put their noses in front for the first time all afternoon.
Almost immediately after Simpson picked up the ball on the right wing and charged past the Sale defence to score in the corner to end a scintillating run.
Carlisle then missed a very difficult conversion but it was his opposite number Cipriani who soon assumed control of the match.
He weaved his way through Wasps lines on the hour-mark and offloaded to Leota on the left wing, who crashed over for the try.
The conversion attempt was just wide but after Sale overwhelmed the Wasps' scrum, Cipriani nailed a perfect 40-metre penalty to retake the lead.
In an increasingly tight contest Carlisle had been replaced by Andy Goode, but missed his own chance from the kicking tee to drag his side right back into the game.
From there Sale started pushing for the killer try with consecutive scrums and the try-line looming, yet a wonderful Cipriani wrapped up the win himself with a final three-pointer in the dying minutes.
For London Wasps:
Pens: Carlisle 4
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: Braid, Leota
Pens: Cipriani 3
London Wasps: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Will Helu, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Chris Bell (captain), 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Joe Carlisle, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Sam Jones, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Cannon, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Andy Goode, 23 Charlie Hayter
Sale Sharks: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Nick MacLeod, 9 Will Cliff, 8 James Gaskell, 7 Dave Seymour, 6 Dan Braid (captain), 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Sammy Tuitupou
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant referees: JP Doyle, Stuart Terheege
TMO: Keith Lewis
Exeter Chiefs 18-0 London Irish
Second-half tries from Phil Dollman and Ian Whitten saw Exeter Chiefs pick up their first Premiership victory of 2014 courtesy of a 18-0 defeat of London Irish.
Having lost five successive league games, the Chiefs went into the clash keen to avoid losing three games in a row at Sandy Park for the first time ever.
But they firmly swept away any unwanted records with Dollman and Whitten dotting down after the break to add to two first half penalties in assured performance.
London Irish meanwhile failed to register a point on the scoreboard for the first time in the Premiership this season with James O'Connor's missed penalty as close as they got.
Looking to get back to winning ways following last weekend's defeat to Leicester Tigers, they had actually started the brighter, pushing into Exeter's 22 before George Skivington knocked on.
But it was Exeter who got the first points of the afternoon on the board when Henry Slade, given the nod ahead of Gareth Steenson, slotted over an 11th minute penalty.
Irish responded by again getting within five metres of Exeter's line following a strong lineout but again the move broke down.
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter had handed a first-ever Premiership start to Luke Cowan-Dickie and the hooker did not take long to announce himself, slicing through the Irish lines before offloading to Ben Moon.
With the ball just metres from the line, Leo Halavatau deliberately knocked on for Irish, leaving the tighthead prop sent to the bin and Slade knocking over a second penalty for a 6-0 lead on 20 minutes.
The visitors had a chance to slot over a penalty seven minutes later when Exeter were pinged for illegally bringing the line out down, but James O'Connor saw his effort hit the left hand post before Matt Jess safely gathered.
The early Exiles momentum had dropped off with Exeter having the upper hand heading into the break with the narrow advantage.
And they were again on the front foot after the restart, with Phil Dollman trying his luck with a drop goal from distance which hit the foot of the posts.
But the centre was not going to be denied from getting his name on the scoreboard with the first try of the match on 42 minutes.
The move came from a decisive break from Luke Arscott and while the try line was looming, the full-back unselfishly passed to Dollman to cross. Slade then saw his conversion bounce over off the post for 13-0.
London Irish, who had recorded two successive away games going into the game, tried to find a foothold in the game with Ofisa Treviranus charging forward but Chiefs' Blair Cowan pounced on the loose ball.
Exeter were reduced to 14 on 59 minutes when Ben White was sent to the bin for a tip tackle on Darren Allinson but their defence held firm against the Exiles' drive and maul, eventually turning the ball over.
And they turned defence into attack on 67 minutes as Tom Johnson gathered Shane Geraghty's kick in midfield before throwing out right to Whitten.
The centre then timed his chip to perfection to gather over the line despite the attention of Alex Lewington.
Slade failed to add the extras to leave the score at 18-0 but with the score ticking down in the closing minutes, the Chiefs were left to toast a much welcomed victory to reboot their top four hopes.
Tries: Dollman, Whitten
Pens: Slade 2
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Tom James, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.
London Irish: 15 Topsy Ojo, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 James O'Connor, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Kieran Low, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 George Skivington (captain), 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 David Paice, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Ian Gough, 21 Gerard Ellis, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Ed Hoadley.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Roger Baileff, Ashley Rowden
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Harlequins 21-20 Worcestor Warriors
Sam Smith's third try in four Premiership appearances prompted a determined Harlequins fightback, denying his future club an overdue win in the process.
David Lemi crossed over in an opening half dominated by Worcester Warriors, but Quins flew back into the contest and capitalised through Smith, who is heading to Sixways next season.
Debutant Harry Sloan scored to put Harlequins in control and, despite Chris Pennell's late try, deny Worcester their first Premiership win in exactly a year.
Pennell gave the away side an early lead, sending a 35-metre penalty between the posts after just three minutes.
They continued their encouraging start and soon had a numerical advantage - Quins winger Ugo Monye sent to the sin bin for deliberately not releasing a Worcester player.
Pennell struck the upright with the resulting penalty and Ryan Lamb was next to miss the target, taking over kicking duties from the fullback only to send a poor penalty wide.
Lamb was successful with his second penalty and Worcester broke the hosts' resistance on the half-hour mark, as Lemi crashed over to put them firmly in control, with Lamb adding a simple conversion.
But they couldn't preserve their clean sheet all the way to the break, as Ben Botica fired a penalty through the posts following an infringement at the breakdown.
With Conor O'Shea's words ringing in their ears Quins sharpened up after the break and forced an early penalty, which Botica confidently slotted.
Dean Ryan made a host of early second-half changes and replacement prop Euan Murray set about frustrating the Quins scrum, earning a talking-to from referee Wayne Barnes.
Barnes, who was not in the home fans' good books before half time, then dealt Worcester a blow, showing Leonardo Senatore a yellow card.
It took Quins less than a minute to bite back, rushing into the Warriors' 22 as the ball found its way to Sixways-bound Smith to cross over - but Botica missed his conversion to leave Worcester ahead.
With the Stoop roaring them on, Harlequins continued to build the pressure and good work from Sloan earned another penalty, allowing Botica to put them ahead for the first time.
And Smith was involved as Quins scored again, flicking neatly to Sloan to dot down on his Premiership debut and open up a healthy lead, with Botica adding the extras.
Pennell offered the visitors a lifeline six minutes from time, darting under the posts to score before adding the conversion himself - but they had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Tries: Smith, Sloan
Pens: Botica 3
Tries: Lemi, Pennell
Cons: Lamb, Pennell
Pens: Pennell, Lamb
Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Sam Smith, 13 Harry Sloan, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter (captain), 7 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Louis Grimoldby, 23 Paul Sackey.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Jonathan Thomas (captain), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 Rob O'Donnell, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Paul Andrew, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Leonardo Senatore, 20 Semisi Taulava, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Max Stelling.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank, Peter Huckle
TMO: Sean Davey